The Olympics are all about creating a sense of unity between nations; familiarizing ourselves with the many other cultures and people that are visiting Vancouver and Whistler right now. Well, I can't think of a better way of getting to know a country than trying their food. To test this theory, I've wandered into many of the Nation Houses that are set up throughout Whistler (the ones that are open to the public, at least) to sample their traditional cuisine.
The Swiss don't mess around when it comes to sport, or their food. They've teamed up with the crew at The Mountain Club to offer an impressive range of traditional Swiss delicacies, like fondue and raclette, alongside regular menu items. It's pretty hard to miss this hotspot - it's adorned with bright red cutouts and a huge chocolate inukshuk stands guard at the entrance. Or you can just follow your nose towards the scent of sausages roasting on the outdoor barbecue; or listen for the sound of the St. Moritz Musicians.
While Swiss House plays host to Swiss athletes, coaches and dignitaries (the president visited last weekend) between 8 a.m. and 1 a.m., the public is also very welcome to come in and check things out. You can order breakfast, lunch or dinner from the special menus, or show up to see if they're offering free samples of Swiss biscuits, Nespresso coffee, Ricola or chocolate pralines. I had a chance to try their delicious raclette me gschwellti, cornichons und silberzwiebein (raclette cheese with potatoes, pickles and pearl onions), accompanied by a lovely Nespresso coffee.
I had apparently been misinformed about this national house, as I tromped all the way to Lost Lake on opening day expecting to enjoy a glass of Austrian wine or Viennese coffee, only to be informed by the security guard that the house is not, in fact, open to the public.
While the Jamaicans may only have one athlete competing in the 2010 Games, they definitely haven't lost their Olympic spirit. They're holding a daily/nightly party at Whistler hotspot, the Savage Beagle, which has been transformed into Jamaica House for the Games. There, you can unwind to reggae-inspired rhythms and sip on a cute, snub-nosed bottle of Jamaica's Red Stripe beer or a glass of Appleton rum. You can also sample a spicy jerk chicken wrap or Jamaican patty from chefs at The Mountain Club. Upstairs in the lounge, the TVs are tuned to Olympic events. Downstairs during the evenings, DJs keep the dance floor packed. Plus, if you come check things out on Thursday, Feb. 18, you may meet the founder of Jamaica's bobsleigh team, Chris Stokes, or Jamaica's only competitor in the 2010 Games, skier Errol Kerr.
The Teddy Bear Daycare in MY Millennium Place isn't just for kiddies anymore. The Norweigans have taken over this space, serving a popular national dish, the waffle, to the public each and every morning. Apparently, waffles are to Norwegians what potato chips are to North Americans - a snack. Unlike the traditional Belgian treat, which is thick and fluffy, the Norwegian waffle is thin and slightly chewy and eaten with your hands. (Don't worry, it isn't messy.) For a $4 suggested donation, I had mine topped with strawberry preserves and a dusting of sugar and nibbled away as I watched a cross country event.
An extra scoop
Like many other local residents, I've noticed some restaurants and bars seem to be upping their prices significantly for the Olympics. While I understand the nature of supply and demand and that a certain amount of inflation was to be expected, the owners and management at the few establishments that are taking advantage of the Games should be ashamed of themselves.
Increasing prices of drinks and food, tacking on mandatory gratuities up to 18 per cent on each bill and limiting what can be ordered at certain hours (no burgers or sandwiches, only entrees and steaks after 4 p.m.), is simply greedy.