Bearfoot Bistro had already put on a thoroughly impressive show. The food was delicious, the wine was perfect as could be, and the atmosphere was comfortably refined. They’d even brought my girlfriend and me down to a sprawling wine cellar to saber a bottle of champagne. Great stuff all around.
Then, suddenly, we were whisked from our table, out of the Whistler restaurant and into the hall it shares with the Listel Hotel Whistler. There stood a grinning member of the staff, who opened a closet that contained a rack of massive Canada goose parkas. I asked what was going on and his grin deepened.
“They didn’t tell you?”
Whistler, British Columbia, known for its skiing, mountain biking, and all-around outdoorsy feel, has plenty of great restaurants, but only one has an ice room full of vodka. We’ll get to that in a moment.
This Whistler restaurant is a true local gem. Leaning into fresh, locally sourced ingredients bolstered by elements from around the world, Bearfoot Bistro offers its own creative take on Pacific Northwest fare, i.e. meaty seafood. The kitchen is helmed by Canadian Culinary Championship Top Chef Melissa Craig, whose dishes tend to look as flavorful as they taste. There’s a lot going on for both the eyes and the taste buds.
When we were ready for dessert, a cart was wheeled to our tableside. Upon that cart was a steaming trough of ice cream right before our eyes. I’m not talking about some sundae bar. This was ice cream made from the ground-up, ingredient by ingredient, then frozen on the spot using liquid nitrogen. What a show.
I would go into more detail about the food, but to be perfectly frank, the specifics are a little fuzzy. There was plenty of wine and liquor involved — and, of course, champagne.
Before our meal began, my partner and I were invited into the basement, where another grinning man pointed out a few highlights before asking which of us would be sabering a bottle of champagne. I have knifed my fair share of bottles over the years, so the honors went to my partner, who was then — but not for long — a champagne sabering virgin.
The technique was explained to her: The bottle should be chilled in a freezer, seam up. Then press the blade firmly to the bottle, and zip the saber forward while applying steady downward pressure, making sure to follow through. Then she went for it. The procedure was completed flawlessly. The champagne burst forth, and my partner got to keep the cork and neatly separated glass stem in a little memento box created expressly for the purpose.
At some point during all of this, it was mentioned that the restaurant owner Andre Saint-Jacques holds the Guinness World Record for sabering the most champagne bottles in a minute (21, if you’re curious).
So after the champagne from the aforementioned sabered bottle, the many glasses of wine, and a hefty dose of cognac, there was the ice room, perhaps more accurately described as an ice bar.
This occurred about two-thirds of the way through our meal when we already had a solid buzz going. Suddenly, we were putting on these massive jackets and our escort was saying something about only being able to safely spend twenty minutes in the room. Then we stepped into an ice cave that was, surprisingly, delightfully chilly. The walls were, as suggested, made entirely of ice. Set in the walls were different bottles of vodka, primarily Kettle One labels, as the brand had presumably sponsored the room. At the back of the room was a bar — of course made of ice.
Our escort produced several shot glasses from behind the bar, saying, “Get ready — you’re about to take four shots of vodka in ten minutes.”
Now, I’ll admit that I’m no fan of vodka and have avoided the stuff almost entirely ever since a fateful puking session some 20 years ago. But what is life if not a long process of growing beyond the traumas of youth?
In other words, I drank the vodka. And I liked it. Mostly.
The question now is this: Should you spend your hard-earned cash at Bearfoot Bistro during your next ski vacation?
I would say that if it’s within your price range, the experience is worth the expense. And it is expensive, but not astronomically so. Appetizers are priced just shy of $20 (CAD) while entrees are in the neighborhood of $50. The ice room books for $52 per person (be sure to book it in advance).
If the experience was fun as a romantic couple, I bet that it’s a blast with a group of skiing friends. After a long day on the slopes, some boozy good times filled with exploding champagne and exotic ice shots accompanied by tasty eats strikes me as the perfect end (or start) to your ski trip.
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