Whistler, BC – Bearfoot Bistro (Tasting Menu & Wine Pairing) – Part 3/3

Restaurant: Bearfoot Bistro – Tasting Menu & Wine Pairing – Part 3/3
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest/International/Fine Dining
Last visited: July 21, 2012
Location: Whistler, BC
Address: 4121 Village Green
Where I stayed: Four Seasons Resort (Walking distance or cab)
Price Range: $50+

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 5
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 3.5
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • Pacific Northwest menu
  • “Best of Whistler”
  • Multiple award winning
  • Fine dining
  • Executive Chef Melissa Craig
  • Modernist techniques
  • Seasonal menus
  • Largest wine cellar in Western Canada
  • Extensive wine list
  • Extensive Champagne list
  • Belvedere Ice Room (Vodka tastings)
  • Popular to tourists
  • Special occasions
  • Cooking classes
  • Piano bar
  • Reservations recommended
  • Mon-Sun 5pm-late

**Recommendations: Tasting menu: Albacore Tuna Tartare, Grilled Pacific Octopus, Seared Quebec Foie Gras, Veal Cheek Tortellini, Nectarine and Olive Oil, Peanut and Milk Chocolate Bar.

It has the largest underground wine cellar in Western Canada…

… the few thousands of dollars bottles of wine…

… the lessons in sabering champagne

… the memorabilia from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver…

… the piano man…

… the proper fine dining flatware that fit the curvature of your hand…

… the theatrical tableside nitrogen dessert….

… and the coldest vodka room in the world.

It had all the elements of a destination restaurant located on a resort like Whistler, but I questioned if all the novelties were what made it a “must try”. What did it really have to offer past the obvious attractions? The multiple award winning fine dining restaurant Bearfoot Bistro isn’t so much of a hidden gem or secret, but there was something beyond the given. For me, the real show was in the kitchen.

And this is Executive Chef Melissa Craig. She was the core of the restaurant. While all the other features of the restaurant may have been fun and entertaining, this part captured my interest. It is not only because I’m more of a food person either, but it was the most endearing aspect of Bearfoot Bistro and what gave it its honest charm.

I was invited the night before to experience some of the attractions like the vodka roomsabering lessons and nitrogen ice cream, but stopping there would have been a shame. While some might consider those the highlights, I considered it scratching the surface. Luckily there were impromptu plans to actually try the food here and we were invited back the next day.

My first impression of Bearfoot was good, but it did feel slightly like a touristy restaurant. Being that it was fine dining I expected a luxurious experience, but this one felt bordering pretentious. It had all the characteristics of an old fashioned fine dining restaurant, which is what most like to get away from nowadays. The carpet, stiff and heavy upright chairs, white tablecloth, and many novelties just made it feel a bit tense, although the special features of the restaurant suggested otherwise. It was supposed to be a fun place and while I enjoyed the restaurant’s activities, it wasn’t something I would personally buy into. On the other hand, the chef’s tasting menu is something I would highly recommend for locals and tourists. That is something worth experiencing more then once and what I valued most.

“Let the food speak for itself” seems a bit cliché, but in this case the food also speaks for the quiet and confident Chef Craig. She truly embodies the meaning of the quote. If I didn’t know I would have assumed it would be a standard upscale restaurant with approachable Pacific Northwest dishes much like Araxi. Both are considered in the top 5 for fine dining in Whistler, but they cater to different crowds. Although I enjoyed the offerings at both, I preferred Bearfoot Bistro due to its modernist techniques and presentation.

I was able to chat with the very behind the scenes Chef Craig and I was in awe with her experience. It was beyond what I have seen published. She has eaten at the Mecca el Bulli six times (fine dining royalty), and has travelled around Europe wining and dining at 3 Michelin star restaurants on a daily basis. She has eaten at “the best” world renowned restaurants led by the greatest chefs, so it was no doubt that their influence would spark her own culinary creativity.

The food she creates is intricate and delicate and they were interesting without being too gimmicky or foreign. I appreciated her elegant style and originality and the ingredients were forward in thought. The plates were challenging and each one had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what she could possibly do next.

Unfortunately I have heard and read that the service can be on and off, which can no doubt leave a bad taste. Everything also adds up quite heavily and it is resort pricing, but in terms of a gastronomical experience, it was my highlight in Follow Me Foodie to Whistler. It delivered in a global context and it was refreshing to see such a highly raved about chef still experimenting with flavours, ingredients and textures. Each plate just danced with colours and the various components were well thought out. It was food that made an impact and I would even go as far to call in a culinary treasure in BC.

The Bearfoot Bistro may house some of the rarest wines, one of the world’s finest champagne collections, Western Canada’s largest underground wine cellar and the coldest ice room, but what truly made it a unique and memorable experience is Chef Craig and her culinary creativity. I really wouldn’t have valued it as much without trying her tasting menu and her talent is the heart and soul of the restaurant.

I have to give credit to the very knowledgeable sommelier who gave beautiful wine pairings as well. Bearfoot Bistro has Canada’s 4th largest wine cellar and quite the selection to work with, so it is worth exploring. If you’re a wine enthusiast you will appreciate it. This dinner featured local and international wines served in their proper glasses and it complemented the menu without overwhelming it.

It is the combination of the high quality local wines and ingredients, experienced sommelier and chef, and being in the context of Whistler that really made me proud of what BC, let alone Whistler or the Bearfoot Bistro, has to offer.

Menu pricing: 3 course menu $58, Chef’s 5 course tasting menu $108, sommelier’s wine pairing $78. There are optional courses which require supplements (additional charge) and an average bill per person with wine pairings could be easily $200.

On the table:

Tasting Menu & Wine Pairing – Part 1/3

Tasting Menu & Wine Pairing – Part 2/3

La Stella, Moscato D’Osoyoos, 2011, Okanagan Valley, BC – Moscato wines are always so dangerous for me because the alcohol content is so low. It was a sweet sparkling wine with supple peach flavours, a hint of orange and floral notes. It was off dry and not too sweet and I could have this instead of a mimosa.

Raspberry Wild Rose and Fromage Frais Tart  4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Puff pastry, raspberry marshmallow, citrus & pistachio sorbet
  • Pretty! So pretty! I think I took at least 15 photos of this before even touching it.
  • I love any dessert with pistachio and I loved the sound of this.
  • It was a fruit, cheese, nut and dessert plate in one and it was a great transition to the dessert portion of chef’s tasting menu.
  • It was a shortbread like crust topped with a creamy pistachio cake which tasted like a Madeleine.
  • It was then topped with a goat cheese (?) mousse so it was comparable to a cream cheese frosting, but not nearly as sweet.
  • I would have loved if the pistachio and goat cheese cake was bigger and more proportioned to the size of the shortbread crust though.
  • The diagonal strip balancing on top was the puff pastry which was crunchy, crisp and flaky.
  • There was a nice rose scented raspberry marshmallow in the back and while it complemented the dish I only had it in that single bite.
  • There were some raspberry caviar and citrus gels and there was a nice play on sweet and tart.
  • The raspberry pearls were a bit inconsistent, but I liked seeing the raspberry executed in 3 ways.
  • I couldn’t see or taste the citrus & pistachio sorbet, unless it was supposed to be the cake, but in that case it tastes like a very moist cake.
  • It was texturally satisfying, visually pleasing, but as a final dessert I would want something sweeter and richer. Luckily this wasn’t the final course.

Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Brut Rose, 2007, Okanagan Valley, BC – It was 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay and I loved it. It was a sparkling rose with fine bubbles and it was creamy and dessert like. It was a very fruity and playful brut with strawberries, raspberries and nectarines and it was slightly nutty too. It would have worked with the previous raspberry dessert as well.

**Nectarine and Olive Oil6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Olive oil bavarois, confit heirloom tomato, thyme crisp, black olive caramel, hazelnut and semolina sponge
  • This could be in my top 10 favourite desserts so far this year. I’ve never had anything like it and I just wanted 100 more.
  • I already had my eyes on it when I looked at the menu the night before and the combination of ingredients and flavours just blew my mind.
  • It was the definition of a salty and sweet dessert that wasn’t played out.
  • Major food snobbery coming up, but the whole “salted caramel” and “bacon chocolate” combo can get really old, although it still tastes good.
  • This was new, refreshing and inventive! I was inspired.
  • The hazelnut and semolina sponge layers tasted like buttery and nutty moist shortbread cake.
  • I could taste the fine hazelnut crumbs in it and it was Madeleine like again.
  • It was topped with a nectarine gelée similar to a pâté de fruit and layered with an olive oil bavarois on top.
  • The olive oil bavarois was creamy like a panna cotta and I could taste the olive oil in the nose, but overall it tasted more like vanilla.
  • The combination was almost like a soft nectarine creamsicle mousse cake.
  • Last but not least it was topped with confit heirloom tomatoes which were tart and citrusy.
  • I could only taste the tomato at the end and it was almost like jam or marmalade.
  • The thyme crisp on top would have been even good as a cheese crisp and it gave the dessert aromatics and fragrance.
  • The camouflaged smear on the plate was the black olive caramel which was probably the highlight of the dessert for me.
  • It was a fruity sweet caramel and just slightly savoury with black olive. It was original and unique.
  • The olive caramel sauce together with the rest of the dessert created flavours I’ve never imagined and they were almost unexplainable in a fantastic way.
  • If dessert could have umami, which it can, this had it.
  • The dessert tasted better than the description which is always the best case scenerio.
  • This dessert alone was a highlight in the entire tasting course.

Banyuls, M. Chapoutier, 2009, Banyuls, France – It was good wine for chocolate and I was really pleased to end the epic meal with chocolate. There is dessert, and then there is chocolate dessert which satisfies a whole new sweet tooth on a luxurious level. The wine was ruby red with caramelized plum flavour, chocolate undertones, sweet and sticky prune or date characteristics and sweet coffee notes. It was ideal for the last course.

**Peanut and Milk Chocolate Bar6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Caramelized banana, whipped lillooet honey, peanut powder, popcorn ice cream
  • I didn’t think it could get any better and then it almost did.
  • The Pastry Chef Dominic Fortin was blowing the dessert courses out of the water.
  • I still liked the creativity of the nectarine and olive oil dessert, but this was one anyone could appreciate.
  • It reminded me of the Peanut Butter Crunch Bar at Cactus Club Cafe, but the fine dining version.
  • It was of course way better here, but the Cactus Club one is still excellent.
  • It had the most textures to play with out of the 3 desserts and the wine pairing couldn’t be more ideal. Perhaps it could, but I wouldn’t know any better.
  • The popcorn ice cream was freaking amazing and I could have eaten a big bowl of it.
  • It actually tasted exactly like sweet and savoury popcorn and it was smooth and creamy with caramel notes and nutty popcorn flavour.
  • It sat on peanut powder, which I liked, but I wish it was mixed with a peanut crumb for more crunchy texture.
  • The caramelized banana was the smear on the plate and it was scented with cinnamon and it tasted like high quality banana caramel purée.
  • The whipped lillooet honey was like a bubble bath and it was a properly executed foam and one of the best ones from this dinner.
  • The foam was almost meringue like with egg whites (?) and it was barely sweet and just lightly scented with honey.

  • The Peanut and Milk Chocolate Bar was creamy and rich and the chocolate ganache coating was even, glossy, and near perfection.
  • The inside was a mix of chocolate and peanut butter and it was creamy and mousse-like.
  • The peanut powder actually carried a lot of the peanut flavour, but I would have loved some actual peanuts too.
  • I would have loved a layer of crispy feuilletine in this chocolate bar, but it did have crunchy texture from the popcorn.
  • The crunchy popcorn was house made caramel corn and it was fresh, buttery, savoury, sweet and nutty without being overly sweet and sticking to your teeth.
  • Peanuts and chocolate, caramel and popcorn, ice cream and chocolate bars, honey and peanuts, banana and chocolate, banana and peanuts, and peanuts and popcorn, it didn’t matter which 2 ingredients or components I put together, but this dessert was going to work at any angle.
  • It was reminiscent of banana fosters, banoffee pie, old fashioned desserts and carnivals, but it was reinvented and modern with its components, techniques and concept.
  • Both Chef Craig and Chef Fortin seem to like showcasing the same ingredient in various ways, forms and textures and their style was consistent which was great.
  • It’s a bold statement especially based on trying only 3 desserts, but I would put him in my top 10  favourite pastry chefs in BC to date. I rarely say stuff like that without feeling really passionately about it too.

Nitro Ice Cream

  • Tahitian vanilla prepared tableside, sundae toppings, minimum two people $16 supplement / person
  • To see details on the Nitro Ice Cream dessert – see my post here.

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