It's hard to believe that Cornucopia is Sweet 16 this year — not quite old enough to drink (legally) or vote, but young and sassy enough to get into loads of... fun.
And what an outrageous and sophisticated 16-year-old it's turned out to be, largely due to the good work of two people who laid out much if not most of its foundation — Maureen Douglas, former events manager of the then-Whistler Resort Association (now Tourism Whistler) and Dana Samu, former festival and events coordinator who won "Employee of the Year" for all her work on Cornucopia.
To step back a moment, despite its glamour and panache Cornucopia was originally conceived for practical reasons: to put heads in hotel beds during the doldrums of fall shoulder season. At the same time, an equally good idea for spring shoulder season was planned, namely an arts and culture festival. It was something that had as much if not more potential but, unfortunately, never happened.
So for now, it's Cornucopia we're celebrating, November 7 through 11. And given the size and scale of this year's event, I asked a handful of people — all of them locals, all of them well-seasoned in the best that food, wine, and Cornucopia have to offer — for tips.
Here are their picks for getting Cornucopia-ized in style:
Co-owner, The Grocery Store
Favourites: Two things come to mind: Crush and Bubbles + Oceans at Araxi are really amazing. A tasting like Crush for a newcomer is mind-boggling. I don't know how many wines they have but I'm sure it's about 300 or so. Then Bubbles is quite extraordinary. It's a late-night event and anything that Araxi does is absolutely top-notch, so there's wonderful music, probably about 40 different champagnes and sparkling wines from all over the word to taste, and James (Walt, executive chef) does a full-on seafood extravaganza — just a great experience.
Insider's tip: Wear black — it's important. You can't see a red wine stain. Then you have to think about what your teeth are going to look like if you're tasting red wine. It's a dead giveaway at the end. And I think if you're going to a tasting like Crush it's a really good idea to select a varietal and try to stick with that because you have more opportunity to learn and compare.
Executive chef, Araxi
Favourites: The favourite part for me is it's probably the only time of year where we reverse what the restaurant does. Rather than I make the food and then the wine is paired with it, we go the other way around. It's taking me out of my comfort zone and challenges me in ways I don't normally do, so I always enjoy that.