As something of a novice, closeted foodie, I was delighted to discover when I took over the Arts and Entertainment section of the Pique almost three years ago, that I was also inheriting a food column. Whistler is home to so many internationally-recognized restaurants and chefs that I immediately knew there would always be something new and interesting to write about: I could explore nutritional issues, write about my own exploits in the kitchen, dig up new recipes... the possibilities seemed endless!
Of course, one of the sweetest parts of this gig is going out to restaurants and actually meeting the people, tasting the food and writing about the meal (I prefer to think of these not as restaurant reviews, but rather, "dining experiences").
And oh, the dining experiences I've had here in Whistler: decadent waffles at Christine's after ripping up the mountain on an ATV; sampling vendors' wares in between sets at the short-lived (but awesome) Pemberton Festival; swank five-course winemakers' dinners at the infamous Araxi; even visiting the home kitchen of a well-respected local chef to learn how to bake bread (from scratch!) with a friend. I've gone behind the scenes with BBQ champs, learned the tricks of making the perfect latte with Whistler's ultimate barista, and had the chance to play judge at an assortment of cocktail and culinary competitions around town. These are just a few of the highlights of my career at the helm of Epicurious.
While the trips to fine dining restaurants have been a definite perk of my job, to tell the truth, my most cherished memories of meals here in Whistler are actually quite simple: they involve a patio, some sweaty, smiling and exhausted friends, draught beer, good tunes and a huge platter of nachos. That's right, nothing beats Whistler's infamous après sessions in my books!
Three years into this gig, I'm confident that I've just scratched the surface on the local culinary scene; there are still many tales to be told and characters to be interviewed. But I won't be the one to share these stories with you. I'm sad to say that my time here in Whistler and at the Pique has come to a close, and it's time for me to take on a new challenge! I'm definitely going to miss those beloved après sessions and the good friends that I've raised (many) glasses with along the way.
Before I go, I'd like to share a few thoughts about our local food scene.
In the process of writing this weekly column, I've discovered that there are, in fact, not only talented professional chefs working in kitchens throughout town, but an incredible range of people who are genuinely passionate about feeding this community. The Helmers and Sturdys are just two of many farmers and producers toiling away in the fields up in Pemberton, working hard to make an honest living while providing the means to allow Sea to Sky residents to eat locally. So do it. Visit the farmers markets in the summer and show your support by filling your reusable shopping bag with the fruits of their labour. It might cost a little bit more, but it's worth it, in the long run.
And if you're going to jump on the "eat local" bandwagon, you may as well roll up your sleeves and get a bit dirty with the Whistler Community Services Society's greenhouse program. In one of their four greenhouses, you can grow your own organic herbs and vegetables six months per year (and as an added bonus, 10 per cent of crops harvested are donated to our local food bank).
Cook for yourself as often as possible. It might seem obvious, but eating out costs a lot, and quite frankly, most Whistler residents can't afford it. The vast majority of us are living on a budget, which means we need to stretch a buck. Do that by being smart with your money: create a simple meal plan, stock up at the grocery store and become competent in the kitchen. If you don't know how to cook, learn. WCSS can help: they host Community Kitchens, a workshop program that teaches residents how to prepare healthy and affordable meals.
When you do have the occasion to eat out, make it count. Try and support locally owned businesses, ignore the hype (sometimes the real gems are the completely overlooked "oldies but goodies"), and above all else, don't be afraid to try new things.
By the time you read this column, I'll be making my way over the mountains on my way to the next big adventure, but something tells me that I'll never forget my meals in Whistler. Santé!