Araxi Long Table Dinner
The location for the dinner was Rainbow Park in Whistler Valley. With a name like that you just know it's going to be drop dead gorgeous, right? And it was. A meandering path led to an open space with views of Whistler and Blackcombe mountains set on Alta Lake.
The Long Table Dinners are a bit similar to Outstanding in the Field. A multi course dinner is held outdoors in a picturesque location showcasing local ingredients and a percentage of ticket sales go to The Chef’s Table Society of BC, supporting regional chefs, producers and the local food industry. Logistically I can only imagine it must be a nightmare but Araxi really pulled it off wonderfully.
The crowd was a stylish bunch, hip I'd say. I have no idea how many folks were from out of town, but several I spoke to were locals or from Vancouver.
Tofino Dungeness Crab in North Arm Farm Squash Blossoms with Root Down Farm organic greens basil and cherry tomato vinaigrette was the first course and it was so good you I think many would have been happy having it as a main dish. How they managed to fry these enormous blossoms and serve them while still hot in the great outdoors I will never know. But I can tell you they were light and greaseless and had a unique panko crust. The light greens, basil and tomato vinaigrette added notes of freshness to the dish vintage tube.
I don't think you can have a signature British Columbia dinner without serving salmon. It's such a delicacy and so abundant this time of year. The second course was Hot Smoked BC Sockeye Salmon with Root Down Organic Ruby Streak (a green herb) with Lemon Verbena Dressing local baby golden beets and shaved radish. This was just a stunning dish. Perhaps my favorite, because the salmon was smoky and yet retained that lovely custardy creamy texture. Overcooked salmon is a pet peeve of mine. The colors remind me of some swank wedding--all pink, and yellow and red and well, salmon with touches of green here and there.
Whistler sits next to Pemberton a very agriculturally rich area. There are scenic farms, ranches and even a distillery using local potatoes, all well worth a visit by the way. So it should be no surprise that beef from Pemberton was the next course. Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef, Rosemary roasted loin and agnolotti of beef cheeks and short rib with Pemberton baby carrots and red wine jus. My partner in British Columbia eating adventures, food blogger Mijune of Follow Me Foodie and I loved this dish, but agreed, as fabulous as the beef was, the stuffed pasta was our happy place. I could have passed up the loin in favor of more pasta please! The agnolotti were super large and the fresh homemade pasta was al dente, plump with tender shreds of beef cheek and short rib. Oh I'm sure you can imagine how good it was!
For dessert fresh strawberries in many forms. Pemeberton Strawberries with Honey lavender meringue and Okanagan goat cheese mousse, Mini strawberry tarts with Lillooet Honey Pastry Cream, Strawberry Basil Consommé. If the salmon dish reminded me of a wedding the dessert was like a sweet sixteen birthday party network. Again, so pretty but bursting with the bright acidity and sweetness that only comes in Summer. Strawberry consommé is something I must remember to make in the future...
And to gild the lilly, Petit Fours - paté de fruits, mini madeleines and French macarons.
I definitely recommend coming up to Whistler in the Summer and if you can get to one of these annual outdoor affairs, by all means, do it. If not, check out the restaurant or the James Beard Nominated Araxi Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant.