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Fairmont Chateau Whistler a foodie haven

- August 19th, 2012

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is more than just a hotel – and more than just my home-away-from home while visiting the B.C. mountain village. It is really a foodie destination in its own right.

This ski-in, ski-out hotel at the base of Blackcomb Mountain is home to a number of restaurants offering gourmet dishes made with locally sourced products whenever possible. The luxurious Chateau is also the only hotel in Whistler with an in-house herb garden. Chefs are able to harvest tomatoes, Swiss chard, chives, artichokes, grapes and more to use on site. Plans to add bee hives to produce honey are also in motion.

Executive sous chef Richard Samaniego in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler's herb garden.

Executive sous chef Richard Samaniego in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler's herb garden.

The Wildflower Restaurant, located just off the lobby, should be a foodie’s first stop after arriving at the Chateau. Open for breakfast, dinner and Sunday brunch, this dining spot has a sumptuous menu featuring locally inspired dishes and signature cocktails.

Make reservations at The Wildflower’s Grill Room for a true west coast steakhouse experience. Canadian AAA beef is the star of the menu, with a selection of British Columbia wines to compliment the fare. Also on the menu is the extravagant  seafood platter, featuring a number of treats from the sea, including locally sourced oysters, tuna and crab. Served with sauces made in-house, this platter is perfect for sharing at the start of a meal.

Seafood platter at The Wildflower Restaurant.

Seafood platter at The Wildflower Restaurant.

Local, organic flavours also feature on the breakfast menu at The Wildflower, from the Dungeness crab cakes Eggs Benedict to berry pancakes. Relax on the garden patio while you sip a fruit smoothie and plan your day in Whistler.

The Wildflower Restaurant also offers a Lifestyle Menu filled with health conscious meal options.

Tomato and avocado Eggs Benedict at The Wildflower Restaurant.

Tomato and avocado Eggs Benedict at The Wildflower Restaurant.

If a quick bite is all you need before hitting the trails or slopes of Whistler, the Chateau’s Portobello Market & Fresh Bakery is your go-to spot. This deli and coffee bar offers a selection of fresh favourites, including pizza, doughnuts, homemade soups and sandwiches and vegetarian options. Grab a cup of coffee and a snack here before you catch your gondola ride up Blackcomb Mountain, just next to the hotel.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is also the prime jumping off point for exploring the Whistler Farmers Market each Sunday through the summer. Just outside the doors of the Chateau, vendors set up booths of locally produced crafts, jewellery, vegetables, chocolate, breads and more. Though it doesn’t officially open until 11 a.m. each Sunday, the market is busy by 10 as locals and tourists alike look to find the best deals on what is often organic products.

Whistler Farmers Market.

Whistler Farmers Market.

Foodies will also love dining alfresco at the Chef’s Table in the Chateau’s herb garden, where one of the hotel’s chefs will prepare a multi course meal on the spot, answering any questions you may have about the ingredients or the herb garden.

My trip to Whistler has been full of tasty experiences. No doubt this mountain village is an ideal destination for its winter skiing and summer adventure sports, but the quality and abundance of local ingredients and gourmet dishes also makes Whistler, and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, a haven for foodies.

For more information, visit the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Tourism B.C. and Enjoy Whistler online.

On the foodie trail from Whistler to Pemberton

- August 18th, 2012

In British Columbia, the local, organic food movement is hugely popular.

With its abundance of seafood, temperate climate for fruits in the Okanagan Valley and gourmet restaurants and food trucks, it’s no wonder culinary tourism is a big draw in the province, especially so, as I discovered today, in Pemberton.

Scenery at Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef.

Scenery at Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef.

A 20 minute drive from Whistler, Pemberton is a small town filled with big flavours and exciting developments in the organic industry.

At Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef, Don Millerd raises cattle for natural meat products that are making big waves in the B.C. culinary world.

Local beef wasn’t as readily available in the area as locally sourced seafood, but that all changed after Millerd teamed up with his neighbours, Bob Mitchell and Roxy and Mark Kuurne, to raise about 60 cattle per year that roam free and are grass, then grain, fed. The meat produced is hormone and antibiotic free.

It’s made Pemberton synonymous with organic, free range products, says Millerd.

After two years on Millerd’s farm, the cattle are butchered and prepared at Two Rivers Specialty Meats, owned and operated by Millerd’s daughter and son-in-law, and the meat is sold to consumers and restaurants.

The free range cattle are healthy and happy at Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef.

The free range cattle are healthy and happy at Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef.

One of Pemberton’s hottest eateries, Mile One Cafe, is one local restaurant that has put Pemberton Meadows beef on the menu in its signature burgers.

Our group stopped by Mile One for lunch and were treated to a bevy of creative, gourmet dishes available at exceptionally fair prices. The roadside eatery is small and warmly decorated in art by local artists and its menu is displayed on chalkboards above the register.

See you at Mile One!

See you at Mile One!

A number of local beers are also on the menu and the owners, Randy Jones and Cindy Yu, use locally sourced produce in their dishes whenever possible. Just that morning, Yu told our group, a regular customer brought in lobster mushrooms he had harvested that would be used in the resto’s dishes that day.

First was the Wild & Tame Mac n Cheese with Two Rivers’ venison chorizo, mushrooms and grilled asparagus. Next was the Pemby Meadows burger with tomatoes and red onion.

Having just seen the cattle at Pemberton Meadows that morning, eating a burger made with meat from the farm was a surreal experience, but the juicy, flavourful beef burger proved that locally sourced and hormone free products really can elevate even a classic meal to a gourmet one.

Pemby Meadows beef burger at Mile One Cafe.

Pemby Meadows beef burger at Mile One Cafe.

We also tried the “Outlandish” Oyster burger before declaring ourselves stuffed. A unique, must try menu item, the burger is made with breaded oysters and Fraser Valley bacon. It was crunchy, savoury and completely fresh, having been made with oysters from B.C.’s Discovery Island.

After lunch, our group was off to Pemberton Distillery to sample the world’s only certified organic potato vodka. Using locally grown potatoes that aren’t fit for sale in grocery stores, Tyler Schramm uses techniques he learnt in Scotland to turn up to 100,000 lbs. of potatoes a year into a flavourful sipping vodka that can be enjoyed on its own without a mixer.

Sample organic potato vodka at Pemberton Distilleries.

Sample organic potato vodka at Pemberton Distilleries.

Gin, whiskey and local apple brandy are also being produced at Pemberton Distillery.

Needless to say, there are many exciting developments and products in Pemberton’s organic food industry. With so many consumers now looking to incorporate local and organic food products into their diets, one can only hope this delicious foodie trends continues to grow across the country.

For more information on travel to Whistler and area, visit EnjoyWhistler.com or HelloBC.com.

Whistler an all-seasons destination

- August 18th, 2012

Say you’re going to Whistler in the summer and people question what you’ll be doing there. If you’re not skiing, they wonder, what is there to do in the British Columbia mountain village?

Some may say there’s actually more to do in the warmer months in Whistler than in the winter.

For the adventurous traveller who still appreciates the charm and sophistication of the restaurants and shops in Whistler, this is the ideal destination.

It is especially popular for cyclists who like to hit the surrounding trails, as well as mountain bikers who take to the more challenging, mountainous paths. Bike rental shops are plenty for anyone wishing to get around on two wheels instead of two feet.

Bikes for rent in Whistler Village.

Bikes for rent in Whistler Village.

There are nearly equal amounts of pedestrians and cyclists sharing the paths in town this weekend as the CrankWorx mountain biking fest has taken over the village, filling its streets with mountain bike athletes.

Provincial parks are full of campers and one beach I passed along the Sea to Sky Highway on my way to Whistler from Vancouver was packed full of tourists and locals looking to beat the summer heat.

There are also countless opportunities for hiking in the area, as well as rocky cliffs to rappel down, ziplining through pines, breathtaking Peak 2 Peak gondola rides, bungee jumping, trampolining and many other extreme sports.

Though adventure tourism is certainly a forte, Whistler attracts and offers much for all tourists, from young families to older couples.

Peak 2 Peak Gondola in Whistler with trampoline activity in the foreground.

Peak 2 Peak Gondola in Whistler with trampoline activity in the foreground.

A view of Whistler Village.

A view of Whistler Village.

There are many boutique shops in Whistler Village filled with clothing, souvenirs and tasty treats perfect for browsing. Bars keep the town alive with young adults when the sun goes down. Many hotels, including the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, have pools and hot tubs on site and there are three golf courses in Whistler for those wishing to hit the greens.

And, of course, in the winter there is the fantastic skiing, snowboarding and heli skiing.

The Olympic Rings in Whistler Olympic Plaza.

The Olympic Rings in Whistler Olympic Plaza.

Whistler was the site of the ski events, as well as luge, skeleton and bobsleigh events, during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Daring visitors can actually sign up for a thrilling ride on the Olympic slides by bobsleigh or by skeleton sled at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

The vibrant spirit of the town, so evident to many Canadian viewers watching the Games, is one of the best things about Whistler. That spirit remains and will charm you, no matter what time of year you visit.

For more information on Whistler, visit EnjoyWhistler.com or HelloBC.com.

Journey to Whistler exceptionally scenic

- August 17th, 2012

After a lengthy journey first by plane from Toronto to Vancouver, then from Vancouver to Whistler by coach bus, I’ve arrived at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, my elegant home-away-from home at the base of Blackcomb Mountain.

The trip was about eight hours in total, but I was exceptionally rewarded for my travels on the last leg of the journey as we drove along the Sea to Sky Highway, widely regarded as one of the best drives on Earth.

Whistler 001

Mountains covered in lush, green trees stretch out on either side of the highway, formally known as Highway 99, carrying on far into the hazy distance. Greenery gives way to rock, then to bright white snow at the peaks of these Howe Sound giants.

Water winds its way around the mountains,  rather still in most places, a silent divider between the ever climbing road and the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

It’s simply breathtaking.

Whistler 002

Whistler 003

The Sea to Sky Highway continues on to Pemberton, where I’ll be hitting the culinary tourism trail tomorrow, but, for now, I’m content with stopping in the bustling mountain village of Whistler and discovering the all-seasons activities it offers to tourists.

Follow me on Twitter for more photos and updates from Whistler.

Live from Whistler!

- August 16th, 2012

A view of Whistler, B.C. (Reuters)

This weekend I’ll be blogging live from Whistler, B.C. on a press trip with Enjoy Whistler, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Tourism B.C.

I know Whistler is a dream destination for many Canadian travellers, especially ski and winter sports enthusiasts. The powder at Whistler-Blackcomb is among the best in the world and the mountains made a stunning backdrop for Olympic events that took place in the town during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

But what does Whistler offer for tourists who don’t ski and who visit during the summer months? This is what I’ll discover this weekend, as I tour the shops and restaurants of Whistler Village, see where local culinary gems are produced in nearby Pemberton and even squeeze in a bit of adventure on a jeep tour up Blackcomb Mountain for a salmon bake.

Check back for updates starting Friday night and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.