Posts Tagged: Bearfoot


17
Jul 13

Weekend in Whistler: Summer fun at the Bearfoot Bistro

Six bloody Caesars - only one can win

Six bloody Caesars – only one can win

There’s something about Whistler that reminds me of my home town Brighton; oh, not in appearance, it couldn’t be different. Pristine and shiny, thoroughly modern Whistler is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, its inhabitants all seem to be like the girl or boy from Ipanema, all tall and tan and young and lovely. Whereas my beloved Brighton, in the words of Keith Waterhouse, “… looks as though it is a town helping the police with their enquiries.” But there is something in that ‘determined to have a good time even though it’s clearly hours past your bed time’ Brighton spirit that burns in Whistler too.

I recognised it the second I clapped eyes on the Bearfoot Bistro’s Chief Bad Decision Enabler, Andre Saint-Jacques, so no surprise at all that some of the best fun to be had in BC is always at his restaurant. The Bearfoot World Oyster Invitational and Bloody Caesar Battle took place this Sunday. A charity fund raiser for Playground Builders, an excellent Canadian charity who build playgrounds in areas of the world affected by wars. By the end of the afternoon enough money had been raised to construct three playgrounds in Afghanistan. So I’m not going to feel a jot of guilt about anything that happens here.

Judges Chefs Robert Clark and Pino Posteraro deliberate

Judges Chefs Robert Clark and Pino Posteraro get serious

Two contests were in play – six mixologists battling it out for the honour of the best Bloody Caesar (it’s a much-beloved Canadian drink – essentially a Bloody Mary with clam juice added) as well as the fastest oyster shucker contest. I couldn’t wait to see the shuckers in action, 13 competed from as far afield as Sweden, Denmark and Japan. Before the doors opened the judges got stuck into the cocktails, everyone else got to sample the six different kinds from booths set up around the restaurant and downstairs in its famous champagne cellar – which is usually where you’ll find M. Saint Jaques merrily sabering a champagne bottle or two. Along with the caesars, wine flowed freely and we were kept from slumping to the ground by a stream of bite-sized goodies from Chef Melissa Craig’s kitchen.

Delicious vanilla nitro ices

Delicious vanilla nitro ices

By the time the shucking contest came around it’s fair to say that everyone was feeling at their most Whistler-ish and the cheers were deafening. The rules are strict in these contests and closely adhered to. Each shucker is presented with a tray of three varieties of oyster, they have to shuck 30 and present them “upright, free from shell and blood in a whole top shell.” They are scored not only on time but also the appearance, presence of shell, grit and the cut of the meat. I was fascinated: each shucker had such a different technique, from the sorting at the start – some piled them like legos, others lined them up neatly – some wore gloves, others went in bare-handed (one was bare-footed) and others wound tape around their fingers. Each shucker has a timer and each heat must begin with the shuckers hands in the air above their oysters and the one to finish first must raise their hands again.

Adored Noriko, she seemed to be having such a great time

Adored Noriko, she seemed to be having such a great time

The first heat was over in a matter of minutes. It was shockingly fast. They tore through those shells like hot knives through butter; it was fantastic to watch. There were four heats in all and then a final round. My two favourites, Noriko Kamashima from Japan who shucked in a gloriously calm fashion with a beatific smille on her face and the looks-a-bit-like-Eric-off-True-Blood Dane, Simon Toensager didn’t make it, so I had to pick a new favourite from the finalists. I went with the only shucker to have cleaned the shells from his station to save the Bearfoot staff the trouble, the beaming bearded Eamon Clark from Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto who was the 2011 champion.

Eamon Clark: this is what winning looks like

Eamon Clark: this is what winning looks like

Turns out I can pick a winner. Eamon finished fastest and also – after a l-o-n-g deliberation by the judges – came out top on points. He scored a $5000 prize, a huge trophy that I wouldn’t have liked to try and take back on the plane and a whole year of bragging rights. I didn’t do so well guessing the best caesar. I liked Justin Taylor’s from Yew at the Four Seasons in Vancouver best, but local lad Scot Curry from the Alta Bistro scooped the $5000 instead. Full of nitro vanilla ice cream, awash with caesars and feeling like a girl who should go lie down somewhere, I sat on the stairs outside and waited for the Pacific Coach to pick me up. I’d stare out of the window on the two-hour trip back to Vancouver at the dazzling sea and mountain scenery on the lyrically-named ‘Sea to Sky’ highway, I might have been far from Brighton but oh – that town is starting to feel like home.

You can see why it's called the Sea to Sky highway

You can see why it’s called the Sea to Sky highway

I travelled as a guest of the Bearfoot Bistro  - thanks for that! Also thanks to Pacific Coach for the return ticket. As ever – my opinions are 100% my own.

More info:

Pacific Coach Lines

Whistler Hilton Resort

The Bearfoot Bistro 

Tourism Whistler

 


3
Jan 13

Whistler dining from A(raxi) to B(earfoot Bistro)

They know how to have a good time, those Whistler folk. If they’re not ski-ing, boarding, or snow shoeing across the stunning slopes, they’re throwing a party. On my last trip the film festival was in full swing and the town buzzing with excitement over celebrity visitors, Channing Tatum and Rashida Jones. Daniel Radcliffe was in town, staying at the gorgeous Fairmont Hotel – so was I! And I still missed seeing him.

Feel close to nature in gorgeous Whistler

Clearly my celeb-spotting skills are a little rusty, but even I was able to spot that Whistler has some of BC’s best restaurants. I’ve wanted to eat at Araxi and the Bearfoot Bistro for a few years and on this trip, I finally got round to it. I’m starting to see that there’s perhaps something of a West Coast connection  - inspired after a long discussion with my East Coast friend, Alyssa: that if you live in such extreme beauty, you feel connected to nature in a way that you probably don’t if you live in a huge urban sprawl. Seeing the mountains every day and living seasonally makes you appreciate the world of nature and want to protect it. That’s the theory anyway and as Whistler has summer and winter food and wine festival events I reckon this belief in keeping food as fresh, seasonal and local as possible shines through with menus that feel perfectly in harmony with nature.

Beautifully briny oysters and delicate pearly-pops of flavour

Araxi is probably one of the most technically-proficient and artfully flavourful restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Everything from the ice-wine cocktail I began my meal with to the hidden treasures within the oh-so-innocent looking chocolate dessert (which spilled over with cream and fruit after the first spoonful) delighted me. Briny oysters came topped with pearls of cucumber, flawlessly seared tuna also came dressed in pearls – this time of soy – which delivered a perfect umami pop of flavour with each bite.

Almost (but not quite) too beautiful to eat

One of my new favourite things is beet salad and the one here came topped with a candy-striped variety that made me beam with pleasure. A wonderful wine list, superb service and pleasingly-intimate room made this probably one of the best ‘date’ restaurants you could ever visit.

Come on in, the vodka’s just right!

In contrast, the Bearfoot Bistro also has an exciting menu, but with a double-portion of fun on the side. Its owner, Andre Saint-Jacques, has created an atmosphere of pure decadent devilry here, from the champagne room in the cellar, where you can learn to saber a bottle of Moet according to Napoleonic tradition, (exciting fun and you get to keep the top that you chop off!) to the Belvedere ice room where you wrap up in polar parkas and knock back frozen vodka shots. The theatrics don’t stop with the drinks, where else would you get ice cream made at your table with billowing dry ice? My stand-out dish here was a rich risotto topped with perfect scallops. Oh – and more beets! This time served multi-coloured and cubed in a shot glass of creamy whipped goat’s cheese. I tried my first sparkling ice cider here and fell in love on the spot.

Why open champagne by popping the cork when you can simple CHOP ITS HEAD OFF!

I was trying to think afterwards, which did I prefer and I honestly couldn’t decide. Both were perfect for completely different reasons. I’d want a party with friends and endless bottles over wonderful seafood at Bearfoot, and I’d pick Araxi as my go-to place for any occasion that demanded something just a little bit special. Lucky Whistler people having those choices right on their doorstep.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Whistler – however, my views are 100% my own.

Find out more: Visit Whistler and Keep Exploring Canada

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