Summer in Whistler 0
A view of the mountains at Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef farm in Pemberton, B.C. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)
Say you're going to Whistler in the summer or fall and people question what you'll do there. If you're not skiing, they wonder, what is there to do in the British Columbia mountain village?
For an adventurous traveller who appreciates the charm and sophistication of gourmet restaurants and quirky shops, there's actually more to do in the warmer months than in the winter. It's especially popular with cyclists, who hit Whistler's network of trails, and mountain bikers who take to the more challenging paths. (Bike rental shops are abundant for those wishing to get around on two wheels instead of two feet).
There are also countless opportunities for hiking, as well as rocky cliffs for rappelling, ziplining through pines, breathtaking Peak 2 Peak gondola rides, bungee jumping and many other extreme sports. Though adventure tourism is a forte, Whistler attracts and offers much for all tourists, from young families to older couples. There are many shops filled with clothing, souvenirs and tasty treats. Young adults keep the bars alive when the sun goes down. Many hotels, including the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, have pools and hot tubs, and the town has three golf courses for those wishing to hit the greens.
In B.C., the local organic food movement is hugely popular. With its abundant seafood, temperate climate for fruit-growing in the Okanagan Valley, and gourmet restaurants and food trucks, culinary tourism is a big draw, especially in Pemberton. About a 20-minute drive away, Pemberton is small town filled with big flavours and exciting developments in the organic industry.
At Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef, for instance, Don Millerd raises cattle for natural meat products that are making big waves on the culinary scene. Local beef wasn't as readily available as locally sourced seafood, but that changed after Millerd teamed up with neighbours Bob Mitchell and Roxy and Mark Kuurne, to raise free-range grass-fed cattle.
After two years on the 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 hormone and anitbiotic free meat is sold to consumers and restaurants. It's made Pemberton synonymous with organic, free-range products, Millerd said.
One of the town's hottest eateries, Mile One Cafe, uses Pemberton Meadows beef in its signature burgers. The small roadside eatery -- warmly decorated with art by area artists -- treats customers to a bevy of creative, gourmet dishes at exceptionally fair prices. Owners Randy Jones and Cindy Yu use locally sourced produce in their dishes whenever possible, and a number of local beers are also on the menu.
Just that morning, Yu said, a regular customer brought in just-harvested lobster-mushrooms that would be used in dishes that day.
Having just seen the cattle at Pemberton Meadows, eating Mile One's Pemby Meadows burger -- topped with tomatoes and red onion -- was a surreal experience, but the juicy, flavourful beef burger proved that locally sourced products can elevate even a classic meal to a gourmet one.
Round out your visit with a stop at 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 employs techniques he learned in Scotland to turn up to 46,000 kilos of potatoes a year into a flavourful sipping vodka. Gin, whiskey and local apple-brandy are also produced.
More than just a hotel, Fairmont Chateau Whistler is a foodie destination in its own right. The ski-in, ski-out property at the base of Blackcomb Mountain has several restaurants serving gourmet dishes made from local products whenever possible. The luxurious Chateau is also Whistler's only hotel with an in-house herb garden. Chefs harvest tomatoes, Swiss chard, chives, artichokes, grapes and more on site to use in the restaurants, and there are plans to add beehives to produce honey.
The Wildflower Restaurant, just off the lobby, should be a foodie's first stop after arrival. Open for breakfast, dinner and Sunday brunch, this dining spot has a sumptuous menu featuring locally inspired dishes and signature cocktails. A Lifestyle menu filled with health-conscious meal options is also available.
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 B.C. wines to compliment the fare. An extravagant seafood platter featuring local oysters, tuna and crab and Chateau-made sauces is perfect for sharing at the start of a meal.
For a quick bite, the hotel's Portobello Market & Fresh Bakery is the go-to spot. The deli/coffee-bar offers fresh favourites, including pizza, doughnuts, homemade soups, sandwiches and vegetarian options. Grab a cup of coffee and a snack here before going next door to catch the gondola up Blackcomb Mountain.
Foodies will also love dining alfresco at the Chef's Table in the herb garden, where one of the Chateau chefs will prepare a multi-course meal on the spot.
The hotel is a prime jumping off-point for exploring the Whistler Farmers Market, held each Sunday through Oct. 8. Just outside the Chateau doors, vendors set up booths of locally made crafts, jewelry, vegetables, chocolate, breads and more. Though it doesn't officially open until 11 a.m., the market is busy by 10 as locals and tourists alike look to find the best deals.
No doubt Whistler is ideal for winter skiing and summer adventure sports, but the quality and abundance of tasty experiences makes it a haven for foodies, too.
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