Alta Bistro Cocktail Competition – Cornucopia Festival 2013

For the third year in a row I was graciously invited up to Whistler by the guys at Alta Bistro to judge their cocktail competition, a part of Whistler’s Cornucopia Festival. Drinking and judging people you say? I’ll do it! This year the event took the main stage at the Whistler Convention Centre and grew from 8 competitors in 2012 to 10 this year.

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The competitors came from Whistler and Greater Vancouver and are some of the top drink slingers around. The event was sponsored by Flor De Cana 5 year old Rum which was the feature ingredient in each drink. Everyone had 5 minutes to prepare their bar and 5 minutes to create their original cocktails to be served to the 4 eager judges. There was $2000 up for grabs to whoever crafted the best cocktail and I’m happy to say there wasn’t a bad drink out of the 10 that I sampled.

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The top three were, from 3rd to 1st, Tia from The Mix in Whistler, Keenan from The Keefer Bar in Vancouver, and your champion for the second year in a row… Scot Curry from Alta Bistro with his Five Alarm Fizz. You might be sceptical of the host bartender winning 2 years running but Scot has had an amazing 2013 winning awards all over Whistler and Canada. Well done Scot!

The 7th place cocktail from Eloyn, head barman at Whistler's The Mexican Corner
The 7th place cocktail from Eloyn, head barman at Whistler’s The Mexican Corner

After the competition the judges and competitors were treated to a “bartenders dinner” at Alta Bistro. 3 courses of simple, local and amazing food. The first course was a beautiful charcuterie board with assorted meats, pickles, and grainy mustard.

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Charcuterie board

 

Our main course was braised beef shank with roasted potatoes, kale and chipolinni onions. The beautiful simplicity of this kind of food is everything that I love about Alta Bistro. The beef is local and was braised to a rich, melt in your mouth perfection. This dish is me on a plate, I can’t say enough good things about it.

Braised beef shank
Braised beef shank

The 3rd course was dessert, but not the usual sweet kind. A simple cheese board with green apple slices and crusty bread. I was way to deep into Alta’s single malt Scotch selection at this point to recall exactly what cheeses we had but 2 of them were soft, stinky and delicious and the other was harder and less funky. I’m pretty sure it was a raw cow’s milk cheese, so good.

Cheese board
Cheese board

From there some of the bartenders/judges and I headed out into the village for a bit of an after party. It’ll probably make it into my biography one day…

Thanks to Ed, Eric and the team at Alta for feeding me drinks and food all day. I’m already looking forward to 2014.

Karma stuff. My judging skills were provided free of charge and my meal at Alta was on the house. I paid for all of my ten hundred drinks after the competition as well as my hotel.

Scott.

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Brewhouse at Whistler – Family friendly and great beer? It’s true

You guys know that I’m a regular at Big Ridge Brewing Company in Surrey. They have amazing beer, great food and have been very supportive of my charitable efforts over the past year or so. Their sister restaurant in Whistler, the Brewhouse, is everything that I love about Big Ridge surrounded by one of my all time favourite places, Whistler Village.

Located just a few steps from the Olympic Plaza the Brewhouse offers craft beer brewed on site, a kids menu with lots to chose from, a pretty imaginative cocktail list, great food and very friendly staff (possibly too friendly…lol, that’s a story for another day). I’ve been to the Brewhouse many many times but this is the first time I’ve written anything about it. I went 3 times over the last week, once with my daughter, once by myself and once with my daughter and a hot date. The third visit was awkward, not for me though, for…reasons.

5 Rings IPA
5 Rings IPA

I had their award winning 5 Rings IPA, voted best IPA in BC in 2012 and it is definitely worthy of the hype. Well hopped with a solid malt backbone, this beer captures the true essence of a west coast style IPA.

One can not survive on water, hops and barley alone so I decided to order the Ale braised Angus beef cottage pie. Now to me cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are the same thing. Ya ya there’s a “definition” of what each one is traditionally made with but I really don’t care, they’re both ok with me. This particular cottage pie had Angus beef braised in house brewed Grizzly Brown Ale, button mushrooms, carrots and onions topped with mashed potatoes. It’s then baked in a cast iron pan and served with greens.

Cottage Pie
Cottage Pie

Overall this pie was outstanding. Rich, flavourful, well seasoned and piping hot. I would absolutely order this dish again except for one small issue. $19.99 is an awful lot to pay for humble peasant food. Sure you can dress it up with “Angus Beef” but at the end of the day cottage pie is simple fair based on food that the poor used to have to eat out of necessity. I understand that most things in Whistler are a little pricier than things in the Lower Mainland but come one, this should be $13-14.99 tops.

Will it stop me from going back? Not a chance. Like I said, most things in Whistler are more expensive than they are here, if something’s good then I’ll probably order it again. The beer is outstanding and the staff, like I said, are VERY friendly 😉

Twitter – @BREWHOUSEatWHIS

Facebook – The Brewhouse Whistler

Interwebz – themarkjamesgroup.com/brewhouse

Scott.

 

1 night in Whistler, a WFLBC guide!

Let’s start by saying there will be no skiing in this guide, no snowboarding either  This is a guide for those who love Whistler for everything it has to offer that doesn’t require strapping things to your feet and trying to avoid doing a Sonny Bono impression. This is for people who like good food and drinks with great people in an awesome setting.

If you’re like me you’ll most likely want to head up early to avoid traffic. Leaving early means you arrive in Whistler for early check in at your hotel which frees you up for lunch! Staying in the Village is recommended, the Upper Village is ok too but for me Creekside is too far away from the action. Hotel choices are very personal but you can’t go wrong with the high end chains in Whistler. The Four Seasons, the Pan Pacific, the Westin and the Fairmont are all REALLY nice but very expensive. Keep in mind it’s just one night and ask if there’s a corporate discount attached to the company you work for. I do it everywhere and it saves lots of $$’s. There are some more affordable hotels in the Village, the Aava, the Pinnacle, the Delta ect. They’re all very adequate and the corporate discount usually works as well.

5 Rings IPA
5 Rings IPA

So, you’re all checked in, you’re enjoying the snow covered mountain views and you start to think about lunch. Whistler is all about walking around which is great. Leave your car parked until tomorrow and hit the Village on foot! First stop, The Whistler Brewhouse! The Brewhouse is a Mark James Group restaurant so anyone from Vancouver who’s familiar with Yaletown Brewing Co, Big Ridge Brewing Co or The Flying Beaver will feel right at home here. The menu is casual and the restaurant side accommodates families and has a kids menu. Try their award winning 5 Rings IPA! The Brewhouse is located right next to the Whistler Olympic Plaza in the Village.

Assuming you don’t end up spending hours at the Brewhouse you’ll probably have time for a nice walk around the village. There are lots of cool little shops all over Whistler but one of the most unique and my personal favourite is Rocks and Gems Canada. Filled with fossils, gemstones and all kinds of custom jewellery  there’s something for everyone. I’m trying to figure out  how to convince Lyndsey that I need a $10,000 fossilized Cave Bear skull.

Charcuterie plate
Charcuterie plate

Dinner time in Whistler always brings me to one place. Whether I’m there for a day, a week or a month Alta Bistro is always my first choice. Located under the Pinnacle Hotel, Alta Bistro serves up modern French bistro cuisine focused on locally sourced sustainable dishes, hand crafted cocktails, an impressive list of fine spirits and craft beer and a world class wine list featuring Whistler’s first Enomatic machine. I put Alta Bistro in my top 5 restaurants, anywhere at any budget. This year I was lucky enough to return to judge their second annual cocktail competition, this time as part of the Cornucopia Festival, Alta’s own Scot Curry walked away with the title beating some of Vancouver and Whistler’s finest cocktail technicians. The value to quality ratio of Alta’s food is not found anywhere else in Whistler with 3 course menus starting at the same price of one entrée in most comparable Whistler eateries. If they still have the pork and pickled veal tongue terrine when you visit I highly recommend it. Reservations are accepted and encouraged.

Pork and pickled veal tongue terrine.
Pork and pickled veal tongue terrine.

So by now you’re probably ready for bed. If you’re a reader of this blog I would hope that you’d be quite intoxicated by this point. Wander back to your hotel, try to avoid the main entrance as it’s always embarrassing when you fall over in front of the late night desk staff. Get a good night of shut eye, you deserve it. When you wake up you’re probably going to need a good breakfast. My favourite spot is Wildwood Bistro. Located alongside the Whistler Tennis Club, Wildwood has won “Whistler’s Best Breakfast” every year since 2002. The Benny’s are amazing and the prices are what you’d expect to pay at a big breakfast chain in the city.

I usually spend some time walking the Village before heading home but if you’re looking for something unique and have some disposable income grab a gondola ticket and head up the mountain. The views are gorgeous no matter the season and you can take a ride in the Peak to Peak gondola. Try and get one with a glass floor, it’s fun to watch people freak out that didn’t know it was there before they got in.

On your way back to the city you HAVE to stop in at the Campfire Grill in Squamish. They’ve moved from their super cool but very seasonal outdoor location to a real restaurant space in downtown Squamish. They are open for breakfast but you’ll probably roll through town around lunch time. Their potato salad is insanely good and their slow smoked meats are fantastic. They don’t follow a traditional style of southern BBQ which I love, it gives them the freedom to do whatever tastes good.

Whistler is a world class resort and it’s right in our backyard. If you haven’t been there in awhile I recommend you make some time, even if it’s just one night!

Scott.

 

 

Iceberg Vodka Event at Alta Bistro

Is Vodka boring? Modern bar tending tends to overlook it in favor of sexier libations and the vodka cocktail has certainly fallen off the radar because if its simplicity. The fact is that vodka is an amazing blank canvas for talented cocktail technicians to create something great.

Alta Bistro, my favorite spot in Whistler, held their inaugural Iceberg Vodka cocktail and infusion competition on September 15th and kindly invited me to come and use my borderline “12 steps” skills and judge from a list of some of the best bartenders from Whistler and Vancouver. The restaurants and bars represented were as follows. Sidecut at the Four Seasons Whistler, Hawksworth Restaurant in Vancouver, Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, Alta Bistro (obviously) in Whistler, Maenam in Vancouver, The Mix in Whistler, The Cascade Room in Vancouver and Chambar in Vancouver.

Each bartender had to make an infusion with Iceberg Vodka and then create an original cocktail featuring their infusion and prepare 4 drinks in 5 minutes. I could go on and on about how amazing everything was but lets face it, you guys just want to look at the pictures right? The runner up was Tanya Roussy From Meanam with an infusion of orange, red cedar, noble pine and vanilla and a cocktail called the Full Moon. The winner was Arthur Wynne from The Cascade Room with 2 separate infusions, one was black tea, marigold and passion fruit and the other was shiso leaf. His cocktail was called Shiso Pretty. They both won a trip to Newfoundland to visit the Iceberg Vodka distillery!! Special mention to my man Scot from Alta bistro who’s infusion was crazy complicated and awesome and his cacktail, the Jardin de Vie was also great and to Derek from Chambar for making a caesar with a chipotle, cummen, black pepper, oregano, ancho, coriander and garlic infusion. Caesars rule.

Dinner was awesome as usual, 3 courses consisting of a pate and charcuterie board, a tuna nicoise salad and seared bison with green peppercorn sauce. I have yet to be less than blown away by the food Alta Bistro serves and the price points they are able to do it at, simply outstanding. Huge thanks to Eric and Edward from Alta Bistro for inviting me!

Check out the pics!!

The Bright Side

Today started out with a bang, Lyndsey set off to work for the first time since our daughter Hayley was born and was promptly fired as soon as she walked in the door. I had planned to write a ranting diatribe about the mistreatment of women returning from maternity leave fueled with extra venom given our situation with Hayley being 3 and a half months premature and all of the emotional and financial hardships we have been through, but I have decided to remain positive. There’s way too much negativity in the world and I fear my words would be lost to those who didn’t want to hear more stories of downtrodden souls.

So positivity is the theme of this post, we will move onward and upward from this minor speed bump and and focus on what makes us happy. Item number one, Hayley crawled for the first time on Saturday! She’s now motoring around the house causing the dog to run for cover and making me put up baby gates and other baby related safety devices. This is a huge developmental step for her as her gross motor skills are delayed due to her prematurity. I cried some very happy tears when it happened. It’s also the first milestone that I’ve seen happen because they usually happen while I’m at work.

Item number 2 is Andrew Palooza!! Things have come together quite nicely for this event with Behind Sapphire and Bodhi Jones performing, Carmen Cruz emceeing and some great local comedians and another local band confirming their participation any minute. The event is at the Red Room on June 11th at 8pm and all ticket $’s go to Andrew and his Liberation Treatment in Seattle. I’m not making a penny from this event, same goes for the bands, comedians, emcee and the Red Room isn’t charging us because the owner knows Andrew and his family. It feels pretty good to be able to pull something like this together for a friend. Please come and have some fun for a great cause and a great man!!

Well that’s it for now, thanks to all of you for reading this blog, caring about what I have to say and for being awesome.

Scott.

Alta Bistro Tweetup for Andrew – May 3rd, Whistler

Event number one is booked! Alta Bistro in Whistler and I are having a Tweetup on Tuesday May the 3rd and 5% of sales are going towards getting Andrew his Liberation Treatment in Seattle. Please spread the word to anyone and everyone who can come out!!! Karma Tuesdays is something that Alta Bistro does regularly and I can’t thank them enough for their support!!

Please share this on Twitter and Facebook and whatever other way that you can!! Event number’s 2 and 3 will be announced shortly and promise to be AWESOME!!!

Scott

Take the stairs you lazy bastards

As some of you may or may not know when I’m not out on the town eating, drinking and taking pictures I fix elevators for a living. I am also a dad to a super awesome 1 year old girl named Hayley and since she’s in a stroller I find that I am taking elevators a lot more then ever. I didn’t really use elevators much before Hayley unless I was in a high rise or the stairs weren’t accessible but now it’s a necessity. I have noticed that a lot of perfectly healthy able bodied people take elevators up or down 1 or 2 stories and it has really started to bother me. Elevators are for people who can’t take the stairs, parents with small children, the elderly, people with physical disabilities etc. not for lazy assholes.

The part of my job that makes it all worth while is making buildings accessible to everyone but somewhere along the way people have decided that taking the stairs is far too much work. Escalators are often within sight of mall elevators but there is almost never enough room for my daughters stroller in the elevator let alone a wheelchair. Minus 10 points for modern convenience.

Thanks for reading my little rant, now back to regularly scheduled programing.

Scott.

Booze Reviews, Jura Superstition Scotch Whisky

Jura Superstition is a blend, there I said it, I am drinking blended Scotch. Usually I am a huge snob when it comes to Scotch Whisky, single malt only and nothing less than 12 years old unless it’s Ardbeg or Strathisla. Jura Superstition is my one and only exception to my own rules. Jura is a Scottish island located to the north east of the more famous island know as Islay. Islay and Jura are roughly the same size but Jura’s population is a mere 200. The Isle of Jura Distillery is the only one on the island and produces its own unique single malt whisky line ranging from 10 to 40 years old. Superstition is a blend of both old and new single malts which gives it a unique marriage of peat, smoke, sweet and spice that is unlike anything else I’ve had.

On the nose the peat is quite mild joined by mild smoke and a hint of orange zest. In the mouth the peat and smoke continue their mild ways and are joined by citrus notes and a distinct tobacco flavor that is very similar to a good Cuban cigar. The finish is long with more tobacco and smoke flavors. This is the ultimate pairing with a good cigar. The color is a rich amber.

All told this is a great blend for anyone looking to step away from the mild highland whisky’s and move up to something more sophisticated. It’s not a huge leap like a Lagavulin or Ardbeg would be for the casual Scotch drinker. Jura Superstition will make a nice addition to your  collection.

Cheers!

Scott.

Vancouver food bloggers, throwing stones and naming names.

Oh my goodness what a childish mess. For those of you who don’t already know there was recently a very “aggressive” post on a local food blog calling out all of the big players in the Vancouver food blogging community. It’s a long winded post but read the whole thing, it’s shockingly detailed with the writers opinions of other peoples blogs, their motives etc. Thankfully I was not a part of it seeing as I don’t blog for Urbanspoon and I really don’t give a rats ass how many people read my blog. That’s the real issue here, blogs as a business.

I write because I want people to have a laugh and find some good places to eat, not because I get free food (which does happen from time to time) or because I make money from my blog. I could put ads on my blog and to be honest I might at some point in the future but my main reasons for blogging have stayed the same since day one, I like to eat good food and want to share it with others. To name each and every person who you don’t think is “qualified” to write about food is very immature. The fact is that every single person on this planet likes to eat different things and to say someone shouldn’t be writing about food because they don’t like something is ridiculous.

As far as Urbanspoon goes I’m not interested in my ranking, it seems like a popularity contest, so I have decided that Urbanspoon isn’t for me. It works for some and that’s great but don’t criticize others because you don’t think they should be ranked higher than you. People read blogs because they are interested in their content and if they enjoy the content they will keep coming back for more. A blogs popularity means that people like it and to tell the readers that they’re wrong and shouldn’t like it because you say so is offensive. Free speech is a basic human right and I applaud Kim for having the courage to say what he was feeling but at the end of the day he looks like a spoiled little baby who can’t handle someone getting more attention then him.

I am a huge fan of EVERY Vancouver food blog and as a blogging community we offer the people of this city something truly special and I can’t wait to see future posts about great restaurants from great people. So to Richard, Raul, Melody, Sherman, Mijune, Erin, Diana, Mary, Ben, Suanne, and everyone else who writes about food in Vancouver, whether it’s for a blog, a website, a magazine or a news paper keep up the good work, haters are going to hate but the world keeps on eating.

Scott.

The Teacup, Moroccan Mint

I received a gift from a friend a little while back from her girls adventure to the good old U.S of A from The Teacup in Centralia, Washington.  Located at 204 North Tower Avenue I don’t actually know much about The Teacup other than what I’ve been told so I’ll just tell you about the tea. My gift was a blend called Moroccan Mint, I love mint tea. I don’t really drink tea other than mint tea and I drink it without any milk or sugar because I enjoy the raw, unsweetened mint flavor which is very uncommon in our sugar sweetened society. The blend is a secret but it smelled mostly peppermint based with a hint of spearmint and variegated ginger mint.

Loose leaf teas are not the norm around my house but I think a shift in tea philosophy is in the works. I can’t help but think about all the teabags we throw away every year and we have two “tea balls” at home so why not? Plus they look cool and fresh tea tastes MUCH better. Water boiled, I hung my tea ball (lol) in my mug for roughly 5 minutes and then had a taste. Like I said, fresh tea is so much better than store bought tea bags. Peppermint was the predominant flavor and I didn’t get the bitter aftertaste that sometimes comes with mint tea. If you read my last post about being alcohol free for the month of April you’ll see where this post is coming from. The Booze Reviews will resume in May (hopefully) but until then I will be exploring alternative beverages in the 0% alcohol category.

There’s lots of places to buy loose leaf tea in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley so ditch the teabag, pick up a tea ball and start enjoying better tea!

Scott.