Follow Me Foodie to the Araxi Long Table Series at Lost Lake, Whistler!
Now that’s a very long table. Leave it to Araxi to deliver one of the most elegant long tables in Whistler, BC. The Araxi Longtable Series is a series of outdoor dinner parties which happens throughout the summer. The four course dinner features produce from local farmers and showcases the bountiful harvest of BC. The locations for each dinner varies, but so far they have all taken place in scenic Whistler, which is home to Araxi. The selected spot is promised to have breath taking views and be nothing short of picturesque.
I attended the Araxi Long Table Series last year at Rainbow Park in Whistler (see here), and this year I was invited to the one hosted at Lost Lake Park on August 3. Lost Lake is a 20 minute walk and 5-7 minute drive from Whistler Village. It was a beautiful location overlooking the mountain, lake and trees, and it is nice to visit even if the longtable isn’t on your itinerary. The view and location was the main attraction, although the food really enhanced and complemented the event since it celebrated regional fare.
The dinner is prepared on and off site by Executive Chef James Walt (back turned in the photo) and his team at Araxi, which has been named “Best Restaurant in Whistler” by Vancouver Magazine for 13 consecutive years to date. I’ve tried the restaurant on a few occasions (see one experience here) and it’s representable of the award winning TopTable Group name. From the ambiance, food and service, it has a formula for a successful modern fine dining restaurant. It is one of Whistler’s premier dining establishments which rivals The Bearfoot Bistro.
This year they also invited a guest chef, Roger Sleiman (facing the camera in the photo) of Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate Winery. He joined Chef Walt in a collaborative dinner and he made the main course for the evening. I haven’t visited Old Vines yet, but I’ve heard positive feedback.
While you can try Araxi at anytime in Whistler Village, their Araxi Long Table Series is a special event. It’s an upscale social and classy lifestyle event more so than it is strictly about the food. They really put the effort to make it more of an experience rather than a simple picnic in the park which you could do on your own.
The food was taken from the summer menu at Araxi, but it wasn’t necessarily representable of what is actually served at the restaurant. Given the context of the event and limitations with an outdoor portable kitchen, there may be some compromise. Since they are catering for up to 300 people at the Araxi Long Table Series not everything can be flawlessly executed. It’s a family style dinner with simple selections most people would enjoy, although it isn’t predictable food either. It is an elegant wine paired dinner and it starts early so you can enjoy the scenery during daylight, watch the sunset, and even have dinner #2 afterwards. They are very generous with their portions though so I doubt you’ll have room… even I didn’t.
Since it was a one-off event I’m not going to comment much on the food, however there were a couple repeats from last year’s Long Table Series. I would have loved to see a new menu just because I know how much they are capable of, but nonetheless I still enjoyed the food. I just missed the element of surprise with every course, so it would be nice to change things up. On that note the ingredients are fresh, high quality, sustainable, and mostly local, and they do these events often enough that they have a solid system.
Heck! It even started to thunder and rain near dessert, but they were well prepared. The tents went up as soon as the clouds came near and they really tried to make it as comfortable as possible. I don’t know if it was the 5 glasses of wine or what, but I’ve never been around such cheery people under these circumstances. They started doing the wave as the tents passed over their heads and they applauded and cheered when it started to rain… it must have been the wine. I have proof of it in a video here too.
If you missed this Longtable Series there is still one more left. The annual Araxi Long Table Series at North Arm Farm in Pemberton (about a 20-25 minute drive from Whistler Village) is on August 17. I’m not sure how similar the dinner will be, but you’re dining on the actual farm where the ingredients are sourced so it is seed to table dining.
The Araxi Longtable Dining Series is $175.00 per person, per event includes reception, four-course menu, wine, tax and gratuity. A percentage of ticket sales will go to The Chef’s Table Society of BC, supporting regional chefs, producers and the local food industry.
The Araxi Longtable Cocktail Reception
The event kicked off with a cocktail and wine reception at 3pm which featured: Okanagan “RR” Ranch Beef Tartare with Peruvian Marinade, Roasted Local Eggplant with Peperonata, Blackberry Pemberton Distillery Gin cocktails, and Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2012.
“RR” Ranch Beef is actually located in the Okanagan region of Washington State, so technically that doesn’t count as local although it was still good beef. I wrote a post on the “eat local” movement here and the definition of “local” in Canada. The “eat local” concept was a bit in and out at this dinner, and I’m not a strict localvore, but if the event is promoted as an “eat local” dinner I think it could commit to using even more local ingredients (which was possible).
Quails’ Gate Winery provided the wines for the dinner and it’s one of BC’s leading wineries. It is owned and operated by the Stewart family, and located south of Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. Their Chenin Blanc is a classic and it’s one of my favourite local white wines.
Of course I can’t forget about the Sawmill Bay Oyster Bar featuring Joyce Point Oysters with Ponzu Pearls. I was recently up in Whistler for The 3rd Annual Oyster Shucking Invitational too, so my iron intake is good for the next year, although that didn’t stop me from slurping up a handful of these. Also, a quick tip, but Araxi currently has a summer special at the restaurant: $12 for a dozen oysters between 3-5pm.
Araxi Longtable Dinner at Lost Lake, Whistler – 4 Course Menu
Bread and Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I always comment on bread and butter just because it can say something about a restaurant. The bread is made in house and they usually have a couple varieties, but they just had their standard rolls here. The extra virgin olive oil is really high quality and they use the same one at all TopTable Group restaurants. I love it when they serve the bread with hummus or olive tapenade, but they didn’t do it for this occasion.
- Rolled in avocado and egg crepe with Salt Spring Island tuna tataki, Pemberton green tomato salsa verde and shaved vegetables. ($18.50 a la carte at Araxi)
- Wine pairing: Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2012
- This was probably my favourite course of the evening and it was a very generous portion for one person.
- It was almost like 2 sushi rolls without the rice so it wasn’t as filling, but still substantial considering how many there was.
- They were stuffed with lots of moist and flaky crab lightly dressed with yuzu mayonnaise.
- There was a thin slice of cold smoked salmon, a piece of creamy avocado, and wasabi tobiko on top.
- Wasabi tobiko is never spicy though, but I liked it for texture since the rolls were very soft.
- If I’m going to have a salad, this is the kind of “salad” I like. It was fresh and simple, and not a traditional salad.
- These rolls are one of Chef’s signatures and they are available at Araxi. Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver also does a similar version.
There was a dairy free, gluten free, and non-vegan beside me (bet you thought I was going to say vegan huh?) and they were very accommodating to her dietary needs. These were her salad rolls. Local Heirloom Tomatoes + Buffalo Mozzarella
- Root Down spicy greens, smoked salt and cherry tomato vinaigrette, crispy squash blossoms with Moonstruck White Grace ($16.50 for the salad and $16.50 for the squash blossoms which are both available separately on the a la carte menu at Araxi)
- Wine pairing: Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2011
- This was the first course at last year’s Araxi Long Table Series at Rainbow Park, but I didn’t mind seeing it again.
- It’s the season for heirloom tomatoes and these were plump, juicy, meaty and delicious.
- It was a West Coast version of a caprese salad and the crispy squash blossoms are Chef Walt’s seasonal signature.
- The recipe for them is actually in his Araxi cook book, but he changed it up a bit here.
- He stuffed it with Moonstruck White Grace cheese which is an English Peasant cheese, or soft curd cheese made from organic raw milk from Jersey cows.
- The cheese was melted with lemon scented housemade ricotta, mint, and herbs.
- They are quite substantial and rich and the inside was fluffy, creamy, warm and delicious.
- The outside of the squash blossoms were crispy with a light panko batter and fried golden brown.
- The squash blossoms were actually served hot too, which can be hard to do at a large event like this.
North Okanagan Lamb
- Swiss chard, mushroom and pine nut ravioli with Stu’s sour cherry relish, Suncatcher Farm’s Paris market carrots, Little Creek beans and white beets.
- Wine pairing: Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2011
- The platter was for about 6 people and there was more than enough lamb.
- The lamb was cooked medium rare and the platter featured lamb chops and sirloin.
- Our local Canadian lamb is never as gamey as New Zealand lamb and I actually like it better.
- The lamb was very tender and easily seasoned with a local sour cherry relish to accompany.
- There was enough ravioli for one per person and just like last year there was more demand than supply for them. They’re delicious!
- The veggies also went pretty fast and the carrots were still pretty crunchy, but they were excellent quality vegetables.
- This year’s ravioli was vegetarian and I loved them, but last year’s beef cheek and short rib agnolotti was something I still remember. Those I definitely would not mind seeing twice, three, or maybe even twelve times a year.
- “New Style Black Forest Cake” with brandied cherries and white chocolate ($12.50 a la carte at Araxi)
- North Arm raspberry ice with toasted pistachios
- Wine pairing: Quails’ Gate Optima 2011
- The desserts knocked it out of the Lost Lake park and it distracted me from the pouring rain. Good job Chef Aaron Heath at Araxi.
- My first thought was to protect the desserts, but by the time rain came the tents were already over our heads.
- This is another Araxi seasonal signature and the recipe is in the cook book, but in the book it is served with brandied-cherry ice cream.
- I’m not even enthusiastic about Black Forest Cake because I’m still haunted by childhood memories of the cheap grocery store ones made with artificial cherries. I never liked them.
- This though, this was pretty convincing although Thierry also made one I really enjoyed.
- This was Black Forest Cake 2.0.
- It was quite simple and a surprisingly light cake with few components, but it was good for what it was.
- It had layers of dark and white chocolate mousse, moist layers of flourless dark chocolate cake, and a boozy Amarena cherry filling in the centre.
- It looks sweeter than it was and it showcased the cherries well, although Amarena cherries are native to Italy, not BC.
- They are great cherries to use in this context, but I think they could create a special local cherry dessert for the event.
- The fresh cherry garnish on top were from the Okanagan though.
- Look! The raspberry sorbet matched my nails.
- This was such an unexpected treat because I didn’t think they would go to the effort to serve a frozen dessert at an event like this.
- They were served in a bowl of dry ice so they kept frozen.
- The raspberry sorbet was tart and refreshing, creamy and smooth and it was dipped in white chocolate.
- The white chocolate coating was really thick, but I actually couldn’t taste it eaten with the raspberry sorbet.
- The sorbet was more tart than the chocolate was sweet, so the white chocolate flavour didn’t contribute to the dessert.
- The Sicilian pistachios were a great touch for texture and I just wanted them crusted all over.
- I couldn’t really taste the pistachio flavour though, so instead of the raspberry ice I would have loved a pistachio ice cream with fresh raspberries mixed in.
- I’m a huge fan of nuts and pistachios in particular, so I’m a bit biased.
- I still loved the concept, vibrant colours, and flavour profile of this, but I would prefer a different interpretation.
- My favourite dessert were actually the petite madeleines. I’ve had them before, but they have a good recipe for them at Araxi.
- They’re moist without being too wet and very almondy in flavour and texture which I enjoy. I had 2… or 3 of them.
And look who joined us for dessert! It was the cutest and tiniest little toad ever! They live in an area around the lake and a guest caught one and brought it to our table. And no, I did not eat it, although I do like frog’s legs…