Outdoor dinner fun on the way 

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Food marketers have so over-used the phrase "farm fresh" that the true meaning of those two words is lost for most people.

Those with a tight connection to Save-On-Foods, Safeway and Costco have no context for milk still warm from the udder of a cow, dirt-covered beetroot or carrots, strawberries straight from the plant or eggs taken from a chicken's nest.

Some advertising executives will have you believe that farm fresh means packaged and delivered to the store shelf in less than a week, or two or three.

Not everyone has the good fortune to live close enough to cows, beetroot, carrots and chickens to enjoy truly fresh milk, fresh vegetables and fresh eggs. With that in mind many Whistler restaurants are going out of their way to deliver farm fresh food to their customers.

Araxi is one of the leaders in the local-sourced food movement. The restaurant purchases produce from Pemberton and to highlight its efforts to source food regionally the restaurant created its Longtable Dinner Series last summer.

The series this summer will feature two outdoor dining nights at Rainbow Park in Whistler. The first is set for Saturday, July 21 and the second will follow in the same location on Saturday, Aug. 18.

Picture it: a long table in the park covered with crisp white table clothes in the warm evening sun. A covered kitchen area where restaurant staff are working in organized chaos to set out plates showcasing local produce on the shore of Alta Lake in the shadow of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

James Walt, the Executive Chef at Araxi, and his team started the Longtable Dining Series last year by setting up an outdoor dining area at North Arm Farms in Pemberton. The diners were eating steps away from the very soil their produce came from.

Writer Susan Hollis attended one of the dinners last year and described the event in an Epicurious column. She painted a picture of a summer must-do featuring rules about how to toss excess wine into the grass, satisfying Heritage Angus natural beef followed by fresh cherries and chocolate dipped ice cream bars, poached donut peaches with nectarines and pistachio cake for desert.

Walt and his team, including wine director Samantha Rahn, will be looking to take the event to the next level with another amazing menu and wine list.

This year, a farmers' market will be set up during the two evening events. Longtable diners will have an opportunity to taste the farm ingredients in their raw form.

"We are extremely excited about this summer's Longtable Series at Rainbow Park, and especially to introduce our valued producers," ways Walt. "I believe the Farmers' Market will give guests a unique opportunity to engage with some of our very best suppliers in an intimate and relaxed setting."

Walt is promising to craft an exclusive four-course tasting menu with the aim of delivering a truly memorable and unique farm-to-table experience.

Rahn says she has carefully selected complementary wine pairings for each course. She has concentrated on making sure each diner experiences the flavours of the region.

Speaking from the deck of the GLC on her day off, Rahn talked about last year's events.

"The biggest challenge is dealing with bugs that are out at dusk," says Rahn.

She says the events are very well planned in the weeks and months leading up to the dates. Rahn tells us everything is worked out well in advance, so that the only outcome is a fabulous event.

"Once we get all the planning done it is just the execution," says the wine director.

Neither Rahn nor Walt can control the weather, but Rahn insists the event will go no matter what is happening in the sky above. If extra tents are required to fend off some rain, Rahn says tents will be brought in. The only rain they got last year, she says, started falling just after all the guests had left. All that was dampened was the clean up team.

She says last year's events were "super smooth" and she expects the same this year.

The participating producers this year will include Root Down Organics and Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef. The evening will begin with a cocktail reception, featuring wine tasting and a dedicated vodka station to be operated by the team at Pemberton Distillery.

Tickets are $175 and each ticket includes the meal, wine, tax and gratuity.

The restaurant has additional information at araxi.com/longtable.html.

Neither bugs nor rain will detract from the farm fresh food and fresh air planned for July 21 and Aug. 18 on the green grass at Rainbow Park.

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