Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hello, Goodbye, Beet Root Cafe

The two separate times we've been to Whistler, we've had a heck of a time finding a decent place to eat. Decent, meaning, affordable first. Whistler can be expensive, especially now with the devalued U.S. dollar. Used to be, you go to Canada to get everything cheaper. Not anymore. They come down here to get cheap stuff, and the cost of living isn't so cheap up there to begin with.

The same thing happened our third time in Whistler this past Labor Day Weekend. But there were so many more places to eat, so we faced the dilemma of finding an affordable breakfasty cafe that pleased a picky eater of a son, his dad and me--oh, with barely 15 minutes to eat because the next jazz show (there for the first inaugural Jazz on the Mountain festival) was already starting in five.

We found ourselves walking around the Village way too long, going from one place to another, finding them all similarly Urban Grill-ish, meaning, not our style.

Finally, as we were prepared to give up and find something on the way to the Olympic Plaza, where the concert was, my husband noticed a hole-in-the-wall advertising Irish lamb stew on a small handwritten sign. We had to walk around a maze of corner buildings to an inner mini-mall on the other side to find the Beet Root Cafe, run by an Irish-accented husband and wife.

Like a fool, I spotted the sandwich section -- this place reminded me of a cafe in Deep Cove, Vancouver -- and tried the turkey panini. Ed had a breakfast burrito, and our son James had his makeshift breakfast sandwich with scrambled egg, bacon, and a toasted muffin.

My panini was HUGE. More like a gigantic focaccia sandwich, more focaccia than turkey to be truthful. But I ate it dutifully while I eyed this lady at the cafe's outside area primly enjoying her small bowl of stew with multi-grain brain and butter. I kept thinking that would've been perfect before the concert, not too much, not too little.

The next day, we were back, but for dinner, again with only 15 minutes to spare before another jazz concert. I ordered my large Irish lamb stew and wolfed it down. It was so peasanty and basic, more brothy than stewy (the kind of beef stew Americans are familiar with), with the hearty multi-grain really going well with it, sopping up the broth along the way.

I loved this stew so much, we went back our last day, for a leisurely morning breakfast, while my husband went with an interesting turkey sandwich with shredded beets and assorted other vegetables. They must love beets in Canada. I'd had a golden beet salad at a Sunday Brunch the morning before that was to-die for.

It was only when I finished my big, honkin' chunk of potato slap-dab in the middle of the bowl of stew-age that I found out the Beet Root Cafe was leasing out, its owners looking to unload their place.

Hopefully, by the time we come back here, there will be new owners and not a for sale sign.

Brunch, the Whistler way

My media invitation read: "The Fairmont Chateau Whistler will be hosting you for brunch on Sunday, September 4. Please meet Jennifer Tice, PR manager, at the entrance to the Wildflower Restaurant at noon."

What a Sunday Brunch it was. I was there to cover the first-ever Whistler Jazz Festival. Organizers did it right, too, taking care of the artists, the visitors, and the media with special events designed to get them all to mingle.

As a part of the media (I write about jazz on Examiner.com), I had the privilege--along with my family--to visit Whistler and have free food at Whistler's finest--twice, the first night at a fancy Bearfoot Bistro, where I'd imagine all the celebs make a beeline for. The second time was on Sunday for a brunch to end all brunches.

Was the Wildflower's Brunch as lavishly spread out as, say, the Halekulani's Orchids in Waikiki? No. They've never heard of sushi and sashimi for breakfast--these are British and French descendants for the most part--but the spread they did have in such a rich, distinguished setting was singularly out of this world and pampering.

As is my habit at brunches, I scoped out the spread with my camera first. My eye zeroed in immediately on the raw oysters with a selection of sauces, cocktail, mignonettes, next to bowls of scallops, smoked salmon and trout, and shrimp. Then, the long wooden plank of perfectly poached, delicate Eggs Benedict.

I also noticed an indigenous breakfast staple, harkening back to Britain's bangers and mash: a pot of roasted tomatoes and beans. Mmm. I could totally go for that every morning. And did this morning.

I pretty much pile-drove through three full, heaping plates of everything, then skipped dessert (carrot cake, danishes, chocolate) out of guilt--with a heaping plate full of as many raw oysters each time as I could get away with.

It's awkward talking to PR and media contacts with food flying out of your mouth, but I did my best. I mean, free raw oysters on the half shell? Come on.

What I didn't have, my husband and son dove into. My son James loved himself on a plate full of bacon, then proceeded to make his breakfast sandwiches (as he's wont to do on vacation since this summer) with some creamy scrambled eggs and a halved roll. He even tried the sausage (the darker-colored one left of the pale ones I tried). Seeing all that bacon piled high was a dream for his little bacon-loving heart.

My husband took advantage of the omelette-making and roast-beef-carving stand. He said his tomato omelette was the best he ever had. The roast beef was perfectly cooked to a medium-rare, with an option of wine-reduced au jus and some horseradish.

It was like going to Vegas in the '80s, but free and much, much more sophisticated.

We dined like kings as the house band played live jazz behind us. I could get used to this life.

Did I wake up and turn into a Kardashian?

The moment we stepped inside Bearfoot Bistro, most of my family especially me majorly sleep deprived since driving across the border from WA state into Canada's Whistler, Friday night (Sept. 2, 2011) for a fancy VIP Media-only dinner, c/o Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler, we knew we weren't in Kansas anymore.

I felt as if we woke up from a restless dream only to find ourselves catapulted into the lives of the rich and famous. I half-expected Robin Leach to round the corner with his tubby jolly form any minute after the five-course dining experience, plus vintage champagne options down in the Cellar, where my nine-year-old son got to saber a bottle top off with an excited, childlike flourish.

My husband and I exchanged several quizzical, dumbstruck glances at the dinner table -- for 15 -- smack-dab in the middle of this five-star resort-like dining establishment.

As soon as I read the menu, each printed on fancy card stock at each place setting on the starched-white table, with fancy choices for the first course (Serrano and Melon, Heirloom Tomato Panzanella, Seared Québec Foie Gras, raw oysters on the half shell)... I knew I was in trouble. Okay, I wasn't in trouble; I could totally eat this stuff.

But our nine-year-old son was in misery. He's used to McDonald's, Kraft mac 'n cheese, and Tubby Toast. This fancy stuff was over his head and out of his palate.

We gamely tried to go with the flow. It was easy to do with the easygoing guests and hosts who made sure our son was taken care of (he got to pick from the kids' menu and had cheese pizza later) when we trudged down into the Cellar and several of us got to saber a real vintage bottle of champagne, including him. Exciting stuff for a kid.

The champagne was delicious, too, as was the white wine -- which tasted of pears -- that accompanied our feast.

Every course I carefully chose was delicious:

Serrano & Melon
wild greens, shaved parmesan, puffed quinoa

-- A spoon full of a seared pink fish with vegetables in a cleansing bite in between

Beef Tenderloin
potato purée, grilled asparagus, dungeness crab croquette

-- A melon sorbet aperitif, again to cleanse the palate

variations of Pemberton beets & raspberries

We waited forever for the dessert -- a crazy contraption of beet foam on top of a wet chocolate cake and raspberry sorbet. While we did, my son and I snuck off near the lobby (restaurant is attached to a hotel) to play checkers, and watched a nearby table enjoy the restaurant's signature homemade dry ice, ice cream, made in a giant metal bowl.

This was the high life, and we were made a part of it by the grace of God, my participation as a Jazz Music Examiner, there to cover the first Whistler Jazz Festival, and pure, dumb luck.

As foreign as this luxurious living was, we tried to make the best of it, and enjoy ourselves from first bite to last. As a tablemate said to me, as I nervously joked about handing over my firstborn in payment for what surely must be a multi-million-dollar repast, "This is where you go to eat when someone else is paying. Just enjoy it."

I did. Boy, the steak -- was it Australian waygu striploin? -- was so tender...