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Wining and dining gone wild

Whistler's annual over-the-top celebration of everything wine and food is entering its 13 th year, and the parties only seem to be getting bigger and better with age.

Whistler's annual over-the-top celebration of everything wine and food is entering its 13 th year, and the parties only seem to be getting bigger and better with age. On top of all of the revitalized seminars on the schedule that I mentioned here last week, Cornucopia also boasts an impressive offering of parties, featuring some amazing music and entertainment to enjoy alongside the eats and treats. Keep in mind the festival is only four days (and three nights) long, so if you want to get the most out of the event, you have to pick and choose your parties very carefully.

While there are lots of parties being held at restaurants and bars throughout town as part of Cornucopia (check for the entire schedule), here are just a few of the heavy hitters that seem to make a big impression each and every year.

House Party - Thursday, Nov. 12, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Whistler Conference Centre

After handing the reigns over to Wines of France last year (think aperitifs and the like) the organizers of Cornucopia, Watermark Communications, have wisely decided to return to the festival's roots and bring back the Best of B.C. theme for the opening event of the festival. Think gourmet barbecue, microbrewery beer, locally produced wines and vodka from our own backyard. The menu includes BBQ Bob's pork ribs, corn bread crostinis with pulled pork, coleslaw and special sauce, Pemberton potato salad with a sour cream chive dressing and bacon, coriander pineapple coleslaw, and five bean salad.

The early start time (and relatively low $35 ticket price) makes this the perfect place to kick-start your evening before making your way to the ARTrageous party at Dusty's or one of the delicious multi-course winemakers dinners at Players Chophouse, The Aubergine Grill at the Westin, or Jordan's Crossing at Nita Lake Lodge.


ARTrageous - Thursday, Nov. 12, 8 p.m. to late. Dusty's (Creekside)

Dubbed Whistler's original art party, rest assured that the creative minds will be out in full force for this party, which unites the professional talent with their admiring public in an evening of creative debauchery. Always a sold-out event, this year's party features rock 'n' roll, trash blues and burlesque courtesy of Big John Bates & The Voo Doo Dollz, plus a wealth of locally-made costumes and creations, interactive art stations and photo studio experiments.

Tickets are $30 or $15 for Whistler Arts Council members.


Crush Grand Gala Tasting - Friday, Nov. 13 & Saturday, Nov. 14, 8:30 p.m. Whistler Conference Centre.

Cornucopia's flagship event, the Grand Gala Tasting, offers up the chance to sample some of the best wines around, and with over 75 wineries participating this year, ticket holders are sure to be sniffing, swirling, sipping and (maybe) spitting the night away. This event is so popular that they actually offer it on two nights to make sure everyone can work it into their Cornucopia plans.

This year, organizers have again decided to offer tiered dinner options, so you can either buy tickets to the gala alone, or pick from one of many local participating restaurants to fill your tummy beforehand. Crush tickets are $85 excluding dinner.


Casino Royale - Friday, Nov. 13, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Ric's Grill

Here in Whistler, there aren't many occasions to get dressed up, aside from the annual office Christmas party. But at Ric's Grill's third annual Casino Royale party, dapper duds are a requirement, so dig out those suits, cocktail dresses and killer heels and channel James Bond or your favourite Bond girl for this luxurious party. The folks at Ric's are pulling out all the stops this year, with Sterling Silver Showgirls manning the casino tables, an electro violinist and DJ performing, plus go-go dancers, circus performers, magicians and Vegas showgirls mixing and mingling, entertaining the crowds.

While tickets may seem on the steep side at $125, attendees get serious bang for their buck with a full dinner buffet, plus canapés and drinks throughout the evening.


Bubbles + Oceans - Saturday, Nov. 14, 10:30 p.m. to late. Araxi.

Araxi has been on Whistler's dining scene for almost 28 years now, which makes Jack Evrensel's restaurant the grandfather of everything food and wine related. Certainly nothing like a stodgy grandfather, though. No, the folks behind the scenes at Araxi still know how to throw down, and they do just that each and every year with their annual Bubbles + Oceans party. Just one night after they host the Big Guns winemaker dinner, they're back in action with this all-inclusive evening of sensational music, seafood and bubbles from 20 of the world's top champagne and sparkling wine houses. Executive Chef James Walt ensures that all the guests are very well fed, preparing canapés and his famous seafood platters, which include freshly shucked oysters, sushi and Tofino Dungeness crab.

Tickets to this Whistler classic are $150.