This past weekend, I went to Whistler with three other girls, attending the my first stagette ever. The happy bride-to-be will celebrate her nuptials in August, only two weeks before my own so this was an appropriately early celebration.
I haven’t been to Whistler since summer of 2007 and – surprisingly – I can’t remember where I went there other than Milestones for brunch the second day. This time, on the other hand, everything was carefully documented as the girls and I are cut from the same cloth and very snap-happy.
Whistler has a bit of a reputation of being the “Las Vegas” of the North. Not that there are any casinos or shows. The dining is good and there exists a party atmosphere at night and a perennial relaxed attitude towards having fun. Afterall, people come from all over the world to ski as tourists and a good portion of the service staff come from around the world in order to ski in their free hours. What happens in Whistler … stays in Whistler … except for the dining recaps!
We arrived in Whistler just before noon and the hotel was nice to accommodate an early check-in. They also provided dining recommendations which intriguingly did not include the Quattro restaurant on their own premises. Amongst the recommendations was Caramba which was close to the hotel and we wandered over when we could peel ourselves away from Olympic sculptures like the Olympic rings. You couldn’t really tell the restaurant was open for lunch and we squinted to see one table staring back at us and generally too fine a setting than we needed. I hate biasing against a restaurant that way but then advocated we try the livelier place across the square – El Furniture Warehouse – that didn’t sound like a restaurant.
It’s no wonder the place was busier with a sign that incredulously advertised that all food was $5 all day. There was no wait to sit inside. It was a late lunch and I sorely wanted a $5 braised beef spaghetti or mac and cheese … but went with a moderately more responsible quesadilla. I fell for the trapped and was consequently bummed that I agreed to have guacamole and then was charged $2.25 for it … I even declined the sour cream! For those price, AW thought the portions would be tiny but they were decent with dinner around the corner.
What a “find”, although it was right there in front of us. I would definitely return once during the next trip for a cheap meal in a down-to-earth atmosphere.
Come to think of it, have I visited all Cows locations in Canada? If you count all six or so PEI locations (to which I have been to at least two), I’ve been to PEI, Halifax and Whistler. I did not know there is a location at Niagara-on-the-Lake or I would have gone during my 2011 trip. And I have never been to Banff.
I am the opposite of the person who always order a simple flavour at an ice cream parlour. I want to order something different that is also flavours I enjoy. At Cows, I like to order something with “Cow” or “Moo” in the name, in this case, Cowberry. I wanted to be “healthier” and the pull of PEI originated berries in my ice cream was also tantalizing. How very Asian, as it turns out, for two or three of the four of us got this fruit flavour over a sickeningly sweet chocolate flavour.
We started in dimly lit tapas place where besides the two tasting tours, there were only two other two-tops. It was, to be fair, only about 5:30 in the evening. A tapas place made me leary the portion size of our nice sounding panko-crusted salmon over kale but a Foursquare tip that was more like a warning of larger-than-tapas portions was reassuring. It was a good start with perfectly cooked salmon that was lightly crusted and fresh kale. The lentils were a nice and firm texture but overly salty.
Bavaria Restaurant was the next stop and it was a little disappointingly down-to-earthy and slightly spartan in that European fashion. There were more patrons as the evening was also getting started. The garlicky, buttery and crunchy prawns were not on the menu which I find slightly unfair. Otherwise, it was a good size after the nearly full size salmon.
Apparently Bavaria has a fondue dinner for just $50 (less than Melting Pot, cough) and is well-known in Whistler for the three-courses including Swiss cheese fondue, Chinoise fondue (ugh, the name) and a chocolate fondue.
I know, it was an overcast day with just spots of sunshine but I did feel like we were visiting backwater restaurants that badly needed the press. The organizer selected the Hidden Gems tasting tour upon reports the Finer Things tour had smaller portions but for a higher price. We visited where we visited while Finer Things takes you to Bearfoot Bistro, Hy’s and Quattro amongst their restaurants. No Araxi, though. Kypriaki felt a bit like a dive but I’ll bet there is better atmosphere in the evening … it’s just a little depressing by day.
Here we did receive a menu item, the house specialty of 6-hour roasted lamb. It was definitely not a full portion but it was lovely and tender and well-seasoned. My potato was freakishly pink but roasted and seasoned through and the rice pilaf was a touch salty.
We stopped in Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a sample of fudge – albeit a large one – but it doesn’t count because we have Rocky Mountain stores all over Vancouver. Dubh Linn Gate, on the other hand, counts. It’s a cool spot and it was nearing 8 p.m. The vibe was good, a live band had set up and it was a cool place where we wanted to linger and talk. Since the bride has been out of town for years and just came back, there was a lot for her to tell and I didn’t feel like I was playing catch up on her life even though I’m one of the newer friends at only seven years.
The bread pudding with raisin was good and still very bread-like. It was “light” by not having chocolate but the sauce at the bottom of the bowl was sweet.
I was balking a little at the thought of getting something to eat at noon when our tea time was 2 p.m. – I find it a challenge to order an appropriate amount at a fair rate. Dining at a BG Cafe (there are plenty in Vancouver) at least meant smaller bills but this was a full-service BG Grill, not quick service Cafe. I thought my only choice was to have some mass-made soup of a non-unique flavour until I saw that all drinks were $5. And BG Grill is licensed (unlike the Cafe) which means I could order a Caesar, a savory and “meaty” drink. It was topped with three large black olives, providing something to nibble on. It was the right order to tide me through until afternoon tea.
Going for afternoon tea is one of those things arranged because the bride likes it … and so do I! In Whistler, Fairmont is the place to go since they have a “chateau” location. It looked more like a modern chateau but at least wasn’t as cosmopolitan as the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montreal (which does not claim to be a chateau). The lobby and reception area feels like a grand, airy and high-end cabin. In Whistler, it is more relaxed and our first indication is the less posh lounge. On the other hand, the armchair and sofa seating would be the most comfortable tea we’ve enjoyed and we share the gory details of our afternoon tea experiences across the country at various Fairmont hotels and then at other in Canada and Hong Kong.
Our server was a bit of a rude juxtaposition to our afternoon. I pointed out to WC the ice wine tea and she asked to smell some tea leaves. It is a reasonable request when quite a few Fairmonts will have sample tins to sniff. He brusquely told her it was good, she would enjoy it – everyone enjoys it – and if she didn’t like it, he could get her a new pot of tea! While such directness is welcome somewhere else (I don’t know where), it was as shocking as if he deliberately smashed some crystalware. The girls proceeded to pick apart his appearance and deportment as quite unfit for the Fairmont brand, even in Whistler.
On first glance, I thought the selection for tea very nice. Pink scones were probably served warm but they were not by the time we finished taking pictures. I liked the strawberry jam and Devonshire cream and slathered both on thickly. The sandwich selection was good although my photograph is quite poor. the sandwiches reflected Whistler’s Pacific Rim influence with steam buns (!) with barbecued duck and the shrimp salad sandwich. I was also pleased to see a puff pastry. The laziest afternoon tea, consequently, consists of sandwiches made all with bread.
The dessert level had a delicious and perfect sized hazelnut chocolate opera cake square and buttery and flakey palmier. And would you believe that my appetite reached a limit, my diet was threatening to start before I returned to Vancouver and I saved the eclair and lemon pound cake for NPY?!