Hollywood has The Oscars, music has The Grammys and now, Whistler has The Foodies.
In keeping with the grand, unoriginal journalistic tradition of year-end lists, I have devised the first ever Whistler Foodie awards, a distinction of the highest order celebrating the best eats, sweets and epicurean treats the resort has to offer.
Now, I realize a lot of this has already been covered in Pique's Best of Whistler awards, so I won't tread over the same territory. That means, for as much as they deserve one, perennial BoW favourite Araxi isn't going to earn a Foodie this year. I'm not sure how they'll survive that devastating blow. Nope, what I'm more interested in is honouring some of the restaurants who may have flown under the radar but who still deserve our (a.k.a. my) recognition. So with that, here are my totally biased, poorly researched, completely unscientific opinions on what made Whistler's food and beverage scene so special in 2014.
Best Newcomer: Menchies
Now I realize this neon-clad purveyor of equally neon frozen yogurt has only been in business at its Village Stroll location for a couple weeks now, but if Whistler's penchant for frozen desserts and pastel colours is any indication, the California-based chain is here to stay.
The key here is customization: Swirl in as many yogurt flavours as you can handle before topping it off with your choice from a selection of candies, chocolates, nuts and sauces so extensive that it would make Willy Wonka swoon.
Best Culinary Event: Sky High Dinner
This was an admittedly tough decision in a year that was chock-full of unique, entertaining and enlightening foodie events. Of course, Araxi's longtable dinner at North Arm Farms in Pemberton was a feast for the senses, and Cornucopia is always an embarrassment of riches, but nothing in 2014 compared to Bearfoot Bistro's Sky High dinner served aboard the Peak 2 Peak.
Produced in partnership with the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the sheer audacity of serving a five-course meal in a moving gondola that still maintains Bearfoot's exalted standards is enough to earn this award on its own. But when you factor in Melissa Craig's equally ambitious menu, which featured Vancouver Island black cod, foie gras and, my personal favourite, braised milk-fed veal cheek, there was no way any other event this year was reaching the heights of Sky High.
Most Underappreciated Burger: BoomBurger
I realize this is blasphemy to the many, many local disciples of Splitz Grill, but let's face it: That beloved burger joint doesn't really need any more help.
Since opening in July, I've been singing the praises of the P.E.I.-based eatery to anyone who loves a simple, old fashioned, two-handed burger you'd find at your uncle's summer barbecue. Just delicious, succulent all-beef patties on a buttered bun smothered in Cow's Creamery old cheese. The fromage is what puts this over the top for me; sharp, yellow cheddar that is a throwback to the old drive-thru joints that were so popular back in the day.
Biggest Bargain You've Never Heard Of: IGA's Loaded Baked Potato
This is probably less of a secret for Whistler's seasonal workers, but as someone who worked for nearly two years in Village Marketplace, I regularly kick myself for not learning of IGA's fully loaded baked potato until recently.
Made to order, these steaming, hot pockets of starchy goodness will only cost you $3.29, an insanely good deal when you take into account you can load them up with shredded cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, onions and a bunch of other toppings.
Most Delicious Plate of Food that will Make You Hate Yourself After: Dups' Mexifries, covered and smothered
This may sound like a rather dubious distinction, but the truth is some of the best food out there makes you feel waves of shame after the fact. It's the journey, not the destination, folks.
What are Mexifries, you ask? Well I'm not sure how Mexican they are, but at Dups it means a heaping plate of tater tots topped with your choice of chicken, spicy beef or chorizo, nuked to perfection with a smothering of cheese, and spooned over with salsa and sour cream. I've never seen anyone order one (myself included) that hasn't shaken their head in utter disbelief upon seeing the cheesy, melty mess they were about to tackle.
Shame never tasted so good.