Thursday, June 20, 2013

Araxi, and other delights

Sorry to lower the tone so soon in the post, but when you’ve spent a couple of hours swigging sparkling Badoit in between half-glasses of Okanagan Valley sparkling and sauvignon blanc, a Californian pinot noir, back to Okanagan for a cabernet sauvignon and finally the triumph of a Jackson-Triggs Riesling ice wine, take it from me, the last thing you need on the 15-minute stroll back to the hotel is the crossing of a tumbling mountain stream, all roar and rush and tinkle.

We’re at Whistler, a very scenic and comfortable 3+ hour ride on the Rocky Mountaineer Sea to Sky from Vancouver along the edge of first a sound and then a river, all the way up into the mountains to this ski resort which actually gets most of its visitors in the summer. Today, as it happened, didn’t look much like summer: our wonderful run of sunshine has come to an end, and our journey was through low cloud and rain. Typical BC weather, as it happens, but it didn’t show the scenery off to its best (although, misty mountains, silver sea, blue islands, rocky canyons and verdant green forest do have their - albeit subtle - attractions).

The village is lively and busy with more young people than I’ve noticed so far on this Baby Boomer-type trip; and the public music is heaps better than the throat-slitting Frank Sinatra-type elevator music that our hotel foyers seem to favour (Ingrid Michaelson, yay!) We watched mud-splattered young men leaping out of the trees over a small cliff at the end of the mountain-biking trail that’s the summer substitute for snowboard thrills, and nodded approvingly at the wash-off hose provided and the stand of cable-secured tools for on-site repairs to – what? Loose derailleurs? Anyway, thoughtful.

Best of all, though, was going tonight to enjoy – oh! how we enjoyed! – the chef’s selection at Araxi, a fine-dining restaurant in the Village Square that was buzzing with people this Thursday night. Such treats we had! Melting seared albacore tuna with magical ponzu pearls, crisp wild BC salmon in a scallop foam, rabbit! wrapped in pork cheek and prosciutto, super-tender (spit) Australian lamb – all with interesting vegetable detail; and then a fabulous lemon tart with raspberry and a little hot doughnut to dip into crème anglaise with gold leaf on top, and espresso icecream – plus that glorious ice wine, the grapes picked at night when they’re frozen, to concentrate the sugars. Bliss! Go there: honestly, it’s the best meal we’ve had, the whole trip. Araxi. James Walt, chef. Knows what he's doing, y'know?

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