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Cornucopia 2012 – Big Guns Dinner

11 Nov

It’s baaaaack! Since Wednesday food and wine lovers have been flocking to Whistler to enjoy Cornucopia 2012. Some travelled for the wine events and parties, and others (like myself) travelled for the food. We decided to focus on just one event this year and we chose Araxi’s Big Guns Dinner as we had such a memorable experience last year. We were not disappointed that this was the only event we attended, as Araxi did what it does best, and wined and dined us with carefully selected wines and a well-executed menu.

The reception began at 6pm and we were treated to flutes of Billecart-Salmon “Brut” Champagne and an array of hors d’oeuvre. I was glad to see that Araxi had changed up their selection of hors d’oeuvre as we were quite familiar with them after attending a number of events at Araxi over the past year or so. In constant circulation were cups of sunchoke and potato velouteHollie Wood’s Zen oysters with cucumber pearlsoctopus takoyaki with yuzu mayonnaise, and my personal favourite, the duck liver parfait on brioche.

Once we were seated, the next few hours went by in a dizzying state of plate after plate of gratifying dishes, paired with glasses of phenomenal wines.

Course 1: Trio of Chilled Seafood. Tofino dungeness crab in egg crab with salsa verde, battera sushi of BC albacore tuna with yellowtail, and red tuna tataki with pearls of ponzu. Wine pairing: Casa main “Cipresses Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc 2011, San Antonio Valley, Chile.

Thoughts: The crab and egg crepe was wonderfully light and delicate, and the ponzu pearls added a depth of flavour to the tuna tataki. The wine had a strong bouquet and was a light start to the meal.

Course 2: House Hot Smoked Salmon and Wild Shellfish Soup. Served with Root Down fall vegetables and salmon cavair, fennel pollen, and lemon thyme. Wine pairing: Gaja “Gaia & Rey’ Chardonnay 2009, Langhe, Italy.

Thoughts: The shellfish soup was absolutely divine and the salmon was perfectly cooked throughout. I heard a lot of people talking about how much they enjoyed the Chardonnay, however, I found it was my least favourite wine of the evening.

Course 3: Roasted Saddle of Rabbit and Alba Truffles. Finished with shaved white and black truffles with house made bacon, and Across the Creek farm pomme puree. Wine pairing: Louis Jadot “Corton-Pougets” Grand Cru 1999, Burgundy, France.

Thoughts: Although there were many wonderful dishes throughout the night, this course was my favourite dish of the night. The earthiness of the truffle shaving paired very well with the tender rabbit.

Course 4: Waygu Beef Cheek. Served with North Arm Farm butternut squash and assorted beets and topped with grilled chimichurri sauce. Wine pairing: Kosta Browne Pinot Noir 2010, Russian River Valley, USA.

Thoughts: I was in heaven – beef that falls apart on touch and melts in your mouth, paired with a fresh, robust red. What more could you ask for?

Course 5: Moonstruck White Grace Cheese Souffle. Topped with arugula, rosemary, and shallot cream. Wine pairing: Antinori “Pian delle Vigne’ 2006, Brunello di Montalcino, Italy.

Thoughts: It’s hard to get a souffle right, but Araxi did. It was probably the least memorable dish however, just because the dishes before it were so much stronger. The Brunello wine and the wine served with the beef, were my two favourites (along with the Champagne).

Course 6: Valrhona Manjari Chocolate. Dark chocolate mousse with hazelnut and chocolate crust, raspberry gel, and mint syrup. Wine pairing: Fonseca “Vintage Port” 1985, Portugal.

Thoughts: It has been my experience that Araxi excels at desserts. My regret was being so full by this point that I couldn’t finish this delicate mousse. Damn it! It could have also had something to do with shoving many of the petit fours in my mouth. I can’t help myself!!

If you are someone that enjoys food and wine, you really should try to make the effort to get to Whistler next year for Cornucopia. Yes, some of the events will break your budget (Big Guns was $250 before taxes), but Cornucopia also has events for all budgets, including free events. If you do have a bit of extra money to splurge, I would highly recommend Big Guns. Both times that we have been we have been so impressed with the level of service and the quality of the food and wine. Paying for it all beforehand and knowing that you don’t have to worry about it on the night, also adds to the enjoyment. Big Guns is truly the time to kick back and prepare to be spoiled.

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Things to do this Fall: Cornucopia!

11 Oct

It’s almost the middle of October and here on the West Coast of Canada the grey clouds and cooler weather have rolled in. It’s hard not to get a little down about the change in the weather but, on the bright side, we did have a great run of sunshine! In an effort to avoid getting blue, I’m going to focus on the good things that are coming up over the next few months; Halloween, Christmas, a trip to Las Vegas, and Cornucopia!

You might remember that November is the month that Whistler celebrates its food and wine festival, Cornucopia. This year is no different and from November 7 until November 11, Whistler will be buzzing with the hum of excited foodies and wine connoisseurs. Last year was my first year at the event and we had a blast attending two events, Araxi’s Bubbles and Oceans, and Araxi’s Big Guns Dinner. Big Guns was an epic feast with wine pairings that was easily one of the best meals that I had last year. It did take some convincing, especially as we just returned from New York, but we just booked our tickets to the Big Guns Dinner again this year!

Here are some pictures from last year’s event to tempt you…

Spice roasted yarrow meadow duck breast served with a pheasant and duck boudin blanc (sausage).

Stuffed truffle gnocchi with house made ricotta cheese, potato foam, and a quail egg.

Valrhona nyangbo chocolate with vanilla bean ice-cream.

Considering what a great evening we had last year, I am really looking forward to it again this year. If you find yourself looking to kill some time (and money) before the snow season starts, plan a trip to Whistler. Cornucopia has a huge variety of events, including wine seminars, gala events, farm trips, night markets, artisan markets, and chef dinners, so there is something for everyone, and every budget.

Get your tickets here!

Cornucopia – Bubbles and Oceans (Event)

13 Nov

Imagine, if you will, a place where 32 different chilled sparkling wines wait for you to taste each and every one of them. A place where freshly shucked oysters and shelled prawns lay on beds of ice begging for you to devour them. And in this place, plates of freshly prepared sushi circles constantly, vodka runs through ice-sculptures into awaiting glasses, and tables of dessert lure you to their sweetness. This is not a dream. Once a year, at Cornucopia in Whistler, this place actually exists!

Bubbles and Oceans” is one of the premium events at Cornucopia and last night I had the pleasure of attending. Women were dressed in cocktail dresses, gentlemen “were in suits, and everyone was eager to quaff some sparkling wines, eat some seafood, and to have a good time.

Starting at 9pm and lasting until 2am, the event was pretty crowded at the beginning of the night with guests making their way to the number of tables that were each sampling bottles of sparkling wines. It was hard to exhibit restraint when faced with such an over-whelming amount of sparkling wine but somehow I managed to keep it together. Freshly made sushi was circling the room all night, or you could saunter up to the freshly shucked oyster bar, or perch yourself at the dessert tables. “Bubbles and Oceans” was an adult wonderland and one that I was more than happy to indulge in.

I am truly impressed by Cornucopia. Whistler really should be proud of this event. Even though we decided to spend more money on less events, we had an amazing time at those two events. Araxi truly out-did themselves on quality. “Big Guns” was an epic culinary experience that was well-worth splurging on, whilst “Bubbles and Oceans” showed us the more relaxed, let-your-hair-down side of Cornucopia. With crazy discounts on hotels, restaurant Fall specials, and a multitude of food and wine events to choose from at Cornucopia, I really don’t need any more convincing to make this into an annual getaway.

Araxi on Urbanspoon

Cornucopia – Araxi Big Guns Dinner

12 Nov

30 years working in any industry is a pretty big deal but 30 years in the ever-changing, often fickle, restaurant industry is something to be celebrated.  Last night we helped Araxi celebrate their 30th anniversary at Cornucopia’s Big Guns dinner in Whistler. What a phenomenal evening!

The Big Guns event is a formal, multi-course dinner with wine pairings held at Araxi. Tickets were $250 and included canapés, a seven course dinner, eight different premium wines, and tax and tip. This was my first time experiencing Cornucopia and I now wonder what took me so long.

As we arrived we were greeted with a flute of Taittinger “Comtes de Champagne” and as we sipped our celebratory champagne we nibbled on canapés that were served to the hundred or so diners that had gathered in the bar. After another glass of champagne and some canapé tasting we made our way to our assigned table and sat back and waited for the Araxi team to deliver what would be a very memorable meal.

Our first course was an organic ocean spot prawn salad with salsa verde, house smoked wild salmon and oyster beignet, which was paired with a glass of Joseph Drouhin Chablis Bougros Grand Cru 2002.

The second course was spice roasted yarrow meadow duck breast served with a pheasant and duck boudin blanc (sausage). The duck was paired with a glass of Spanish Remelluri Gran Reserva 1999.

The third course was stuffed truffle gnocchi with house made ricotta cheese, potato foam, and a quail egg. It was paired with a Michele Chiarlo “Cerequio” Barolo 2004.

The fourth course was a loin of venison, finished with Pemberton beets and sunchokes with red currant glaze. The wine, Mission Hill’s Oculus 2007, was one of my favourites. I’m going to have to splurge on a bottle of that for myself.

The fifth course was lamb with toasted fennel polenta and Swiss chard, finished with an olive and toasted pine nut sauce. The Inglenook “Rubicon” 2008 was another wine stand-out.

I’m not a fan of blue cheese so the next dish was lost on me but the lightly poached Okanagan pear with arugula and blue cheese was an extremely popular dish at our table. I was very happy with a glass of the matching wine, the St Urbans-Hof Riesling, Leiwener Laurentiuslay Spätlese 2006. A sweet, thick wine, it completely changed my mind about what I thought Rieslings were.

The seventh course, the valrhona nyangbo chocolate with vanilla bean ice-cream, was absolutely amazing. It was paired with a Quinta do Noval Port 20 year old Tawny. We finished off the dinner with a plate of Thierry macarons, päté de fruites, and chocolate caramels. What a way to end the night!

Araxi really knows how to put on a celebration. It is no surprise that they have been in business for 30 years. The quality of the service, the food, and the wines was outstanding, and even though the tickets were expensive, I feel that we got value for money. I will definitely be back next year to see how they could possibly top this. Happy 30th Araxi! Hope you are around for many more years.

Araxi on Urbanspoon

Cornucopia Food and Wine Festival

15 Sep

Have you heard of the Cornucopia Food and Wine Festival? Until recently, I didn’t know too much about it, nor did I know how much fun it sounds like it could be. B and I met another foodie couple at the recent Araxi Long Table Dinner and after listening in awe to their Cornucopia tales, I knew that we would be back in Whistler for Cornucopia. They dangled the lure and I happily took the bait.

Cornucopia is Whistler’s annual food and wine festival that is held over 4 days in November. This year is the 15th anniversary and it will be celebrated from November 10th through to the 13th (if you know your BC stat holidays, you’ll have noticed that it falls on a long weekend). Local and regional chefs and wineries (to name but a few) will be offering a plethora of events, including gala wine tastings, winemaker dinners, interactive seminars, chef’s luncheons, and booze-filled after parties.

The whole weekend sounds like a truly indulgent affair that will leave even the most seasoned gourmand satisfied. Ideally, I’d love to attend almost every event on the tightly packed schedule, but alas, the cost of some of these events means that we had to be quite selective.

We have selected to do the Araxi “Big Guns” dinner – 8 courses, 10 paired wines – and the popular “Bubbles and Oceans”, also to be held at Araxi. “Bubbles and Oceans” sounds like an adult wonderland, with 30 different sparkling wines (oh my!), stations of sushi, Dungeness crab, and freshly shucked oysters. My sources tell me that there was also a vodka fountain last year…I have my fingers crossed that it will be repeated this year.

Hope to see you there! Better get your tickets fast though as I’ve heard that a lot of the events sell out. Official website and more information on events and tickets can be found here.