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A cultured café: Squamish-Lil’Wat Cultural Centre offers a taste of First Nations alongside exhibits

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The heritage of the local First Nations is an integral part of the Sea to Sky corridor, and since the Squamish-Lil’Wat Cultural Centre opened its doors in July, locals and tourists alike have had the opportunity to check out the cultural roots of the Squamish and Lil’Wat nations, first hand.

If you haven’t made the trek all the way to the upper village yet, it might be time to venture outside of your comfort zone — break beyond your routine of the coffee shop, work and the grocery store — and check out this little cultural gem.

I made the trip for the first time just this week, and I must admit, I was only encouraged to do so because I’m in the midst of entertaining a very special guest, my mother, who has made the trek from Halifax to visit for almost two weeks. Now, it’s not easy to find things to do during a rainy shoulder season in Whistler, even with the most laidback of houseguests, and I’ve been scouring websites and picking the brains of coworkers for ideas for weeks now.

One idea that definitely stood out from the bunch was checking out the newly finished SLCC.

FYI: if you’re a local, you pay the adult admission price of $18 the first time you visit the centre, and then you’re enrolled for the rest of the year, which means you pay nothing to get back in for the remainder of the year, plus, your guests will get 15 per cent off.

After checking out the three galleries chock-full of artifacts, interactive displays and photographs, we had worked up quite an appetite, and conveniently, the new SLCC café had just opened for business two weeks beforehand, boasting a First Nations-inspired menu of options under the categories of hot pot, garden, sandwiches, sides and sweets.

The centre joined forces with their neighbour, the Four Seasons Resort Whistler, to create a menu that uses local ingredients, inspired by traditional Squamish and Lil’Wat foods. Now, for the skeptics and naysayers out there, note that the key word here is “inspired”; they’ve included seafood, like salmon, from the Squamish region, and wild game from the Lil’Wat region, but some of the dishes are a bit of a stretch, like the Mipkuzola “Caesar” of romaine, Parmesan cheese, and bannock crouton.

We opted to split a tasty grilled free run turkey club. Served on a panini with onion, tomato, lettuce, chokecherry jelly and bacon, it was definitely a western dish, but hearty and filling nonetheless, especially since we each had a bowl of the Squamish salmon chowder, to round the meal out. Now, being east coasters, we’re both a bit particular about our chowders, but this one passed the test. It was loaded with pieces of potato, bacon and salmon in a savoury, thick broth that, surprisingly, wasn’t overly creamy.

And if you’re just in the mood for an indigenous meal, you can access the café directly, without going through the exhibit spaces of the centre. To finish the meal off properly, we had to try something sweet — though the maple sugar pie sounded pretty appealing, we opted for the spiced pumpkin bread with maple icing, accompanied by a cup of coffee, of course.

Aside from a filling and tasty lunch, we were also treated to very friendly service from the two people manning the counter. Things were a bit quiet, but considering that it was a rainy Tuesday afternoon in October, that was kind of expected. We dined at faux-stone tables topped with centerpieces of cedar branches, pinecones and stones, with the sound of drummers echoing through the building. History, good atmosphere and delicious food — what more can you ask for?

 

Extra helpings

November is quickly sneaking up on us, and for the food and wine lovers out there, it’s time to think about registering for the upcoming Cornucopia festivities.

There are loads of intimate and interactive seminars and mini-tastings set to take place during the five-day festival, from Nov. 6 to 10, and not all are repeat topics.

Some of the most popular seminars are Captivating Cabernets from Australia, Eat Asian Drink Alsace, and Languedoc-Roussillon. There are also two seminars offering wine-buying tips from local wine industry experts: Best Buys and Building Your Wine Cellar.

Annual favourite events, Bubbleicious and Battle of the Sexes, will also be back.

For a complete description of all the seminars, tastings and events on offer, and to purchase tickets, visit www.whistlercornucopia.com .

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