The ninth annual Araxi Longtable Dinner was a masterwork of farm-to-table planning and execution. On the morning of August 18, 2019, an advance party from Toptable Group headed north from Whistler to the Pemberton Valley to build a kitchen—in a field. When the chefs and cooks arrived a little later, they began harvesting the fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown right there at North Arm Farm that would be served to around 250 guests.
There wasn’t a trace of last year’s smoke-filled air, or the thunderstorm of 2016; the sun was shining across the valley, lighting up the majestic backdrop of Mount Currie. Only a late and sudden gust of wind that threatened to take the kitchen tents with it gave any indication that we were here at the mercy of the weather.
The meal—from the group’s Whistler restaurants, Bar Oso, Il Caminetto, Araxi, and The Cellar by Araxi—overseen by executive chef James Walt was a triumph. The fresh and cured charcuterie boards included two exceptional terrines as well as the delectable Yarrow Meadows Duck Liver Parfait. (The parfait is always on the menu at Bar Oso and is worth the drive up the Sea-to-Sky Highway alone.)
Surely there is nothing more redolent of summer than an heirloom tomato served simply with the support of buffalo mozzarella, basil, and balsamic vinegar (here represented as molecular pearls). A dish of house-made casarecce pasta served in a sauce of smoked goat cheese and speckled with fresh English peas and herbs, was as delicious as it was understated.
The drama came with the main course, a duo of beef that included a striploin cooked to perfection over charcoal (no mean feat when you are tasked with grilling several dozen full striploins to medium rare), and spoon-soft, richly braised beef cheeks, all served over chargrilled farm-fresh carrots and cauliflower.
By the time the musicians reached our section of the table, we were—aided and abetted by several excellent glasses of wines from B.C. wineries including CedarCreek, Burrowing Owl, Quail’s Gate, and Fort Berens—happily singing along to classics such as Me and Bobby McGee, and (Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay. Once the decadent double dessert hitters of chocolate-dipped ice cream bars and lemon and blueberry cake were served, the atmosphere was relaxed enough to see a popular CBC personality duck under the table to join a group dancing on the other side. (In fairness, it was a very long table to walk around.)
We were told that the sun would barely set on this year’s Longtable before planning for next year’s would begin. “It will be our tenth,” a Toptable insider noted. “We have to figure out how we outdo ourselves.”
How they’ll do that, we can’t even imagine.
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