Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 6, 2021

© Margo Pfeiff

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy gives visitors a tour of his organic North Arm Farm.

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Whet your Whistler

The mountain town lays out a Cornucopia of food and wine at its annual fest

Dressed in mud-splattered jeans and gum boots, Jordan Sturdy is a ski patroller, ambulance medic, mayor and — at the moment — farmer/host to a small group on a country outing that is part of Whistler’s premier wine and food bash, Cornucopia. Sturdy leads us across the fields of his organic North Arm Farm in Pemberton, BC, 25 minutes north of Whistler where he has worked closely for years with chefs from the ski resort’s best restaurants, custom growing hard-to-find goodies from berries to root vegetables (crones, anyone?).

While we follow Sturdy through knee-deep grass, jovial Fairmont Chateau Whistler chef Vincent Stufano is busy in the farm’s kitchen setting up a cooking demonstration incorporating farm-fresh goodies like free-range chicken baked inside a pumpkin. After our tour, we head inside for a six-course luncheon with the chefs, all of us casually lounging around the stove and kitchen sink.

The wildly popular and quickly sold out Chef’s Trip to the Farm is one of the reasons I like Cornucopia in Whistler Mountain’s base village, an opportunity to casually mingle and learn from acclaimed chefs, sommeliers and vintners, take part in hands-on seminars, winemaker dinners, and gala tasting events. Even though there are trendy, DJ-fuelled after-parties, there’s generally a more relaxed country feel about this annual food and wine extravaganza than at most others.

In its 14th year, Cornucopia is spread over four days every November with more 50 events and 100 participating businesses and wineries. Festivities start off in earnest on the Thursday night with a huge, themed gourmet barbecue party.

Provincial Love-in

This year, it’s the Best of BC featuring British Columbia’s wines, microbrew beers and even home-grown vodka. As that event winds down, it’s time to head to the always-sold-out, late-night ARTrageous after-party, an eclectic fusion of visual art, live bands, crazy costumes and creation stations, all hosted by the Whistler Arts Council to showcase the region’s artists. The 2010 theme is “The Good Old Days” where Dusty's Bar and BBQ will be transformed into a 1950’s soda pop shop with a good dose of everything from rock 'n' roll and great wine to interactive artwork like body painting.

The festival’s signature event is the Friday and Saturday night grand tasting called Crush! Sniff, sip and savour your way around the rows of booths where 75 wineries offering hundreds of wines from around the world are pouring madly to keep up with the browsers. Cheeses, bread and chocolate tasting stations offer gourmet nibbles to keep you from keeling over.

As always, industry experts have gotten there first and picked their Top 25 favourite wines that are specially labelled and easy to spot as you prowl the Whistler Conference Centre. You can also sign up for an exclusive evening of sampling all those best-of-festival vintages at a Top 25 Celebratory Tasting amid the cedar canoes and ceremonial masks of the new Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre.

Pair It and Share It

There’s actually a selection of after-parties following the two nights of Crush! The Casino Royale Party at Ric’s Grill is a classic with a casino setting where some folks dress up James Bond-like or arrive sporting fedoras and Charleston-era dresses. Araxi Restaurant is another regular with its much-loved bit of debauchery called Oceans and Bubblies; just when you think you couldn’t possibly face another glass of anything, you encounter a warren of rooms offering international champagnes perfectly paired with freshly shucked oysters, sushi, chilled lobster and Tofino Dungeness crab. Try saying “no” to that.

A regular Cornucopia event are luncheons at one of Whistler’s sprawling multi-million dollar private residences where you sit back and live like Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, even if it’s only for an afternoon. Wines are supplied by a single producer and this year there are two lunch events.

One is a lavish meal created by the staff of chef Wayne Martin’s three Vancouver restos — Crave Main Street and Crave Beachside as well as the hilltop Fraîche Restaurant. The second luncheon shows off the expertise of Vancouver’s much-awarded, iconic West Restaurant.

Slow Food Fiesta

Throughout the Bacchanalian four days of festivities, Slow Food will be there with its artisan market of fresh organic foods at the Westin Hotel and there are winemakers’ dinners as well as dozens of seminars hosted by wineries from New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina. This year there are Bubble-icious and Cool WeatherWine tastings as well as Pinot Noir from Around the World and primers on wine glasses and how to pour a cocktail.

Food and wine pairings mean vintages cosy up to a selection of chocolates, cheeses and coffees. Other BC-centric events are rare opportunities to sample hard-to-find wines alongside regional specialties like Chilliwack’s much-lauded organic Polderside Duck; that’s one of the local goodies Edible BC is cooking up at the evening when they hook up with Poplar Grove winery for an informative session of all-local holiday season tapas style dishes.

The Killer Value Wines seminar is a chance to find out what qualities make wines a great value, whether they’re in the $10 range or the $25 range. You take part in the blind tasting with a panel of wine experts who will champion the domestic and international wines they think offer consumers the best value. You leave with a Top 25 Under $25 list of vintages you can pick up at local BC liquor stores. Think of them as souvenirs to add to your memories of a fun and funky festival made all the more unique by a charming and walkable mountain village setting that thankfully requires no driving and lets you forget about your blood alcohol level.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


Showing 2 comments

  1. On November 12, 2010, J said:
    went to Artrageuous which was 'part of Cornucopia. I drank wine served in a tumbler that came from a box. I thought it was a Cornucopia event; good food, nice wine. The tix cost me $35 each. Wasn't worth it once we factored the cab ride.
  2. On November 17, 2010, Stephanie said:
    Went to Casino Royale... first we weren't on the list (bought the tickets directly from the Ric's website) had to show my email on an iPhone after waiting 20 minutes. Then we ended up leaving before midnight as they obviously oversold and the restaurant/casino area was over capacity. Police were there, we (those in the lobby area at the time - only way to get to the bathroom is to leave the restaurant area) were told they weren't letting any more people in for another 25 minutes (after already waiting 20). Brutal to have to leave a black tie event that was $125 a ticket because of poor poor planning. What a disappointment when the rest of the event was so well done

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