This weekend, Rebagliati Park will be transformed into a foodie's feasting ground, as organizers host the second annual Feast in the Mountains event.
A local yoga instructor and food distributor, Astrid Cameron Kent is very involved in the local culinary scene, also sitting on the Whistler 2020 Food Task Force and coordinating Whistler's annual Feast of Fields celebrations for the past three years.
The goal of the Feast in the Mountains event is three-fold: preserve farmland, promote local farmers and agriculture, and educate consumers.
Attendees receive a wine glass, cutlery and plate upon entry, then spend the afternoon meandering between tables laden with local food and drink, nibbling and talking with fellow food lovers along the way. Imagine fresh cheeses from Moonstruck and prepared dishes from chefs at the Chophouse and The Westin. Are your taste buds tingling yet?
The event has a loyal following but it's never been a sell-out, like its counterparts in other parts of the province. Cameron Kent is looking to change that. This year, she's changing things up a bit, partnering with Watermark Communications to host a slightly tweaked version of the event, dubbed Feast in the Mountains. Eventually, Cameron Kent would like to see it grow into a culinary destination event for the community.
"In Vancouver and Victoria they have 600 to 800 people show up, and we don't - yes, we have a loyal following, but I think it could be more."
She used to produce the event through a Vancouver-based charitable organization, FarmFolk/CityFolk. But this time around, has decided to partner with Watermark, though FarmFolk/CityFolk will still have a presence at this year's event, and will continue to be the recipient of the event's fundraising efforts.
Watermark also produces Corncuopia, Whistler's annual celebration of wine and food. But Sue Eckersley, president of Watermark, points out that Feast in the Mountains is more focused on food than wine, adding that she would eventually like to see it grow.
"I'd like to see it go into a weekend and have chefs up on the musical bumps and night events going on and really expand the programming so it's almost like an end of summer Cornucopia, in a way," Eckersley said.
Ticket prices are also considerably lower - $50 this year, compared with last year's $80 price tag. The goal is to draw a larger contingent of young, local participants who have a commitment to local food.
"We were responding to feedback from people saying it was too expensive for them," Cameron Kent admitted. "...We do risk losing money, but we're hoping that over the next five years, if you take a long-term plan, that we'll make it back."
The new lower cost doesn't mean that organizers are sacrificing quality. Cameron Kent is quick to point out that they'll have the same high calibre food producers, chefs and restaurants participating in this year's event. In fact, there are even more restaurants and wineries on-board than last year.
"I think it's just a growing a movement and as the Olympics are growing closer, people are more concerned and committed to supporting our local producers," Cameron Kent said.
New participants include the brand-new Creekbread organic flatbread restaurant, Riverside Café, Cracked Pepper and The Lift Coffee Company. Organizers have even managed to add a small marketplace to the event, which means that attendees will have the option of buying some of the goods they are sampling, on-site.
"For instance, Namasthe Tea will be selling," Cameron Kent said. "Last year, we weren't allowed to sell and (the owner) only sampled, and a lot of people wanted to take home tea."
The silent auction component of the event, which takes place at the end of the day, has also grown. Items up for bids include pizza for a year at Creekbread, worth $1,000, and gift certificates for yoga and other restaurants.
The Feast starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29 and runs until 5 p.m. For more information visit www.feastinthemountains.com . Anyone interested in volunteering in exchange for admission to the event should contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
An extra scoop
Whistler's Bearfoot Bistro is one of just three B.C. restaurants to earn a mention in this year's Where to Eat in Canada by Anne Hardy.
Hardy's guide has long been considered the bible of Canadian restaurant guides, with a team of anonymous diners who sample restaurants in more than 200 Canadian towns and cities each year. Topping off a year of accomplishments, which includes earning gold at this year's Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards and Executive Chef Melissa Craig being named Gold Medal Plates champion at the Canadian Culinary Championships in 2008, the Bearfoot Bistro has now been selected as one of only 23 restaurants in the country to earn a three-star rating in Hardy's guide. The guide states that Craig's tasting menu is "making waves," while the more modestly priced three-course table d'hôte is "excellent." It also acknowledges Craig's dedication to the use of local ingredients balanced with her unapologetic use of "expensive" imports like wagyu beef, Arctic caribou, Berkshire pork and Atlantic lobster.