Table Scraps 

Never a better time to nickel and dine

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What happens when culinary passions outweigh your pocket book?

You enlist in the Whistler Dine and Unwind program with some of Whistler’s most elite fine dining restaurants reducing three-course bills to regular Joe prices.

There’s never been a better or more affordable time to walk through the doors of restaurants such as Araxi, Hy’s Steakhouse, Quattro, Elements Urban Tapas Lounge and the Fifty Two 80 Bistro, just to name a few.

Forage through the bounty of Pemberton mushrooms with the Wild Mushroom Risotto at Araxi; Thai onto fusion cuisine with the Coconut Green Curry at Elements; sink a spoon into the award-winning roast butternut squash soup at Quattro; and live out all of your carnivore fantasies with filet mignon at Hy’s.

Dine and Unwind is about trying something new, even if it’s only a departure from your regular ordering routine.

Looking at the menu at the Fifty Two 80 Bistro at the Four Seasons Resort, it took all my strength to venture away from my favourite dish.

I could at least be consoled by passing on the sous vide baton to my dinner date, who was newly inducted into the European cooking method of vacuum-packing meat in juices and seasoning then poaching the package in water.

He couldn’t get over how tender the beef tenderloin was. A steak knife next to this elegant dish is as ridiculous as planting begonias with an excavator — it’s just not necessary.

Executive chef Scott Baechler is starting his own sous vide movement, with the technique working its way onto plates even if it is not playbilled as the rising star. To my delight, such was the case with my lamb dish — with the shoulder portion prepared sous vide style. The assorted merriment of beans and corn with the lamb sealed the dish as another comeback favourite. At least I am opening up my options to two.

A spicy prawn sushi roll was a serious contender to the title of the local favourite, currently held by the SASS roll at Sushi Village. And the mini burger appetizers — one veggie, one seafood and a foie gras — added a nice lightheartedness to the evening’s progression. Of course the bittersweet chocolate pot de crème won over my overzealous must-be-made-of-chocolate heart.

With a drive back to Squamish facing the diner on one side of the table and yours truly on the other side still recovering from Cornucopia, two glasses of Burrowing Owl’s light and breezy pinot noir embraced all courses.

We tucked in for an intimate dinner at the lounge, which hosts comfortable armchairs to fold into next to a roaring fire — as well as the jazz stylings of EMI recording artist Ali Milner on grand piano every Thursday evening between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.

Other Dine and Unwind participants include Bavaria Restaurant, Cinnamon Bear Bar and Grille, Crepe Montagne, Earls, The Edgewater, Milestones, The Mix and Ric’s Grill.

Set course menus range anywhere from $20 to $45. Visit www.tourismwhistler for a detailed guide.

While not an official Dine and Unwind participant, Après is hosting a set-course special as well as a new bar menu to coerce locals into an affordable dining experience.

A few bar menu teasers include slow smoked pork sandwiches, grilled calamari steak, venison cannelloni and New England-style clam chowder, averaging $10-$12.

The French boutique-style restaurant manned by executive chef Eric Vernice applies French cooking to local ingredients, ranging from Salt Spring lamb to Fraser Valley duck.

Chris Cheney recently left Après so former partner Bjarte Moe has assumed full ownership, continuing to build on the legacy Cheney left. Changes are seen in the details. Everything from fresh flowers to a new wine list adding more international vintages to the once North American-focused listings of Pacific Northwest wines.

Après is hosting a five-course tasting menu for $55 until Dec. 15, inviting locals and visitors alike to experience the fine-dining, yet comfortable atmosphere. Rumours are the foie gras trilogy is a must.

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