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Surviving spring



Spring isn't an easy season here in Whistler. Sure, it's a great time to recover from winter - rest those aching knees, release feet from the confines of killer ski boots, and let the liver rebound after one-too-many après sessions.

But it's also a time where everyone - workers and businesses alike - start to feel it in their pocketbooks: no skiing means fewer tourists, and ultimately, less money to go around for one and all. Businesses start to cut hours - and sometimes staff - and employees are left to pinch whatever pennies they have left for the next few weeks, or until the village gets busy again for the summer months.

Certainly, all businesses are susceptible to economic fluctuations, but none more so than those in the food service industry, where overheads are high and profit margins low. In fact, most recently in Whistler, three restaurants have called it quits: Après Restaurant, Milestones and Zen Sushi.

According to a letter to the editor from the wine director of Après in the April 14 issue of Pique , Eric Vernice's 50-seat wine bar and restaurant recently closed shop for the final time because of "astronomical rent," a plight that many Whistler businesspeople can relate to. And on April 22, after 10 years in the community, Milestones - a chain restaurant with over 35 locations in B.C., Alberta and Ontario - also shut its doors.

At the same time, business for fast food chains seems to be booming. McDonald's and A&W are just two of the companies that seem to be bucking the trend, actually posting sales increases during this time of economic uncertainty. It seems like people can't resist the lure of $1.39 double cheeseburgers.

But that certainly doesn't mean that people should start pigging out on burgers, fries and milkshakes each and every day, however tempting the lower price-point may be (have you seen Morgan Spurlock's " Super Size Me "?) Everything in moderation, right?

Instead, learn how to cook. And no, I don't mean Kraft Dinner or Ramen noodles. That doesn't really count, though I must admit that there are some impressive college recipes crafted from these staple ingredients.

No, I mean real cooking - preparing healthy meals, at home: rice, veggies and grilled chicken, omelettes, pasta and other good stuff. The possibilities really are endless, even if you're working on a budget.

Now, before that collective groan escapes your lips - "but I can't cook!" - I'll warn you now that I have no sympathy. While there are very few people who can prepare a gourmet meal to fine dining standards (that's what culinary college is for), learning to cook is like learning to do just about anything else. I mean, come on: if you can teach yourself to careen down a mountain on one (or two) pieces of plastic, I'm pretty sure you can manage to fry an egg.

Invest in a simple, comprehensive cookbook (check Armchair or the Re-Use-It Centre, or even check a few out from the library). My personal favourites are The Joy of Cooking and Eat, Shrink and Be Merry - they're loaded with easy recipes and instructions for cooks of all levels of ability. Then, get cooking.

Sure, not all attempts will turn out fabulously at first, but you're bound to learn along the way, and if you can rope housemates or friends into sharing the cooking duties and splitting the grocery bill, you may soon find yourself saving money and eating healthier, as well.

Extra helpings

Even cooks need a treat once in a while, and it's important to support all of the local restaurants in Whistler, so if you have a bit of cash to spare and feel like enjoying a real treat, check out the annual spring dining promotion involving Tourism Whistler and local restaurants, which just kicked off on Monday, April 27.

This year, the event features an impressive range of three-course menus at three price points: $19, $29 and $39.

At the first tier are the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, local sushi institution, Sushi Village, and a reinvented Three Below. For $29, enjoy an evening out at 21 Steps, which reopens on May 13, Black's Pub, Earl's, Monk's Grill, the Mountain Club, The Mix by Ric's, Tandoori Grill, Teppan Village or The Den at Nicklaus North. Hardly a splurge at just $39, enjoy the fine dining offerings of Araxi, Bearfoot Bistro, Hy's Steakhouse, La Bocca, La Rúa, Player's Chophouse, Quattro, Rimrock Café, The Wine Room, Jordan's Crossing.

For a full listing of participating restaurants' promotional menus, visit .

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