Photos courtesy of Mirae Campbell / Audain Art Museum

Whistler is hopping these days. With the border still effectively closed, the Okanagan in the midst of the double whammy of COVID regression and wildfire smoke and BC Ferries selling reservations for non-existent ships, our friendly mountain paradise has become the destination for Lower Mainlanders to get out of dodge for some R&R. As a result, hotels are at near capacity and dinner reservations at a premium. All of which makes the fact that it's even possible to get tickets for Alta + Audain a flipping miracle.

Let's just break up the requisite parts of this evening. On the one hand we have Eric Griffith and Nicholas Cassettari of Alta Bistro, the reigning champ of VanMag's Best Whistler category in our Restaurant Awards. On the other, you have architects John and Patricia Patkau, Western Canada's greatest living architects (and subject of this recent profile in our sister publication, Western Living) who designed the stunning Audain Art Museum. And then on the third (and final, I promise) hand you have the magnificent collection inside the museum itself. Here's how it comes together:

1. You buy a ticket for an upcoming Friday ($99, which in Whistler is a screaming bargain and it's $10 off if you're already a museum member) and show up at the museum at the appointed time. But before you sit down, you get an intimate docent-guided tour through the museum's permanent collection, hitting the highlights (like this jaw-dropper of a piece by James Hart) and giving you a taste of what the joint has to offer (spoiler alert: it's one of the best small museums in North America);

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2. The you're led to you en plein air table, facing the museum's lawn and interior courtyard, where the Alta Bistro team shifts into gear with an art-inspired 4-course menu (and not in a hokey way). The current iteration has a few showstoppers like a tomato panzanella salad with gazpacho dressing that's revealed when you remove an Warhol-inspired soup can;

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3. You sit in the open air, sipping Nichol Syrah, wondering how you got so freaking lucky;

4. Over the next 2 days you can redeem you dinner ticket for entry into the museum to peruse the collection at your leisure, perhaps dropping a few of the docent's observations as your own to impress onlookers.

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Hyperbole aside - this is probably the most interesting night happening just about anywhere in the province right now. Major run don't walk territory (although please walk once in the museum).