Spring dining deals sprout

Though you wouldn't know it by glancing at the snow-capped Whistler and Blackcomb peaks, spring is just around the corner. One of my favourite parts of this season - aside from warm weather, blossoming flowers, sandals and biking, of course - is the spring dining promotion offered up by Tourism Whistler and local restaurant partners.

This year, the event formerly known as Dine and Unwind has been re-launched and re-branded as the Dine in Whistler program, which kicks off on April 27 and runs until June 25. Jeff McDonald, spokesperson for Tourism Whistler, said that this year, the promotion is back and stronger than ever.

"The idea is to drive room nights to the resort during a period when we need to, when visits are lower," he explained.

In these times of economic uncertainty, people are definitely watching their pocketbooks, and a promotion like this is just the ticket to enticing them out to see what Whistler's culinary scene has to offer.

"(Dine in Whistler) also raises awareness of and exposure to things that people care a lot about, which are food and wine and great dining," McDonald added. "...For Tourism Whistler and for the participating restaurants, it's important to send the message that there is good value there."

This year, the promotion features three-tier pricing, with set menus available for $19, $29 and $39, down from the average price of $48 last year. This lower price point has opened up the annual promotion to a wider range of restaurants, with almost twice as many on board. 21 Steps Kitchen and Bar, Teppan Village, Player's Chophouse, Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre and Jordan's Crossing are just a few new establishments to sign up, expanding the promotion for the '09 off-season.

Player's Chophouse, a newcomer to Whistler's dining scene, was eager to participate in the hope that the event will help develop ties within the community and bring locals out to see what they have to offer. Their chef has developed a set three-course menu for $39 to entice curious diners to come check out the digs in Creekside.

"Being a new company, we definitely want to be a part of the community as much as we can so that we're embraced by the local clientele, which will be carrying us through the slower seasons," said Nick McLaughin, one of the managers at Chophouse.

On the other end of the longevity spectrum is the Bearfoot Bistro, which has been a mainstay of the Whistler culinary scene for almost 13 years now, with owner Andre Saint Jacques at the helm. In previous years, Saint Jacques explained, a group of about 10 higher-end restaurants had gotten together to organize Dine Out Whistler, a private fine dining promotion for the slower months of spring and fall.

But this year, Tourism Whistler and many of those restaurants have joined forces, taking a collective approach to organizing the event. Their purpose is not only to appeal to locals, but to tap into the neighbouring markets of Vancouver, Seattle and beyond to draw tourists to the area specifically for fine dining and wine.

"We decided we wanted to have a stronger impact and try to draw business into Whistler," Saint Jacques explained.

For more information on Dine in Whistler, visit www.restaurantswhistler.com in coming weeks.

Extra helpings

Whistler's Four Seasons Resort will join in with 37 of its sister properties to celebrate Earth Day in fine style on Saturday, March 28 with a special candlelight dinner.

The Fifty Two 80 Bistro's Executive Chef Scott Dolbee has developed a special $90 six-course menu for the occasion, featuring an Albacore tuna tartar on black truffle blini as starter, B.C. spotted prawn soup with bok choy, farmer's market greens, asparagus, grape tomatoes, honey-roasted pine nuts, goat cheese and cider vinaigrette as a salad, local halibut served with Pemberton carrots, sautéed crosnes, wilted spinach, smoked wild steelhead row and bonito flakes, and Okanagan pepper-crusted venison served with celery root gratin, local green beans, braised golden beets and apricot port jus.

Each dish is to be accompanied by a wine pairing, and dessert will also be served during this decadent Earth Day celebration.

Uncorking B.C.'s best

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival started on Monday, featuring over 1,600 wines from 183 wineries from 15 countries during 61 events. Considered by many to be one of the top wine festivals in the world, Playhouse's regional theme for 2009 is none other than British Columbia, with a global focus on Pinot(s). Check out the action at the International Festival Tasting Room from Thursday, March 26 until Saturday, March 28 at the Vancouver Convention Exhibition Centre. For more information, visit http://www.playhousewinefest.com/.


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