The fact that I’m slowly starting to emerge from my food and wine coma can only mean one thing: Cornucopia is officially over.
We last left off at the end of the first weekend of Whistler’s food and wine (and beer and spirits) festival, but the fun was far from over. While the first weekend featured well-known Cornucopia classics, the second weekend was all about trying new things. But first, we had to get through the week.
Mid-week Cornucopia is considerably quieter than the weekends, but there are still plenty of worthwhile events to check out.
I attended Harvesting the Sunshine: Wines From South Africa, which turned out to be my favourite seminar. DJ Kearney’s presentation was both informative and fun. We were encouraged to sip our way through 12 outstanding South African wines as she shared music, photos, and anecdotes about this beautiful part of the world. The wines represented incredible value: nobody could believe that the delicious Beach House Red was only $12.99 in BC liquor stores.
I also had the opportunity to attend the Solfeggio Nourish lunch. The spirit of the lunch was drawn from the Pemberton restaurant’s philosophy: everything was organic, local, and exceptionally delicious.
Co-owner Kristi Richards’ enthusiasm was contagious as she walked us through the preparation of the two-course meal. First up: a medley of purple, candy cane, and golden yellow beets from nearby North Arm Farm paired with organic greens and topped with a winter spice dressing. The Farmhouse goat cheese and autumn spice walnuts took this beautifully presented dish to the next level. Next, we feasted on gluten-free vegan gnocchi made with sprouted buckwheat flour and chia seeds, with sweet sugar pumpkin, oyster mushrooms, purple sunchokes, burnt sage, and Nostrala cheese. The result: a delicious, earthy autumn dish that warmed your tummy in all the right ways.
Up next was the highly anticipated inaugural Cornucopia Night Market. Lanyard passport in hand, I set off to explore the 12 food stands (and many more beverage booths) to sample street foods from Brazil, Mexico, India, and beyond. I dined my way through a Thai papaya salad that set my mouth on fire, a taco al pastor served, naturally, with a margarita, a Malaysian sablefish dish, and even a potato on a stick. My favourite stop was the understated and under-rated BC booth, featuring a slice of apple and a hunk of cheese topped with crispy dried apple, served on a gluten-free cracker. The combination of textures was heavenly.
My boozy weekend kicked off with Taste the Spirit: BC Craft Distilleries. With the recent boom of craft distilleries in the province (and many more surely on the way), it was fascinating to learn more about the red tape-laden process of starting and owning a distillery in BC. We sampled our way through vodkas that were neither odorless nor tasteless; Okanagan Spirits’ infamous Poire Williams, and a couple of cocktails prepared by L’Abbatoir’s Shaun Layton, among many other treats.
Then, there was Whisky Revolution, a well-attended event showcasing 12 very unique whiskys from seven different countries. We sipped and savoured as we learned about the intricacies of the various types, including the surprisingly strong Amrut Portonova Single Malt Whisky from India, which evidently has quite a strong whisky culture, despite the fact that only 3% of the population drinks alcohol.
The weekend wasn’t all about spirits: there was food, too, at the Holiday Cooking Made Easy culinary stage series presented by the Whistler Conference Centre’s executive chef, Neal Harkins. I’m not sure how easy it really is to prepare the turducken we feasted on (along with a beet and kale salad, an allspice yam puree, and carrots drizzled with Pernod), but it was certainly easy to eat.
And that’s just a sample of the many events that took place throughout the weekend. There was the POURED tasting event, the highly spoken of Revolutions (an all you can eat party at the Bearfoot Bistro? Yes, please!), a Chardonnay pajama party, and an impressive Futurist Mixology session – and that’s just to name a few.
If you appreciate good food and drink, do yourself a favour: check out next year’s Cornucopia festival. I’ll see you there!