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November 08, 2012
Our Best Bets for Cornuopia 2012

Today, a special edition of "What Are You Doing For Fun This Weekend" because of course, you will be going to The Cornucopia Festival, right? That's where all the fun is going to be.

Whistler's biggest food and wine bash of the year begins in earnest today and will continue until the end Sunday with more events than ever jam-packed into its 5-day format.

Well, unfortunately one can't do it all (unless one has clones in the closet), and we don't, so here's our pick of what we would choose to do from each day's schedule ... if, we could do it all.


Ask anyone if chocolate can be paired with wine and you will always spark a debate between the Yes-you-cans and the No-you-cannots. The Rogers Chocolates and Burrowing Owl Matchup taking place on the Vicking stage at 1:30 p.m., might just settle the argument by identifying the situations when the combo is in perfect harmony.

At 6 p.m. take in the House Party in the Grand Foyer of the Whistler Conference Centre. It's the best way to run into old friends up for the weekend, and make a few new friends too. After all, you know you have an interest in good food and drink in common. There will be plenty of live music with local foods and wines, including BBQ, home-grown vodka, micro-brewed beer and much more.

Hang out till 8 p.m.
then head over to the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub for The Butcher & The Brewmaster. It's a great opportunity to experience the superb charcuterie from Oyama Meats as well as some of the newest releases from their neighbours at Granville Island Brewery. It all takes place in a fanciful street market setting, made jumping by the boot stomping tunes of the pub's house band, Ruxus Deluxe. Jerome the Butcher and Vern the Brewmaster will be there. 


Today is going to be one long working day for your liver, so start it off with a morning jog back to the Conference Centre at 10 a.m. to arm your system with probiotics. At Eat, Drink and be Merry, food yogis and natural food lovers’ Astrid Cameron Kent and Lauren Sherman will be presenting and fermenting foods with you to expand your awareness of friendly good bacteria foods.

Now you are ready to head down the hall and do some damage. Pemberton Distillery will be pouring their ice-cold, award-winning, locally distilled, organic Potato Vodka (be sure to also try their new absinthe), alongside the folks from Northern Divine Caviar, producers of a world-class sustainable caviar raised on the Sunshine Coast. It's a Divine and Distilled classic partnership and 100% proudly local.

Industry pros, of course, will want to take in both the Trade Seminar (Fitzsimmons Room) and the VQA Wine Trade Tasting (Conference Centre Ballroom) taking place from 12: 30 to 3:30 p.m. The seminar must be reserved in advance, but if you haven't pre-booked a ticket for the tasting you can show up with a 10-bill and your business card.  It's a one-stop "shopping" opportunity, and all proceeds go to (WAG) Whistler Animals Galore.

By late afternoon, you'll be peckish, so track back to the foyer for some crispy risotto balls, Sicilian pumpkin canollis and braised beef hand pies from the Street Meet Food Truck people, Chefs Alessandro Vianello and Mike Carter. Wash it down with some suds from Granville Island Brewing. Delicious!

Now you have to think: Do Wine Scores Really Matter? Or should you get a head start on the hard stuff imbibing at the Absolut Sensory Cocktail Experience. (Here's how to get the answer to the first part: ask the seminar leaders to name the lowest score they have ever publicly given a wine.)

Now it's time for dinner and several local restaurants have joined forces with interesting wineries to create dynamic food and wine matches. Of course, in the past, we've favoured the ever impressive Big Guns Dinner at Araxi, but that one sold out early this year. No worries, there are several more to choose from (see the list here). We'd be inclined towards The Abergine Grill at the Weston Resort. They've teamed with Roaring Twenties Wine Co., and BC’s Intersection Winery, and the later is so new, few people have had a chance to try their wines yet, so you might be among the first. (Besides, the proprietors are charming). Both wine will be served ‘on-tap’, a new way of delivering wine by the glass, the way winemakers intended – fresh and consistent. Another good option for the evening would be the Penticton Dinner at Alta Bistro. With outstanding Naramata Winery partners such as Kettle Valley, Laughing Stock and Nichol Vineyard, you can't go wrong.

Party Time! (If you are not too stuffed to move, that is.) You want to head over to the Crush Grand Gala Tasting, if not just to find all the wineries conveniently in one place for tasting, then to check out the female population of Whistler, who rarely get an excuse to get out of their plaid jacket and Doc Martin boots ensembles and hence, really glam it up for the occasion. From there it's a quick stumble up to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for their Vegas-Style High Rollers extravaganza. Wear something in sequins or feathers. 


Saturday morning you are going to have to make a few decisions because there is a LOT to choose from. Unless you really think you are not going to get enough wine over the next few days, we say take the Chef's Trip to the Farm. This event is usually the first to sell out, so we are surprised to see that tickets are still available. You'll get to explore the gorgeous North Arm Farm and meet some fascinating farmers. Then you'll feast on a farm-fresh lunch made from organic ingredients probably pulled from the ground only moments before. It doesn't get better than that and the weather is going to be beautiful. Keep saying that. "The weather is going to be BEAUTIFUL!"

At some point before 4 p.m., be sure nip over to the Westin Hotel ballroom for the Slow Food Artisan Market. This is where a number of small, artisan food producers will be showing their wares and offering samples. We ALWAYS find something new and interesting to discover here and it's well worth the hike up and back on the Village stroll.

You may think you know Argentine wine, but what have you been drinking beyond Malbec? Have you tried a bottling of 100% Tannat or Torrontés - two other varietals from this fascinating wine region. Let Michaela and Michelle from House Wines guide you through their collection of Argentine Treasures - collected from all over the country.

Is there time for a glass of bubbly before dinner? Why of course there is?  Especially if its from the southern hemisphere for a change. Join the WineDiva, Daenna van Mulligen, in the Conference Centre's Garibaldi Room for a flute of Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Brut, as well as several other fabulous Kiwi wines. New Zealand - It's a Land Like No Other.

Now, the Top 25 Celebratory Wines was probably the hottest event being offered this weekend, so if you didn't snag a ticket early ... :-(  for you. Move on ...  to the Winery Dinner at the Tandoori Grill for a session on how wine can be well married to hot and spicy flavours. BC's Desert Hills winery will be bringing the bottles.

Keep enjoying that exotic cuisine until it's time for the always popular Bubbles & Ocean Champagne event at Araxi. Twenty of the worlds top Champagne and sparkling wine houses will be represented. Executive chef James Walt will showcase an impressive selection of finely crafted canapés and his famous plateaux de mer (freshly shucked oysters, sushi and Tofino Dungeness crab). Will owner Jack Evrensel successfully saber the cork out of the Champagne bottle in his first try? Go see! Men perform better under pressure.


Can you get out of bed? If so, then waddle over the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for their gargantuan Bubbles & Brunch. This year they have three different seating times! All the better to swing down more of that Oyster Bay bubble, no doubt.

No heading back down the highway after brunch, as in previous years. The day still presents a number of interesting wine seminars, some of them with the emphasis on food matching. An interesting one is bound to be the cheese-focused Tips, Tricks and Perfect Pairings, led by sommelier and wine writer Kurtis Kolt in the Fitzsimmons room of the Conference Centre.

Stay in your seats because after that so you can swig a beer or two with educator DJ Kearney at The Barley Sandwich. Because as everyone knows, beer is the wine lover's secret passion. Can DJ toss back a beer as fast as she can a bottle of wine? It doesn't matter; just do as teacher says.

If that's not enough brew for you then slosh over to the Alta Hotel for more opportunities ... that one comes with Two Rivers Sausage!

Hang on, just one more event till the end, but what an end.  The whole festival wraps up with the The Cornucopia Night Market - A Taste of Asia -- not just a chance to eat your way through some fabulous samples of Asian food, but an opportunity to get an education in the glories of fine sake!

Well, if by now you are heading for your car it should ONLY be to pass out in the back seat. Why do that when there are so many nice hotels in town where you can rest up for the trip home TOMORROW. Yes there is a lot to see, and a LOT to drink.  It all adds up, which is why your best best is to look into the various lodging and ticket packages being offered by the Festival. 

Can there be too much of a good thing? Never! Just as long as you plan it right.

*If you have waited too long to order tickets online, then get purchase them onsite at the ticket booth at the Whistler Convention Centre.  

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