Cornucopia reaches critical mass 

Outstanding dinners, sold-out events boost Whistler’s dining reputation

Cornucopia, Whistler’s extravagant November weekend of wine and food reached critical mass this month as evidenced by a string of sold-out events that had most of the village rocking all weekend.

In fact, attendance numbers were so strong many regular weekend residents complained to me that tickets that were routinely available the "day of" at previous Cornucopia events were non-existent this year. Sold out events were the theme and it didn’t much matter whether you were talking about a wine seminar, a cooking demonstration, or winemaker’s dinner.

There were many highlights, both food and wine, some pleasant new restaurant discoveries and in all honesty some stunning winemaker dinners that don’t get much better anywhere on the globe.

My weekend began at the Four Seasons Hotel and the new Fifty Two 80 Bistro and Bar. As locals would guess the 5280 reference is to the one-mile vertical drop from the tip of Blackcomb Mountain to the valley floor.

What you may not know is there’s only one standard of service at the Four Seasons and anyone who takes the time to get to know chef Jason McLeod’s classic French bistro dishes will know the descriptor is excellent.

The bar section of Fifty Two 80 is no less impressive and while the drinks list is extensive you can’t help but be impressed with a white wine list by the glass that includes: Dr. Loosen Riesling, Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc and Yalumba Viognier.

I made several trips to Après during my stay in Whistler where I came to know owner Chris Cheney. The former Hong Kong businessman has had some terrific exposure to food and wine in the Far East and he’s captured that enthusiasm at Après.

Cheney has magically transformed the old Mail Boxes Etc. site into one of the funkiest, intimate, romantic, perfectly-sized 50-seat wine bars in all British Columbia. The bits and bites of food (there’s a full menu too) prepared by chef Eric Vernice (Bearfoot Bistro and Jade) meshes perfectly the ever evolving list of wines from the north Pacific. It’s everything a wine lover could want.

Après is aptly named too because Cheney and crew would like the room to develop into a late night, après dinner wine bar for people who not only want to drink wine but who may want to talk about it too. I could describe the art and the architecture but it’s far more fun to discover it yourself.

Among the heavyweight wine dinners the battle lines were drawn between Bearfoot Bistro and Araxi, with some equally competitive meals at Quattro and the Four Seasons’ Fifty Two 80.

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