For years, Whistler's award-winning Bearfoot Bistro has been at the forefront of culinary trends, known for its boundary-pushing take on seasonal cuisine.
But on July 1, the upscale restaurant will take it way back — 153 years, to be exact — to pay homage to Canada's Fathers of Confederation.
A fundraiser for the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the Fathers of Confederation Tribute Dinner will recreate the food served to the delegates at the historic Charlottetown Conference. Held in September 1864, originally only representatives from the Maritime colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and the host, Prince Edward Island, were invited to attend. But once the Province of Canada, comprising present-day Ontario and Quebec, got wind of the conference, the colony asked to be allowed to attend so its grander vision for a unified Canada could be discussed.
Despite residents of Charlottetown being largely uninterested in the political summit due to a carnival that happened to be taking place at the same time, the host Maritimers purportedly rolled out the welcome mat for their western compatriots, hosting lavish banquets each night that featured a smorgasbord of P.E.I. seafood and liberal amounts of champagne.
That was music to the ears of the folks at Bearfoot, no stranger to the occasional debaucherous dinner themselves. The restaurant's Marc Des Rosiers said he even consulted with the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. to make sure no detail was overlooked.
"We were able to see that champagne and food was a key factor to that conference," he added. "Obviously being close to the ocean over there, (the museum) shared with us that oysters and champagne, for example, were served. And then, in terms of food, there's going to be everything you find in the ocean, like lobster, salmon. And all of this was served on big platters, so that's what we're going to be able to recreate."
Known for her contemporary creations, Executive Chef Melissa Craig fortunately won't be slaving over a coal stove as her ancestors would have. Des Rosiers said the menu would "pay respect" to the popular East Coast ingredients of the day — Atlantic lobster, roast prime rib and hay-smoked suckling pig are all featured — but the cooking team would still add the odd modern touch here and there. "I was just trying to keep it simple and stay true to myself as a cook and our style at the Bearfoot," Craig explained. "So basically, it's going to be simple, but obviously really good product that's well displayed."
After a cocktail reception, the multi-course dinner will be served outdoors on the Whistler Golf Club's driving range, followed by live music and a dessert bar back at the restaurant once everyone's had their fill.
Topping last year's Whistler Blackcomb Foundation fundraiser, the Sky High Dinner, which was served aboard a moving Peak 2 Peak Gondola, is no small feat. But if anyone can pull it off, it's Bearfoot Bistro.
"By creating this dinner and paying tribute, people will be able to come out of it with an experience, and that's what we're always aiming to do at Bearfoot Bistro," said Des Rosiers. "How can we create more than just a dinner?"
The Fathers of Confederation Tribute Dinner starts at 7:30 p.m. on Canada Day. Tickets are $248 per person, or $198 (excluding tax and service) until June 28, available at bearfootbistro.com/?event=fathers-confederation-tribute-dinner.