I had the lovely privilege to not only spend a wonderful time at my favourite home away from home in Whistler, but was honoured to attend Cornucopia, Whistler’s premier food and wine festival for the first time. It also just so happened that this was Cornucopia’s 20th annual year, so it was a very exciting time to head north for the weekend. Cornucopia was presented by BlueShore Financial and is the perfect way to spend time with your family or friends for the weekend while learning about delicious wines and amazing dining. The great thing about this weekend is how much you can do, there were so many different events we took part in and it’s really curated for any kind of individual, whether it’s someone looking to delve into the different varietals of wines, or if you’re looking for a casual spot to mingle and taste wine or if you want the full four-course experience complete with delectable farm to table meals served with a concoction of cocktails. This festival gives you the opportunity to be surrounded by some of Whistler’s finest, including acclaimed chefs, sommeliers, distillers, brewers and restaurateurs. It’s basically heaven for food and drink lovers.
Stay: Aava Hotel
If you were looking to stay somewhere close to the village (literally a 2 minute walk!) and even closer to the Whistler Conference Centre, which is where the majority of the events are held, I would highly recommend the Aava Hotel. I just love the cute décor on the outside because it really feels like you’re in a little lodge, it’s decked out in a gorgeous blue and the hotel staff are very friendly and accommodating. This is a very hip hotel. There’s even a wonderful heated pool outside if you feel like resting your feet and taking a dip before your events commence.
Do: Must Do Cornucopia Events
Night 1: Cure Lounge: Nita Beer Fest
The first event of the weekend was an awesome Beer Fest held at one of my favourite places, Nita Lake Lodge. The great thing about this event is how delicious the food and drinks are and how much the servers get into the spirit. We went to the Nita Beer Fest at Cure Lounge in the lodge and it was so much fun, we got to try some fabulous beers (I had the Erdinger, it was a light lager that I am now obsessed with and have to pick up asap!) There was an abundance of classic German foods like sausage (schnitzel?) that had a mild spice and was paired with house made mustard and of course sauerkraut on the side, we also tried Goulash soup, which was perfectly pureed with meat and spices as well as an artisan baguette on the side. For desert, we had none other than some salted pretzels (these were my fave, I honestly tried to fit one into my Chloe, didn’t happen though!) and some good ol’ Topfen strudel complete with vanilla sauce and icing sugar. I always have the best time at Nita Lake Lodge, there is so much to do there and the staff is incredibly friendly. If you can, definitely take some time out of your day and grab a bite at Cure Lounge and their restaurant, Aura. You can find my full Nita Lake Lodge experience at this link here.
Day 1: Drink Seminar: Top Value Wines
This is the event to attend if you really want to delve into the deep history of vino, honestly the hosts at the event were incredibly knowledgeable and witty, it was such a great time. We got to sample 12 delicious wines both red & white blends; they all had such unique ingredients and backgrounds to them. It’s definitely the event you want to attend if you’re into filling up your wine cellar and your mind with all of the different wines in the world, there was a combination of Canadian, European and South American vinos. It makes you appreciate all there is to offer. I loved all the wines but the ones that stood out to me the most were the Matua Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc, a wine that not only has such an attractive look to it with the teal branding, but tastes fresh with a hint of pineapple and pear and a bit of natural minerality to it, it’s a great wine for sipping and can be paired perfectly with fish. As for the red, I really enjoyed the Undurraga Sibaris Pinot Noir, this blend stems from Chile and is a beautiful ruby red, it’s got notes of fresh red berries and a touch of spice, the red fruit flavours really pop on the palate but they are perfectly balanced with earthy notes that lead to a smooth texture. This wine is perfect for those chilly, rainy nights at home while noshing on risotto and green beans. Once I walked out of this event, I instantly felt more knowledgeable and it’s almost like you’re back in school with the desks set up with wine glasses in front of you (better than a test hey!?) and individuals passionate speaking about the particulars of wine.
The Culinary Stage at Cornucopia: Pembytopia
I thought this event was a great idea; it was all about the amazing tastes Pemberton (not too far from Whistler!) has to offer. Mile One Eating House and Pemberton Distillery teamed up this weekend to offer a seminar on Pemberton-inspired menus featuring fresh seasonal cocktails made with Pemberton Distillery organic spirits. This was one of the most exciting events because I love learning about where my food is coming from, it’s very important in this day and age to learn about what you’re putting into your body. This event featured a 4 course Pemberton-inspired tasting menu presented by Randy Jones, owner and Chef at Mile House and Tyler Schramm, owner and Master Distiller at Pemberton. It was a valuable experience as it was very interactive, you were allowed to ask questions and you felt like you were truly learning valuable information. It’s interesting because the organic vodka they make right in Pemberton can take up to 7 or 8 days to make, it’s not quick and easy like your average Smirnoff, it’s a true passion and art form, you have to watch very carefully and take pride in what you do in order to have such a positive result. And the result was good, we tried the Meadows Punch which was created with Organic Gin (who knew there was such a thing!?), Summerschnaps, Hare’s Farm Blueberry & hibiscus syrup, Coast Mountain Brewing Saison, lemon and Absinthe mint. This was such a refreshing drink, it was sweet but savoury and not to mention was a beautiful fuchsia like colour. That was definitely my favourite cocktail from the seminar, and my favourite meal was an amazing Sable Fish Sider, it included Scallion Chutney, Pancetta, Citrus Ginger and Liqueur Mayo, I thought this course was outstanding, there was a nice subtle touch of ginger and the scallion made for a fresh herb flavour, while the cabbage added some crunch. It was interesting to learn about all the different products that come out of Pemberton, I always knew it was a great place to check out but now I have even more of a reason to go because I know the food scene is impeccable. I also love the fact that you’re supporting local, it’s not always easy for these companies but I think if you really pay attention to what you’re eating, it becomes easier to make the conscious decision to eat local fare.
SIDECUT Modern Steak + Bar – Champagne & Poutine: The After Party
Okay, this was definitely a huge highlight for me from the weekend. This is where creative thinking comes out to play, who would have thought pairing champagne and poutine would be a good thing? It was amazing. It was held at one of my favourite hotels, the Four Seasons in Whistler, they offer the most amazing experience; their restaurant SIDECUT is decked out in wooden beams and brick with a huge offering of tables and seating arrangements to have a good ol’ après party. This is really the combination of two favourite things coming together, everyone knows us Canadians love our poutine, and there’s a reason, there is so much to love about it, I mean cheese, fries and gravy? Yes please. Of course, bubbly is a given too, you always want a little treat for a special occasion, but champagne is actually huge in European countries and it’s apparent why. This was such a great way to après, these variations pair perfect together with the dry sweet champagne of Piper-Heidieck, which is actually one of the oldest Champagne houses, it was founded in 1785 by Florens-Louis Heidsieck in the Champagne region of France, this blend had a touch of floral and fruity scents and is medium-bodied belonging to the sparkling and fruity wine family. As for the poutine, it was foie gras poutine, truffle and béchamel poutine (vegetarian), with the Canadian classic of course. Such a great meal, not too heavy and was a delicious combination of carbohydrates. This is definitely the right way to get the party started with the lively atmosphere and cozy combination of comfort food and comfortable seating. Tickets are only $50 and I highly recommend it, if you plan this for your friends, I promise you will the hit of the weekend.
Night 2: Grill & Vine/Firerock Lounge: Savour
This was a great way to get the second night of Cornucopia started, it’s the first annual Savour held at The Westin which brings you an outstanding selection of locally-inspired lounge like favourites including a Poutine Bar, Speciality Sliders, Truffle Mac n’ Cheese and more. The Truffle Mac n’ Cheese was delicious, so creamy and had a wonderful flavour, and they even had sweets outside on the lounge’s patio with mini macarons, I didn’t know these were even a thing but am so happy they are. (Definitely going back to treat myself to some macarons, mini version.) These awesome appies pair with their huge selection of local craft beer, wine and spirit samplings, it’s a great way to let loose as they have a wonderful vibe with a lively band and room to sit and stand while mingling and tasting. They also have the most wonderful selection of local cheese, I’m obsessed with the huge selection they have to offer, and it’s incredible how many varieties of cheese there are out there. This has always been a favourite of mine when I stay at Whistler, Grill & Vine has the best tomato & mozzarella sandwiches, I don’t know what it is but I’m always drawn to them every time I come up. The Westin itself is a beautiful resort, there’s an abundance of shops, a gorgeous heated outdoor pool and of course stunning suites. Check out my experience staying at The Westin here.
CRUSH! Grand Tasting
To end the night, we went to the CRUSH! Grand Tasting and seriously crushed all of the wine sampling we could. This is the opportunity to try all the wine you possibly can in one room, it’s the renowned flagship grand tasting event of Cornucopia, and there’s a reason, it’s filled with a vibrant atmosphere for people to sip, taste and treat themselves to a wonderful night out. This is honestly such a great way to get to know new wines from all over the world, it’s the perfectly opportunity to discover new hidden secrets of the wine world, and of course enjoy bites from some of Whistler’s finest restaurants, including SIDECUT at the Four Seasons. You definitely have to check this out, as it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity of tasting different varietals of wines. A true feast for the ages.
Hope you enjoyed my Cornucopia roundup, and if you are looking to try it out for yourself, it’s on this coming weekend too. Cheers! –Krystin Tysire