DINER | Jack Evrensel Sells West, CinCin, Blue Water Cafe, Thierry, Araxi To Aquilinis

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by Andrew Morrison | There have been rumblings about this for several months, but today it’s official. As of this morning, the Aquilini Group is now in full possession of Toptable, the collection of eateries developed over the past 33 years by legendary Vancouver restaurateur Jack Evrensel. The official announcement will be released to the media this afternoon.

Evrensel opened some of the most successful and impactful eateries we’ve ever had. These included them Araxi (Whistler) in 1981, CinCin in 1990, Blue Water Cafe and West in 2000 (two months apart), and Thierry in 2011. Many of Vancouver’s top bartenders, servers, sommeliers, managers, and chefs honed their skills under the Toptable umbrella – so many that they’re hard to count. And the staff they currently have on payroll are some of the best in the business.

“Our team has never been stronger nor this rich in talent,” Evrensel is quoted as saying in the official news release that is coming out this afternoon. He attributes this to the commitment and passion of the company’s “award-winning chefs, renowned restaurant and wine directors, and dedicated employees,” but at least some of the credit needs to be pointed his way. I’ve seen perhaps one of two restaurateurs in my life who are as dedicated to the higher standards of hospitality. What has set Jack apart, however, has been his penchant for managing from the background. There’s never been any personal glory-basking or attention-seeking. In all the years that I’ve been reporting on restaurants, I’ve managed to take his photo just once, at an Araxi long table supper on Pemberton’s North Arm Farm several years ago (see above). I remember him shifting his weight to one leg and tilting his head as if to say, “Aw, c’mon” like a little kid. I trust that he’s doing that right now as he reads this.

Evrensel will stay for the next three months in a consulting role to help manage the transition, and operations will continue as normal. On the phone yesterday, he couldn’t tell me what he was going to do after that. “I really don’t know. I’ve never really had a five year plan. I go with the flow. I’m at peace. I don’t know the future, and that’s the way I like it.”

I don’t expect the Aquilini Group – a real estate, development, renewable energy, sports, and entertainment behemoth - will mess around with a good thing. The managers currently in place at every Toptable property are at the top of their game, so the maintenance of the status quo sounds ideal.

All I know for certain is that Jack deserves a round of applause, not only for a long career of excellence, but also for finding and locking down the one deep-pocketed buyer who could afford to take his considerable life’s work off his hands.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

Sea To Sky

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On the way to Pemberton/Whistler 074Scout---Outstanding-in-the-Whistler VillagePembertonwhistler snowboardsWhistler ChairWhistler Mountaineer Tracks

Though Scout is decidedly Vancouver-centric, we often adventure north up the Sea To Sky highway for kicks. Whistler offers so much more than just the slopes its famous for, and both Squamish and Pemberton are magnetic small communities that seduce with incomparable scenery and genuine character. Each town (and the wild spaces in between) is an essential facet of the complete British Columbian experience, and we encourage our readers to get out there and explore each of them.

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Right now we see the red of the Peak 2 Peak gondola; the tri-colour of the Whistler Mountaineer train; the peak of Blackcomb when it catches the last rays of the sunset (five colours); drooping epiphytic moss on the trees surrounding Alice Lake; the freezing Vodka Room at Bearfoot Bistro; the tri-colour of the exterior of Nita Lake Lodge; Australian green and gold; charger plates at Araxi; turquoise meltwater off Squamish; and a turkey vulture’s pink head.

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BRIGHTLY COLOURED JACKETS FALLING DOWN MOUNTAINS
AN OPEN AIR OBSERVATION CAR ON THE WHISTLER MOUNTAINEER
THE LONG, DEEP “WUP WUP WUP” ECHO OF RESCUE HELICOPTERS
TOURS OF WHISTLER BREWING COMPANY
GREAT STACKS TO BROWSE AT ARMCHAIR BOOKS
PLAYING “AVOID THE BEAR” ON THE 40KM WHISTLER VALLEY TRAIL
DAWN SKINNY DIPPING AT ALICE LAKE
MASS CAVORTING AT THE CORNUCOPIA FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL
EXCELLENT FARMER’S MARKETS IN BOTH SQUAMISH & WHISTLER
STELLAR’S JAYS WAKING CAMPERS UP WITH HIGH PITCHED SCREECHES
A LITTLE SNAKE RUN & MELLOW BOWL AT THE WHISTLER SKATEPARK
GLACIAL POWDER BEACH CAMPING ON THE SQUAMISH VALLEY CAMPGROUND
CALM CANOEING ON ALTA LAKE
2,500+ AUSTRALIANS WHO HAVE LEARNED HOW TO TIP
OLYMPIC LEGACY CABINS AT PORTEAU COVE
THE PRETTIEST HOLE IN CANADIAN GOLF (14TH AT FURRY CREEK)
VINYL HUNTING AT KELLY’S ECLECTIBLES

what-to-eat-and-drink

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OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD SUPPERS AT NORTH ARM FARM
16OZ DELMONICO STEAKS AT SIDECUT
BIG GUNS SUPPERS AT ARAXI
HOT STUMPTOWN COFFEE & COCONUT BANANA LOAF AT PUREBREAD
FIVE COURSE TASTINGS AT BEARFOOT BISTRO
BREAKFAST BURRITOS AT ZEPHYR CAFE
BANGERS & MASH AT THE PONY
PRE-SLOPE WARM UP AT LIFT COFFEE
VEGGIE BURGERS AT WILDWOOD BISTRO
PINTS OF GUINNESS AT THE DUBH LINN GATE
DEEP FRIED CHEESECAKE AT HOWE SOUND BREWPUB
SMOKED SALMON EGGS BENEDICT AT FERGIE’S CAFE
SCHRAMM ORGANIC GIN FROM PEMBERTON DISTILLERY

cool-things-of-note

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- The great granite monolith known as the Grand Wall of the Stawamus Chief was first climbed in 1961 by Jim Baldwin and Ed Cooper. It took them 40 days to get to the top.

- Pemberton Distillery’s Lorien Schramm was named after the fair forest realm of the Elves in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings.

- Bearfoot Bistro chef Melissa Craig won the country’s biggest cooking competition, the Canadian Culinary Championships, in 2008.

- Squamish’s Britannia Mine produced 56 million tons of copper in its 70 years of operation from 1904.

- The “Sea To Sky” highway from Horseshoe Bay to Whistler is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

- Whistler was named after the call of the Hoary Marmot, North America’s largest (and loudest) ground squirrel.

- Australians make up a third of the workforce at Whistler Blackcomb.

things-we've-seen

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GOODS | Whistler’s Award-Winning “Araxi” Opens Dedicated Oyster Bar For Après Ski

December 5, 2013 

Araxi Restaurant is located at 4222 Village Square in beautiful Whistler, BC | 604-932-4540 | www.araxi.com

Araxi Restaurant is located at 4222 Village Square in beautiful Whistler, BC | 604-932-4540 | www.araxi.com

The GOODS from Araxi

Whistler, BC | In its quest to continually raise the culinary bar, Araxi – Whistler’s leader in exemplary food, wine and hospitality – has introduced a dedicated Oyster Bar just in time for the Whistler Film Festival.

As skiers and riders take their final turns of the day on Whistler Blackcomb, an elevated après ski experience awaits at Araxi’s new Oyster Bar. Every afternoon from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, guests can enjoy a platter of fresh-shucked oysters for $15.00 while they unwind in Araxi’s warm yet contemporary setting. Experienced oystermen Patrick Cantin-Gayton and James Tims, who shuck up to a thousand oysters every evening, will also explain the subtle differences from a list that counts up to a dozen varieties delivered fresh daily.

Sleek in design and clad in stainless steel with a classic marble countertop, the Oyster Bar is located adjacent to Araxi’s bar and lounge. A convivial place to meet locals and fellow travelers, or to simply enjoy recommended oyster and wine pairings, Araxi’s Oyster Bar is open late and also provides an oyster du jour special from 10:00 pm to midnight. Read more

GOODS: Whistler’s “Araxi” Announces Dates For Their Summer Long Table Dinner Series

Araxi Restaurant is located at 4222 Village Square in beautiful Whistler, BC | 604-932-4540 | www.araxi.com

The GOODS from Araxi

Whistler, BC | As summer approaches, we near another exciting season featuring Araxi’s famed Longtable Series. This year, we are pleased to announce a new location as part of the series – in addition to Lost Lake in Whistler and North Arm Farm in Pemberton, Araxi’s Longtable dinner is also coming to Stanley Park in Vancouver! The striking long table has a capacity of 300 people, and guests will have an opportunity to experience Araxi right in the heart of the city.

Award-winning Executive Chef James Walt will craft an exclusive four-course menu, showcasing his internationally recognized farm-to-table creations. Chef James celebrates locally sourced ingredients, and has built close relationships with the regional farming and ranching communities. As part of this year’s Longtable Series, an exclusive Farmers’ Market will be on site at the Vancouver and Whistler events, allowing guests to meet the producers and taste Chef James’ favourite ingredients in their raw form. Participating suppliers will include, amongst others, Root Down Organics and Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef. Guests attending the event at North Arm Farm can look forward to a guided farm tour with proprietor Jordan Sturdy.

Chef James says, “We are very excited about expanding our Longtable series into Vancouver, and offering three very special settings to choose from this summer. We look forward to introducing our guests to our valued producers and showcasing the vibrant flavours of BC’s harvest.”

Samantha Rahn, Araxi’s Wine Director and 2013 Sommelier of the Year, has invited some of the region’s top winemakers to partner for each dinner, giving guests an opportunity to meet and mingle with the industry’s finest talents. Each event will begin with a cocktail reception, followed by a magical family-style dinner thoughtfully paired with select BC wines.

A percentage of ticket sales will go to The Chef’s Table Society of BC, supporting regional chefs, producers and the local food industry. Get all the details and dates after the jump… Read more

GOODS: Araxi Wine Director Samantha Rahn Named 2013 Sommelier Of The Year

The multiple award-winning Araxi Restaurant is located at 4222 Village Square in Whistler, BC | 604-932-4540 | araxi.com

The GOODS from Araxi

Whistler, BC | A passionate sommelier and world traveler, Araxi Wine Director Samantha Rahn has won the Vancouver International Wine Festival’s 2013 Sommelier of the Year Award. Nominated from the top sommeliers in British Columbia and Alberta, and voted on by a wide cross-section of industry professionals, the award represents the highest level of achievement in Western Canada.

Samantha exemplifies the modern sommelier in her approach to tasting, sourcing, and educating our staff and guests. With formal training from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, and over 15 years of hospitality experience, Samantha is well known for procuring exciting, value-driven wines to complement Araxi’s extensive cellars.

“We are absolutely delighted that Samantha has been recognized,” said Toptable Group proprietor Jack Evrensel. “Samantha is enormously talented, and passionate in ensuring the enjoyment of every guest whom she serves. This award, coming on the heels of the VIWF Gold Wine List Award for Araxi, is truly representative of a very dedicated professional.” Read more

GOODS: Araxi, CinCin, Blue Water Cafe, And West Prepare For Special Fall Wine Dinners

October 4, 2012 

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Details on a special series of extraordinary wine suppers at Araxi, Blue Water Cafe, CinCin and West during the Fall season

The GOODS from CinCin, Araxi, West, & Blue Water Café

Vancouver & Whistler, BC | This autumn we are pleased to present five extraordinary wine dinners at Araxi, Blue Water Cafe, CinCin and West. Our award-winning chefs will craft multi-course tasting menus to complement each evening’s progression of wines. Senior representatives from select wineries will speak to the history and terroir of their estates and winemaking methods. Get all the details on these unmissable evenings after the jump… Read more

GOODS: Whistler’s Araxi Breaking Out All The Big Guns For Cornucopia Wine Supper

September 28, 2012 

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Araxi Restaurant is located at 4222 Village Square in Whistler, BC | 604-932-4540 | Araxi.com

The GOODS from Araxi

Whistler, BC | As a greatly anticipated annual event, this year’s Big Guns: Icons of the Wine World dinner will feature a spectacular collection of highly rated, rare and collectible wines. On Friday November 9th, seven stellar wineries from the world’s top wine regions will come together at Araxi for an exclusive one-off dinner event. Each critically acclaimed wine has been thoughtfully hand-selected by Wine Director Samantha Rahn, in order to deliver a truly unforgettable tasting experience.

“This year the wines I have selected represent complexity and finesse,” says Rahn. “We want to open our guests’ eyes and palates to some truly unique expressions of grape varieties and diverse regions in a mix of old world and new, tradition and innovation, rule breakers and trend-setters.”

Araxi Executive Chef James Walt will create a bespoke seven-course menu that showcases the excellence of Canadian produce, with standout dishes including Wild Mushroom and Local Beef Cheek Ravioli topped with generous shavings of White Alba Truffles. Guest will be treated to a parade of striking flavours such as Northern Divine Caviar, White Grace Cheese from Salt Spring Island and a tasting of Pemberton’s six varieties of Famous potatoes from Across the Creek Organics. Each course will be carefully paired to these exceptional wines… Read more

GOODS: Araxi’s Outdoor Dinner Series Continuing This Summer At Rainbow Park

Araxi Restaurant is located at 4222 Village Square in beautiful Whistler, BC | 604-932-4540 | www.araxi.com

The GOODS from Araxi

Whistler, BC | Summer is nearly upon us – and at Araxi, it represents the start of an exciting season featuring our annual Longtable Dining Series. This year, the series will be set in Whistler’s picturesque Rainbow Park, which boasts stunning views of Whistler, Blackcomb, and Alta Lake – serving as the ultimate al fresco backdrop for this highly anticipated dining series.

Araxi’s acclaimed Executive Chef, James Walt, prides himself and his menus on local provenance, and has built strong relationships with Pemberton Valley’s farming and ranching community. As part of this year’s Longtable Series, an exclusive Farmers’ Market will be on site, allowing guests to taste Chef James’ favourite ingredients in their raw form. Participating producers will include, amongst others, Root Down Organics and Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef. The evening will begin with a cocktail reception, featuring wine tastings and a dedicated vodka station by Pemberton Distillery.

Chef James and his expert team from Araxi will craft an exclusive four-course tasting menu, aiming to deliver a truly memorable and unique farm-to-table experience. Chef James says, “We are extremely excited about this summer’s Longtable Series at Rainbow Park, and especially to introduce our valued producers. I believe the Farmers’ Market will give guests a unique opportunity to engage with some of our very best suppliers in an intimate and relaxed setting.” Details after the jump… Read more

GOODS: Top Table Rooms Win Accolades At The 23rd Annual Van Mag Restaurant Awards

April 24, 2012 

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Every one of Top Table's restaurants were recognised for their contributions to the Vancouver restaurant scene this year

The GOODS from CinCin, Araxi, West, & Blue Water Café

Vancouver & Whistler, BC | If cherry blossoms herald spring across the province, in British Columbia’s culinary industry, the change of seasons is marked by the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. Now in their 23rd year, and unique in Canada, the awards were convened on a fitting spring day – Monday, April 23rd – at the Sheraton Wall Centre. A panel of 18 judges acknowledged industry excellence as Araxi, Blue Water Cafe, CinCin, West and Thierry were honoured before an audience of leading restaurateurs, chefs, and service professionals. Details after the jump… Read more

GOODS: Top Table’s Araxi, Blue Water Cafe, CinCin And West Shine At The Wine Festival

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To learn more about Top Table

The GOODS from CinCin, Araxi, West, Blue Water Café

Vancouver & Whistler, BC | Top Table Group’s restaurant wine lists were once again saluted at the 9th Annual Wine List Awards Luncheon convened earlier this afternoon during the 34th annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. In attendance at the Luncheon were Top Table wine directors Samantha Rahn (Araxi), as well as Andrea Vescovi (Blue Water Cafe) and Owen Knowlton (West), each of whom has previously been awarded ‘Sommelier of the Year’, in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Blue Water Cafe and West were two of only six restaurants awarded with the highest Platinum Wine List Award, while Araxi and CinCin Araxi and CinCin were among a distinguished group to win the Gold designation. Read more

GOODS: Private Blends Launched By “Top Table” Wine Directors And “Laughing Stock”

September 14, 2011 

Top Table's partnership with Laughing Stock Vineyards produces two uniquely blended wines

The GOODS from CinCin, Araxi, West, & Blue Water Café

Vancouver & Whistler, BC | Top Table’s four wine directors—Araxi’s Samantha Rahn, Blue Water Cafe’s Andrea Vescovi, CinCin’s Sarah McCauley, and West’s Owen Knowlton—are excited to debut their inaugural wine label, Director’s Blend, a duo of personally blended wines produced by Laughing Stock Vineyards in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

Augmenting the extensive international wine cellars at each restaurant, the 2009 Director’s Blend Red and 2010 Director’s Blend White are now available exclusively at Top Table restaurants and represent the first vintages of an ongoing project. Learn more after the jump… Read more

Field Trip #587: An Araxi Feast In The Great Outdoors At Pemberton’s North Arm Farm…

August 15, 2011 

We recently got away up to Pemberton to take in one of chef James Walt’s outdoor Araxi dinners at Jordan Sturdy’s stunning North Arm Farm. The weather was uncharacteristically cool and the sky more  dramatic than previous visits, but the food and drink (all wines from Mission Hill) stole the show.

RECEPTION

Garden Back to Eden Tomato Gazpacho
Yarrow Meadows Duck Liver Parfait with Rosemary
Tofino Dungeness Crab Roll with Cucumber Pearls
Mission Hill Martin’s Lane Riesling, 2010
Schramm Vodka Cocktails (Pemberton Valley)

MENU

North Arm Zucchini Flowers
stuffed with Okanagan goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes
Root Down organic greens with red pepper vinaigrette
Mission Hill Perpetua, 2008

Cherry Wood Hot Smoked Barkley Sound Sockeye Salmon
roasted North Arm beets, english pea and green tomato salsa
arugula flowers with beet caviar
Mission Hill Quatrain, 2007 (magnum format)

Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef
crispy slow cooked beef cheek fritter, pepper and rosemary roasted sirloin
North Arm rainbow chard and baby carrots
Mission Hill Oculus, 2004 (magnum format)

North Arm Strawberry Ice Cream Bar
strawberry ice cream dipped in dark chocolate with chocolate crust
Agassiz hazelnut financier with Okanagan apricots
Mission Hill Late Harvest Riesling, 2005

Altogether it was a stunner of an evening, and as per usual, we’re telling the story by way of photographs with captions as memory serves (short form: it was amazing). Should you want to enjoy one of these outstanding al fresco suppers, there are two more on the horizon taking place in the very same spot. August 27th will see Araxi pair up with Naramata’s Foxtrot Vineyards and Napa’s Trefethen Family Vineyards, and then September 11th will witness chef Walt plate alongside pours from sister wineries Le Vieux Pin of Oliver and LaStella of Osoyoos. Find out how to attend here.

ARAXI SUPPER ON NORTH ARM FARM

North Arm Farm  |  Breathtaking scenery really never does get tired...The bale-filled entrance to the farm from its cafe makes for some awesome drama upon arrivalAraxi Longtable at North Arm FarmAugust 1 2011 431Guests take the farm tour with our host (and Pemberton mayor) Jordan SturdyBoy, do the folks from Araxi ever know how to set a table!August 1 2011 441The table setting, which has been different for each one of the dinners we've attended, is always in a different place. This time it was in line with a row of interested sunflowers...Staff setting up...A little gazpacho amuse to enliven the palate...Chefs James Walt and Aaron Heath getting busy...Guests get ready to sit...Let the pouring begin (all the wines were from Mission Hill)ServiceAraxi Longtable at North Arm FarmCherry Wood Hot Smoked Barkley Sound Sockeye Salmon roasted North Arm beets, english pea and green tomato salsa, arugula flowers with beet caviar Mission Hill Quatrain, 2007Araxi Longtable at North Arm FarmJordan Sturdy | North Arm FarmThe table was longer than the frame in this shot. It took a while to do a single lap of it...Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef crispy slow cooked beef cheek fritter pepper and rosemary roasted sirloin North Arm rainbow chard and baby carrots Mission Hill Oculus, 2004 (magnum format)crispy slow cooked beef cheek fritterThe person in yellow at the head of the table looks deceptively close, but that's quite a distanceIngo Grady (Mission Hill) chats with Araxi Wine Director, Samantha RahnPatti, Ingo and AndrewAraxi staff ready to take a bowAraxi pastry chef Aaron HeathNorth Arm Strawberry Ice Cream Bar strawberry ice cream dipped in dark chocolate with chocolate crust, Agassiz hazelnut financier, Okanagan apricots Mission Hill Late Harvest Riesling, 2005Araxi's Chef, James Walt, takes in some well earned shade after another outstanding supper!

MORE FIELD TRIPS

GOODS: Menu And Wines Confirmed For Outdoor “Araxi” Supper At North Arm Farm

Araxi Restaurant is located at 4222 Village Square in Whistler, BC | 604-932-4540 | Araxi.com

The GOODS from Araxi

Whistler, BC | The menu and wines have just been confirmed for the araxi longtable @ north arm farm event on July 30th, the first in a trifecta of outdoor dining experiences taking place this summer at Pemberton’s picturesque North Arm Farm.

Araxi’s wine director, Samantha Rahn is thrilled to be showcasing a range of outstanding wines from Mission Hill Family Estate, which represent the very best of their current portfolio. Ingo Grady, Mission Hill’s Director of Wine Education and one of the province’s foremost wine authorities, will lead guests through the wine pairings that he has personally chosen to accompany Chef James Walt’s menu. Take a look after the jump… Read more

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