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Tis the season

Fall the time of year to enjoy Whistler’s restaurants

As farmers, winemakers and others with dirt under their fingernails and a sixth sense for weather are doubtless aware, fall is a time to reap what you sow. Crops are harvested, the last vegetables pulled from the ground and fishing season comes to an end. The brief hunting seasons – game, fowl and mushrooms – also take place in the fall.

For those of us a little less connected with nature, fall is still a time to enjoy the bounty of the season – served in Whistler’s restaurants. In fact, some would argue it’s the best time of year for fine dining in Whistler, because the deals are as plentiful as the harvests.

The only caveat is that many restaurants are closed for a few weeks in October and November. But that doesn’t stop the frugal gourmand. The restaurants don’t all close at once, so with a telephone and careful perusal of the ads in local papers you can find superb deals from September through November.

The Bearfoot Bistro, for instance, is currently offering a three-course dinner for $45. The Bearfoot has earned some of the highest praise accorded any restaurant on the continent, from authorities such as the Times of London, Wine Access magazine and the Chicago Tribune.

The Edgewater Lodge, one of the most intimate of Whistler’s fine-dining restaurants, is offering a three-course dinner for $29.95 mid-week through October. Zeuski’s and Thai One On are offering 30 per cent off all menu items through October.

Earlier this fall such high-end restaurants as Val d’Isere, Rimrock Café, Quattro, Teppan Village and others were offering affordable dinner specials.

Even some of the pizza places and pubs have deals during October.

But there are more reasons for dining out in the shoulder season than just the deals. By dining out you’re supporting a local business during a slow time of year. The restaurant, in turn, is employing local staff. In some cases the ratio of staff to customers is higher than it is during the height of the ski season, so you may have two or three waiters doting on you and making sure your dinner is a memorable experience.

The fall also offers a time for people to reconnect with friends, neighbours and local businesses before the hectic Christmas season. Take advantage; everyone benefits.

Araxi’s 20th

One of Whistler’s oldest fine-dining restaurants will be celebrating its 20 th anniversary next month. Araxi Restaurant is bringing in the top chefs from its sister restaurants for a multi-course winemakers dinner on Nov. 10, during this year’s Cornucopia Food and Wine Festival.

"Araxi turns 20 on Halloween night, only days before Whistler's Cornucopia so it seems natural to put the events together," says Jack Evrensel, whose Top Table Restaurant Group also includes Cin Cin, the Blue Water Café and Ouest in Vancouver. "But not only because they share an anniversary date. Araxi and Cornucopia have a much deeper connection: Both are a celebration of the bounty of the earth and the bounty of the human spirit."

Araxi Restaurant, named after his wife, is the oldest of Evrensel’s restaurants. It opened in 1981, just months after the first businesses in Whistler Village began operations. Like the village, Araxi has earned praise from critics, including Vancouver Magazine’s Gold Award for best restaurant in Whistler and Wine Spectator magazine’s Award of Excellence for its wine cellar for five consecutive years.

"I believe people can accomplish whatever they set out to do. Therefore, it’s important to set the bar very high," says Evrensel, whose drive is matched by the talented people working with him. Among Araxi's staff, for example, are three accredited sommeliers, two more about to receive their certification and another soon to begin the training.

Evrensel hires people who "have a passion for the trade itself." Araxi executive chef Scott Kidd, for example, leads a kitchen team in developing a network of local suppliers, a task shared by other Whistler restaurants and one Kidd considers essential.

"We have an obligation to represent our region," says Kidd. "In building the path from farm gate to restaurant table we are playing our part sustaining local agriculture. Besides, there is an excitement and immediacy in food fresh from fields and pristine waters."

At the Nov. 10 anniversary dinner Kidd will be joined in the kitchen by chefs from Evrensel’s other restaurants, including former Araxi chef James Walt, who is now at the Blue Water Café. Cin Cin’s Romy Prasad, David Hawksworth of Ouest and Japanese chef Masanori Katsuno will also be there, and each will be preparing a single course for the dinner. The wines will be from California’s Beringer and Chateau St. Jean wineries.

Araxi, which used to host costume parties every Halloween, will be having a 20 th birthday party following the dinner, with Lee Aaron supplying the sounds.

Celebrity cookoff

Speaking of Cornucopia, a celebrity chef cookoff is the grand finale to this year’s festival. Bob Blumer, the Surreal Gourmet, and John Sarich of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery are two of the featured chefs.

The Surreal Gourmet program, which debuted on the Food Network this month, features Blumer driving his Toastermobile – a kitchen on wheels – to a new location each episode to help people throw a Surreal Gourmet-style dinner party for their guests. Blumer sees his role as providing the spark that ignites the culinary creativity hidden in everyone.

Sarich, culinary director of Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, hosts Best of Taste; Flavours of the Pacific Coast, a TV show which features West Coast food and wine. Known for his innovative food and wine pairing, Sarich will compete in the cookoff finale and host a Chef Showcase on Saturday at Cornucopia.

Also in the celebrity chef cookoff will be Oeust’s David Hawksworth and Gord Martin of Bin 941 and Bin 942 restaurants in Vancouver.

Cornucopia takes place Nov. 8-11, kicking off with the Preview Grand Tasting showcasing more than 50 wineries from British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon and California. The weekend continues with the Crush! Gala Grand Tasting on Friday, Nov. 9 at the Westin Resort & Spa, followed by Wine & Jazz at the Bearfoot Bistro with live entertainment and a tasting from boutique B.C. wineries.

A-la-carte seminars take place throughout the day Saturday, with eight winemaker dinners that evening. Following the Celebrity Chef Cookoff Sunday morning, the festival wraps up with Sunday Brunch events, including the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort’s renowned gastronomical brunch buffet.

Tickets and information on Cornucopia are available from Tourism Whistler. Check their Web site at for full details.