Savour Whistler 2010: From Field to Plate
192 pp., $38
I'm holding the new Savour Whistler 2010: From Field to Plate cookbook, published by Beth Farrell of Cultivate Books. This just-in-time Olympic souvenir became available just a few weeks ago in Whistler, and is available at Armchair Books, a few exclusive gift shops and participating restaurants.
Savour Whistler is larger and heavier than I expected. It is a generous hard cover volume with a velum demi-sleeve printed with "Whistler 2010" (narrowly grazing the teeth of Olympic brand police) and 192 pages filled with the culinary wisdom of 19 participating restaurants and featuring more than 60 of their recipes. There's an effusive welcome by Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed and introductions by Chief Gibby Jacob of the Squamish Nation, Chief Leonard Andrew of the Lil'wat Nation and Whistler Blackcomb President and COO, Dave Brownlie; with essays on the past, the present and the future of Whistler written by the former Pique Newsmagazine's food writer, Nicole Fitzgerald. It's dedicated to "the farmers of Pemberton Valley and the Sea to Sky Corridor, the wineries of British Columbia, and the chefs of Whistler who make magic of it all."
As I leaf through the freshly inked pages, the scent of the thick glossy paper stock, the glue and stitched binding, waft up adding to my visual sensory experience. They've used a harvest palette of aubergine, mustard, chocolate, caramel and vert; all colours you will find in the interior décor of many of our Whistler homes and hotels. As a book designer, I notice the use of an elaborate serif-script font for the headings and contrasting, sans-serif font for other editorial content - easy on the eyes. As a Whistler local, I appreciate the homage to history with the inclusion of Whistler Museum photos of an early Philips family and friends climbing party, the poster art of our '68 Olympic bid and the shot of Wayne Wong and two friends each strapped to skis and balancing on submerged tips, complete with reflective aviator sunglasses, Beatle haircuts and devilish grins.
Each two-page spread uses a handsome collection of images depicting fresh from the field ingredients opposite tantalising photos of the finished dishes flourishing the signature culinary presentations that cause diners to give that little gasp and appreciative home cooks can emulate. I've always swooned over the simple porcini fettuccine dish at Quattro's - now I can make it at home, piling ingredients into the Italian Renaissance piste that Executive Chef Jeremie Trottier creates.
Each restaurant has contributed an essay, the text of which is wrapped around photos of either the celebrity chef or the restaurateur. It reveals vignettes of culinary philosophy and history, making Savour Whistler one of the most editorially interesting cookbooks I've read in a while. This is Whistler's culinary gestalt - the Slow Food movement - a strategy for using the best ingredients local providers can grow, harvest, raise or confect. Whether it's crisp asparagus spears from North Arm Farm, fresh goat's cheese from Salt Spring Island, Chinook salmon from local waters or wine from the world-famous Okanagan Valley. In fact the back pages have a listing of all of B.C.'s wineries, an additional resource to the food-wine pairings suggested by the restaurants to accompany their recipes.
Arranged in alphabetic order, you start in the heart of Whistler Village with Araxi and Executive Chef James Walt, then flip toward the back and you're now 6,000 feet above the village in the Whistler Alpine at Steeps Grill in the Roundhouse lodge where many a local and visitor has swirled and sloshed through the Winemaker's luncheons before sliding back down the mountain in time to witness one of Whistler's pink sunsets upon descent.
But the main question you're all asking is, "is it doable?" and to this I say a resounding yes. I've kitchen tested several of the recipes over the holidays and my guests will concur - not too fussy, delicious food - savoury or sweet. Get your personal copy of Savour Whistler and throw in a few extra copies for visiting friends and relatives while you're at it. You won't be disappointed. If I had to give any regrets it would be a missing index and captions for the heritage photos, and I'm confounded as to why they didn't use a stunning picture of a fabulous Whistler dish shot against a unique Whistler background on the cover. That would have been the ultimate. Maybe they didn't want to play favourites? See what you think.
Paula Shackleton is a graduate of the Dubrulle Culinary School, book editor and designer.