In summer, the Olympic ski venue, Whistler, BC, can be seen as a sort of Disneyland for mountain bike enthusiasts: very clean, very well organized (this is Canada, after all), surrounded by spectacularly beautiful mountains. But it's also a year-round heaven for foodies, thanks to the lush Pemberton Valley half an hour to the north, and relatively easy access to the icy waters of the Georgia Straight.
Nealy 30 years ago, when Whistler was known primarily to ski bums, Jack Evrensel set up a small dinner house here and named it for his wife, Araxi. From those modest beginnings evolved a prestigious group of restaurants collectively known as Top Table; the others are in Vancouver, but Araxi remains the shining light, named Whistler's best restaurant ten times. The executive chef these days is James Walt, once exec chef at the Canadian Embassy in Rome, now firmly committed to these mountains. He ran the kitchen at "Outstanding in the Field" earlier this month at North Arm Farm, and came up with this stunning sweet corn soup with local shellfish for a delegation of travel writers invited to dine at Araxi the night before the farm dinner. The corn, naturally sweet and creamy, made for a fragrant soup base, enhanced by the mineral notes and soft textures of fresh shellfish. Recipe follows.
Ingredients for 6 to 8 portions
2 medium white onions, chopped
8 ears of fresh corn
100 grams unsalted butter
15 fresh basil leaves
½ cup cream
salt and white pepper
Strip the corn kernels off the cob and reserve them for the following step.Heat 50 grams of butter in a large saucepan and one of the chopped onions, and sweat until
softened. Add the corn cobs (cut them in half so they fit easier) and cook for 5
minutes. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for
20 minutes. Strain and reserve. You will have approx 5-6 cups stock.
Heat the remaining butter in a saucepan and sweat the other onion until softened
but not coloured. Add the corn kernels and cook for 5 minutes. Add the corn
stock, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Season with
a little salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and purée in a blender or food processor (be careful as liquid is quite hot). Place back in the pot and add the
basil leaves and cream. Let stand (off the heat) for 30 minutes to infuse and then
strain through a fine sauce strainer. Check seasoning and reheat when needed.
Divide the soup into warm bowls. Add local seafood, such as seared Qualicum
scallops, Egmont spot prawns and Tofino Dungeness and a few reserved corn kernels. Garnish as desired with basil, leek oil.