Cornucopia: celebration of fall bounty now underway 

Masquerave resurrection to headline food and wine weekend

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For food and wine lovers, the other Christmas has arrived.

Cornucopia marks the one time every year when everything takes a back seat to food and beverage for a few days.

The weekend celebration kicks off today (Nov. 10) with the Whistler Chef Challenge at the Whistler Conference Centre. The free event is pitting four food preparation teams against each other in a live cook-off to crown a champion.

Through the rest of the weekend a series of dinners, parties, seminars and wine tasting events are planned.

One of the most anticipated events this year is the resurrected Masquerave party hosted by the Bearfoot Bistro.

Andre St. Jacques, owner of the bistro, said he was asked to bring back the party after putting it into hiatus in 2006.

The 2011 revived party is described as a wine tasting event with a food program featuring dishes from four leading Quebec chefs along with six chefs from Vancouver. Musicians and DJ's will keep guests entertained through the evening. An Infiniti G3 body painted over the course of 300 hours by artist Heidi Taillefer of Montreal will be auctioned during the party. Proceeds from the sale of the car will be donated to One Drop, a charity that is dedicated to ensuring people in the third world have access to clean water.

"It is a new charity and a good charity," said St. Jacques of the organization started by Guy Laliberté, the founder of Cirque de Soleil.

Many of the elements that made Masquerave the popular event it was in the past will return this year. St. Jacques said beverage samples, body painted models, special effects lighting, a Cirque de Soleil performance and a 4 a.m. wrap up time will all be part of what makes the party unique.

"I'm really pulling every gun out of my pockets to have an event that is going to be an event of the century," said the bistro owner.

Said Mayor Ken Melamed of the event: "It looks like it is going to be another one of the highlights of Cornucopia this year."

St. Jacques said expectations for the party are high because of the hiatus and Melamed said he believes the break has proven to be a good marketing strategy for Masquerave.

"The event was edgy and the resort needs to abide by the liquor regulations and sometimes the liquor regulations are constricting to some of the creative ideas that come from our Whistler entrepreneurs," said Melamed. "This has been part of the process to try and work through the concerns. The concerns didn't come from this office but only to the point that we obviously have to retain our relationships with the other agencies involved. Our interest is that these events are successful and attract not just visits to the resort but a positive profile."

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