Whistler, BC – Bearfoot Bistro Vodka Room/Tasting

Restaurant: Bearfoot Bistro – Vodka Room/Tasting
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: 4.5
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.

The Araxi Longtable Dinner had a late afternoon start (3pm) so we ended up finishing at around 8:30pm, which meant there was enough room for one more dinner, or at least drinks and another dessert. Although I would have been happy to revisit Alta Bistro for cocktails, I was aching to visit another bistro – the Bearfoot Bistro. Luckily it was already on the Follow Me Foodie to Whistler itinerary. Along with Araxi and RimRock Cafe and Oyster Bar, the Bearfoot Bistro is one of the most highly talked about multiple award winning fine dining restaurants on the resort.

At most restaurants I am always most curious about the food, but on this occasion I was equally as eager to explore the drinks – and I was invited to do just that. The Bearfoot Bistro is world renowned for their champagne selection and wine list. It houses over 20, 000 bottles and 2100 labels on display, and they have the largest underground wine cellar in Western Canada. This wine cellar is considered a Whistler attraction for culinary enthusiasts.

Upon previous arrangements with the Bearfoot Bistro, guests are invited to the underground wine cellar for a lesson in sabering champagne. You only have one bottle to “practice” on (unless you want to buy more) and of course you have to purchase what you saber. Sabering is the act of slicing the top of a champagne bottle with a sabre. The sabre slides along the neck of the bottle and when the blade hits the lip the top breaks and flies off along with the cork attached. The trick is to “follow through” and keeping the champagne bottle upside down on ice helps as well.

The cork and collar of the bottle are kept in tact.

The owner and founder of the restaurant, Andre Saint-Jacques, currently holds the Guinness World Record for sabering 21 bottles in under a minute. Sabering is considered an ancient art and it is usually done for celebratory occasions. It was one of the novelties at Bearfoot Bistro and although it’s an old tradition, I don’t know any other restaurants in British Columbia showcasing it like they do here. It was my first sabering tutorial and combined with being a tourist I found it entertaining.

Arrangements to just visit the underground wine cellar do not have to be made in advance and I would recommend doing this at the very least if sabering doesn’t tickle your fancy.

The wine cellar is also the storage room for Germany’s bobsled from the Winter Olympics 2010 in Vancouver. A lot of the athletes came to saber and celebrate at Bearfoot Bistro and Germany wasn’t going to take this home so they offered it to the restaurant.

Last but not least of the culinary features at Bearfoot Bistro was the vodka room or the Belvedere Ice Room. I’ve been to ice rooms before, but I wasn’t aware there was one in Whistler. It was located in the corner of the restaurant and it’s the coldest vodka room in the world at minus 40 degrees Celsius. The room houses 50 local and international vodkas and you bundle up in Canadian Goose parkas and fur hats before going in. Parkas and hats are provided…

… but shoes are not.

Although I was being fully entertained by the novelties of the evening, part of me did find the Bearfoot Bistro a “showy” restaurant. Fair enough that I was being introduced to all of the restaurant’s activities in one night, which are a bit “touristy”, so it made it feel slightly over indulgent. However these same activities are also what sets it apart from other restaurants in Whistler let alone Canada. It is extravagant and fun for tourists and locals who appreciate luxury. I can’t say it didn’t leave a memory and it was something to try once.

Thankfully there were impromptu plans made to try Chef Melissa Craig’s tasting menu the next day, or I would have severely missed out. Personally the multi course food and wine pairing was my highlight and the honest talent behind the Bearfoot Bistro (see my dinner and wine pairing post on it here). I would call that portion the humbling and most rewarding part of my experience here.

On the table:

Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Brut 2007, Okanagan Valley, BC – They have much higher end “champagne” than this, but if you’re looking for something affordable you can saber with a local brut. Technically champagne can’t be called “champagne” unless the grapes come from the champagne region of France, so this wasn’t even champagne. The Bearfoot does sell the most champagne in Canada though. The champagne list is very impressive with vintages and rare selections that would impress champagne connoisseurs including 20 years of Château Mouton-Rothschild. It really is more of a high end champagne place than it is a Steller’s Jay Brut place.

Nitro Ice Cream – 3/6 (Good)

  • Tahitian vanilla prepared tableside, sundae toppings. Minimum two people.
  • $16 supplement to a $58 3 course menu or a $108 5 course menu.
  • I guess the novelties continued as we ordered their signature tableside dessert: Nitro Ice Cream.
  • Even though I’ve seen it done before, I was still looking forward to how it would be presented here.
  • If I didn’t know the chefs, the restaurant would have felt like a “Crepes Suzette” or “Cherries Flambé” kind of place, so this was a bit of a modern take on a tableside experience.
  • Nitro Ice Cream might be a slightly “dated trend” in the modernist side of the culinary world, but I would never say it was popular due to the harder to source ingredients and concept.
  • Nitro ice cream involves cream and liquid nitrogen and then intense mixing by hand to make sure it doesn’t harden into cream bricks.
  • I’ve had nitrogen made ice cream at EBO Restaurant and versions of nitrogen made desserts at The Apron and Alinea, but it was still entertaining and fun to watch.
  • It was one of those desserts that captured the attention of a room when it was being made, and it suited the general feel I got from the restaurant overall.

  • After the novelty of nitro ice cream wears off it just becomes frozen cream and I appreciate it more for the entertainment value.
  • Personally I prefer an old fashioned custard based artisan ice cream to nitro ice cream, but this has the show.
  • Since nitro-ice cream is made on the spot and enjoyed immediately it prevents crystallization that can form with pre made ice cream.
  • But if ice cream is made in small batches with right ingredients, and is properly churned and stored, then crystallization isn’t really a noticeable distraction or risk.
  • This one didn’t have much vanilla bean in it either and the texture of nitro ice cream is quite soft. I prefer the texture of premium ice cream.
  • The other desserts on the menu were amazing though – see them here.

It comes with a bunch of do-it-yourself sundae toppings including fresh blueberries, candied pistachios, meringues, crispy chocolate pearls, and house made chocolate and caramel sauce. The nitro ice cream melts quickly and my favourite part was actually the caramel which was noticeably well made and one of the better ones I’ve had.

Belvedere Ice (Vodka) Room – Vodka Tasting

This is how we were told to hold the shot glasses. They were freaking cold.

So I guess this is the part you might be waiting for. After nitro ice cream it only made sense to get even colder by entering the vodka room. Follow Me Foodie to the Belvedere Ice Cream Room and 4 shots of vodka… I might as well have called it a night at this point. Don’t forget I had already come from a wine pairing dinner at the Araxi Longtable and I’m a light weight, so this was intense.

I’m not even a vodka person and I prefer gin, but given that this was an ice cream room (I have to stop doing that) then bring on the vodka! If you’re going to do it, you better enjoy it.

I would ask for the labels of vodka ahead of time and do some research so you can decide which ones you want to try. It’s $48 for 4 shots so I would chose wisely and it’s the full experience you’re paying for. On this occasion I didn’t choose, but I can fairly say that the ones I tried proved that vodka can have flavour because I did have my preferences. Crappy brands of vodka are still crappy or bland, or just burns, or simply not good, but they don’t keep any __(insert name of cheap vodka brand here)__ in this room.

If you’re a tourist I would recommend trying the Schramm Organic Vodka. It is a local vodka made by Pemberton Distillery which is only 30-40 minutes away from Whistler. It’s a different type of cool, but I would make plans to visit the distillery and try it on location right from the source. It doesn’t make a difference in flavour, but it’s nice to talk to the makers behind the product and it is a good product. Their gin is also worth trying. You can try their gin and vodka at other restaurants in Whistler for more affordable prices, but you won’t get this funky ice room context.

Square One Cucumber Vodka

  • It’s a cucumber flavoured organic vodka from the US.
  • This was mild, light and delicate and a good vodka to start with.
  • This retails at BC Liquor Stores for about $50.

Pristina Vodka

  • This is a quadruple distilled wheat Vodka from Highwood Distillers in Alberta.
  • This was distilled so much it almost had no flavour, but at the same time the flavour it had was “pristine”.
  • It was comparable to one of the best sips of pure, clean and crisp water, but instead of water it was vodka.
  • This is not available in BC Liquor Stores.

Belvedere (Citrus)

  • This is a more familiar brand of premium vodkas from Poland.
  • I’ve tried this before and it’s not as original, but still good.
  • It had flavours of lemon and lime and it was bright and obviously “citrusy”, but not sour or sharply tart.
  • This retails at BC Liquor Stores for about $50, but the citrus flavour might be harder to source.

Żubrówka Vodka

  • Translated in English as “Bison Grass Vodka” this is an original and popular vodka from Bialystok distillery in Poland.
  • This is truly unique to Poland because it’s made from hand picked Bison grass which is dried and then added to the rye as an extract.
  • It is a rare grass that is picked only in the summer and it is on protected land.
  • It had quite the array of floral and herby flavours and this might be a bit acquired.
  • This retails at BC Liquor Stores for about $25.

Pick Me Up! Cocktail – 4/6 (Very good)

  • As if 4 shots of Vodka wasn’t enough I got suckered into ordering one of these.
  • I went easy on it or I would have slept at 8am as opposed to 6am. No joke, but I sleep late anyway.
  • It was basically a spiked iced coffee, but I actually like Kahlua and Bailey’s so I enjoyed this.
Pick Me Up! Cocktail Recipe
(Compliments of Bearfoot Bistro)
30mL Kahlua
30mL Bailey’s
A double espresso
To serve: Shake and strain over ice.

And if that wasn’t enough to end my night… it actually started my night. There were a couple random activities and some Schramm gin and tonic at another location before I came back to my hotel. And to my surprise I had this waiting for me from Sidecut Modern Steak. It is the restaurant at The Four Seasons Resort Whistler where I was staying. It was a sweet and luxurious night cap and while the last drink “Picked Me Up”, this one just put me right down.

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