Snow? What snow? Foodies focusing on Enzo Fargione preparing a signature dish indoors at the Vail Marriott seemed oblivious to the huge white flakes piling up on the slopes at one of the best ski resorts in the world.
Skiing would happen later; now we were all ears and eyes as the celebrated Italian chef from Teatro Goldini in Washington, D.C., playfully prepared risotto gorgonzola with candied red beets. The cooking demo was one of many food and wine events featuring more than 30 chefs and 54 international wineries at the 19th annual Taste of Vail. (This season’s Taste of Vail is April 7-9.)
Classes like this were held throughout the four-day epicurean extravaganza with culinary celebrities such as Martin Rios of Santa Fe preparing southwestern dishes; Marc Forgione of the New York restaurant bearing his name creating one of his signature plates; and barbecue experts Mike Fernandez of Moe’s Original BBQ and Ken Woodbury of Wildwood Smokehouse, both in Vail, leading a discussion and tasting of the nuances between Kansas City, Texas and Carolina barbecue.
The classic lamb chop shared table with exotic lamb dishes prepared by Vail chefs and paired with wines and beers in the Colorado Lamb Cook-Off. Another pairing found Mirabelle’s Chef Daniel Joly, a native of Belgium, showing how to enjoy his country’s fine beers by matching them with food and using them in recipes.
At the Après Ski Tasting party, we sipped wines while tasting tidbits from Vail restaurants. The best part was getting to chat with the winemakers who accompany their wines every year, unlike other wine festivals.
“So many other events have the marketing reps show up; but at Vail, it’s the owner or winemaker,” said Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery. “You can actually sit down with the person who made the wine or who owns the winery. That makes it a very special event,” he said. “Winemakers tend to be skiers, so they show up, sell wine, ski and everybody has a great time.”
Other unique sessions were a wine blending seminar, a cigar and Grand Marnier tasting, a chardonnay one-on-one seminar with winemakers, and a bar-chefs mix-off — a cocktail contest of sorts. Local chefs worked alongside guest chefs to orchestrate two Chef Showcase dinners held at the Vail Cascade Resort and The Lodge, the latter with a live auction. The entire affair culminated with the Grand Tasting, a truly decadent night of unlimited feasting and drinking, and if you could still stand, dancing.
The most popular event was the mountaintop picnic at Eagle’s Nest at 10,350 feet. The falling snow didn’t deter anyone who
skied or rode a snowcat to the site where a tall wall of packed snow surrounded the makeshift arena of food booths and a giant wine-tasting tent. Everyone loved it.
“What’s better than a great day of skiing with great food and wine,” said Suzy Lawler, who came from New Jersey for her second Taste of Vail.
Stuart Bryan, whose family owns Pride Mountain Vineyards on top of Spring Mountain separating Napa and Sonoma, was pouring chardonnay. “It’s fun to bring together the character of the wine, quality of the food and diversity of the people with the backdrop of snow and recreation,” he said.
Taste of Vail board member Mickey Werner agreed. “Ours is an intimate event that endures. Besides having the winemakers here, we attract great chefs for friendly competition. It raises the bar,” he said.
If You Go
Denver-based Claudia Carbone is an award-winning journalist who covers skiing, travel and food and wine for print and online publications. Dining out is her favorite part of skiing. Visit her blog www.womenskiingandsports.com