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 veloute, Hollie Wood’s Zen oysters with cucumber pearls, octopus 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.