Whistler, British Columbia, may have a reputation as a legendary ski town, but it’s fast becoming known for farm-to-table dining as well. Whistler’s chefs are taking advantage of the bountiful farmland, located just 25 minutes north in Pemberton Valley, by partnering with local farmers and incorporating seasonal produce and organic meat into mouthwatering menus that are all constantly evolving.
While Whistler Blackcomb Mountain has more than a dozen restaurants, and the walking-friendly Whistler Village itself has more than 100, you’ll find sustainable eats with quality that rises far above your typical ski lodge and bar food fare. Check out these top foodie hot spots for locally sourced, fresh produce, as well as organic fish and meats, paired with regional wines and handcrafted cocktails.
Chef Nick Cassettari and his team cook up modern French cuisine using local seafood and organic meats, cheese and other produce from nearby farms (think: braised pork belly from southwestern British Columbia’s agriculture and dairy-farm rich Fraser Valley, along with apple and cabbage slaw and toasted cornbread). Order the night’s featured cocktail (hand-crafted by Alta’s resident mixologist), which may be shaken with Alta Bistro’s own house-made syrups or potato vodka from the nearby Pemberton Distillery.
Executive chef James Walt helped pioneer the “eat local” movement with the Araxi Longtable Series, which are outdoor dining experiences held each summer at North Arm Farm, one of Pemberton’s leading organic farms that has a full kitchen and serves lunch daily. Meanwhile, the menu at this Whistler eating institution rotates depending on what’s in season. In the evening, sit on the patio under heat lamps as you enjoy the mountain backdrop. Araxi has more than 9,000 bottles in its wine cellar, as well as grappa, cognac and port to warm you up after dinner.
An annual feast of all things culinary, this weeklong festival attracts food lovers far and wide by bringing together chefs, vintners and farmers. Top chefs take you on trips to local farms, butchers and brew makers show you how to pair meat, cheese and beer; and expert bakers teach you how to create raspberry and chocolate macaroons that you can wash down with a chocolate vodka martini.
Walk along the Whistler Upper Village Stroll, at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, on Sundays and Wednesdays June through October, and you’ll be able to sample local produce such as plump, sweet blueberries, tangy cheeses and freshly baked bread from nearby farms. The market also showcases natural, handmade soaps and jewelry from local artists. Don’t miss sampling the Whistler Jeggs, a savory Japanese pancake made with free-range eggs, rice cakes, sea salt and grated yams.
Executive chef Melissa Craig’s 5-course tasting menu starts at under $40 and features local, in-season ingredients. Dishes might include Nova Scotia scallops, Kurobuta pork jowl and Vancouver Island black cod. If you have a group of 8 or more, Chef Craig will personally guide you through a cooking class inside the gourmet kitchen and show you how to make dishes such as herb-crusted rack of lamb. Bearfoot Bistro also features a stylish champagne bar with a rail of ice to keep your flute chilled, and there’s a river rock fireplace nearby to keep you warm as you sip. This is also the locale of the world’s coldest ice bar, featuring more than 50 vodkas stored at minus-40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Burn off some calories from eating your way through Whistler -- and see exactly where your food comes from -- by pedaling your way through Pemberton farm country. Slow-Food Cycle Sunday is a free, 31-mile ride that happens one Sunday every August, providing riders the chance to meet local farmers and sample just-picked produce fresh from the field.
The very best way to get a sampler platter of Whistler’s culinary scene is to attend the Feast in the Mountains in August. This annual event is best described as a wandering picnic, attracting local chefs, winemakers, brewers and farmers who set up tents in a field to offer their culinary specialties. Nibble on quinoa salad with candied Pemberton beets from Whistler Cooks Catering or artisanal handmade cheeses from Moonstruck Organic Cheese while sipping on an earthy red from Covert Farms.