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Still riding high

Here's what you missed at Bearfoot's exquisite Sky High dinner onboard the Peak 2 Peak
HIGH LIFE L to R: Whistler Blackcomb's Michelle Leroux, fashion photographer Joshua McVeity and CBC style columnist Fred Lee enjoy Saturday's Sky High dinner, served onboard the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Photo by Brandon Barrett

It's not often that we journalists have an opportunity to make the Average Joe jealous.

With the high stress, long hours, and measly paycheques equivalent to those of a part-time mall cop, plenty of people give you that why-the-hell-would-you-choose-this-career look upon hearing you're a reporter.

Then there are times, like Saturday's Sky High dinner served aboard the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, when the perks of the job seem to make it all worth it, turning even the most self-assured salary man green with envy.

So yes, dear reader, I was among the lucky 250 or so souls who got to experience this one-of-a-kind dinner, co-produced by the Bearfoot Bistro and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, while sliding between the peaks of our namesake mountains, and, no, I did not have to pay the $7,500-per-gondola ticket price. But even if I had, I imagine my opinion of the evening would remain the same, which is to say, the Sky High dinner is something every gastronomic hedonist needs to experience at least once.

Before we set off in one of 25 specially rigged gondola cabins, we were treated to a champagne reception at the Roundhouse, where I was struck by the buzz permeating the room. Even with dozens of high-powered VIPs crammed together like impeccably dressed and unfathomably wealthy sardines, the schmooze factor was turned down a few notches, simply because everyone was so caught up in the excitement of partaking in a culinary spectacle like no other.

No detail was missed, from the guitar player strategically positioned at Olympic Station to serenade diners on their way up and down the mountain, to the little flourishes included in each dining car, like a compact chandelier hanging over the table, or the smartphone playing stylish background music.

The food itself was similarly detail-oriented, with Executive Chef Melissa Craig refusing to compromise her usual approach in the kitchen, which as many a Bearfoot guest already knows, tends to skew towards refined decadence.

The first course, house-smoked Sockeye salmon with a silky pea purée, crème fraiche, rye breadcrumbs and topped with trout roe, was the perfect launching pad for the meal to come; a subtle, refreshing plate that was a textural delight.

But if the first course was a tantalizing peck on the cheek, the second was like a warm embrace (or maybe that was the Dom Pérignon talking): a lovely piece of Vancouver Island black cod awash in Dungeness crab cream and sweet corn. Delicate and airy, yet comforting all the same.

The third course, a Rougié foie gras terrine with beluga lentil vinaigrette, chanterelle mushrooms and truffle brioche, was probably my least favourite of the night. I wished my terrine was a little closer to room temperature, and would have liked something else to cut through the richness of the dish, but I'm just being nitpicky here. It was foie gras, after all.

The next course was a palate cleanser served at the Roundhouse, where I witnessed two famous Dragons — no, not the Westerosi kind — cut some rug to a rendition of Twist and Shout. Whether it was the flowing wine, the rush of dining with the best view in the world, or a combination of the two, it was very clear at that point that the high promised from this "dinner with altitude" hadn't worn off for guests quite yet.

Soon enough, we were back on the gondola for our fifth course, undoubtedly my favourite of the night: a sumptuous plate of braised milk-fed veal cheek with an apricot mostarda, salsify purée and mustard jus. It was probably the most tender bite of the evening, but, paired with the crunch of the salsify chips topping it, it was divine. The mostarda also added a slight tartness that perfectly balanced the dish.

This was followed by pastry chef Dominic Fortin's innovative dessert, which we agreed looked similar to Whistler's famous secret treehouse, the HemLoft. Caribbean chocolate shaped like a teardrop, the sweet structure was filled with fluffy cognac foam and paired with poached pear and chocolate Chantilly mousse. A beautiful dish that exemplified what Bearfoot does best — putting a modern twist on classic techniques and ingredients — that doubled as a perfect conclusion to the meal.

I should also point out how smoothly the service ran. Everyone at my table was amazed at how efficient and blindingly fast the servers were — all done with a smile on their faces. I can't recall even one mistake during my meal, and considering the logistical nightmare of serving 10 people in a moving gondola out of two makeshift kitchens, that's certainly something to be commended.

Are you jealous yet?

So, with that, I'm going to humbly request that, if the Bearfoot and Whistler Blackcomb choose to put on this event next year, that I get another invite, for... you know, research purposes.