It's not often that the smoke alarm goes off in Terra Bistro's dining room, or that a group of firemen tromp through the chic restaurant during dinner service on a Saturday night, but that's what happened last year, thanks to a few green vegetables and some very hot pans. Cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman was browning some Brussels sprouts during a Vail Restaurant Month event at the restaurant last year when she set off the smoke detectors. She had decided last minute to add the dish to the class lineup, the theme of which was Thanksgiving side dishes.
But there was no harm done, and "everybody at Terra Bistro took it in stride," Shulman said. That's only one of the many reasons Shulman likes collaborating with the restaurant, she said. She returns to Terra Bistro on Friday and again on Saturday for two events. It's the third year in a row she's visiting Terra Bistro during Vail Restaurant Month.
"I have such a high regard for the chefs (at Terra Bistro)," Shulman said. "When a cookbook author gives her recipes to a kitchen to duplicate they don't always come out the way the author thinks they should; but that has never happened at Terra Bistro; Kevin, Michael and the crew know exactly how to season and everything is always spot on. And of course I love Kevin's food. I also find the crowd very congenial, always ready to ask questions and they make the evening lively."
Vail's special events coordinator Sybill Navas attended Shulman's class last year and said she was so inspired by the food, her and her husband ended up recreating the meal the following month.
"We cooked every one of those side dishes with our Thanksgiving dinner," she said. "It was awesome, but it was a tad stressful. We really stuck our necks out making four new dishes, but the food was delicious. She had some very lovely recipes - quite elegant and pretty simple."
Healthy food with big flavor
Shulman writes a recipe feature on nytimes.com entitled Recipes for Health, and is the award-winning author of more than 25 cookbooks, including "The Very Best of Recipes for Health," "Mediterranean Harvest: Vegetarian Recipes from the World's Healthiest Cuisine" and more. Her food draws largely from the cuisines of the Mediterranean, inherently healthy food with big flavors.
And Mediterranean food is just what diners will be enjoying at Friday night's event, which has sold out the past two years.
"This year I've fallen in love with this Mediterranean menu, which has become my fall back dinner party menu, and I wanted to share it with the people who come to my classes at Vail," Shulman said.
As with most of her food, vegetables will play a starring role. Shulman will prepare three Mediterranean salads, including a Moroccan carrot salad; a farro, herb and tomato salad; and a roasted beets and beet greens salad. The main course is a hearty fish chowder with potatoes and black kale, followed by raspberry rose sorbet for dessert.
"It's four recipes that will not be difficult for the guests to duplicate at home," she said.
New this year, Shulman also will host a lunch program on Saturday that focuses on preparing healthy picnic fare. After watching Shulman's demonstration, attendees will take a guided hike with Vail Vitality Center professional coach Abby Ruby and then enjoy the picnic lunch prepared earlier.
"I've lined up a chard frittata, a quinoa tabouli and a vegetarian spring roll for that one," Shulman said.
If attendees can walk away having learned one new skill, that's all that Shulman can hope for.
"I always feel that if you learn one new skill that changes your cooking life - it might be something as simple as cutting parsley with a scissors - you've taken away something important from a class. In addition, of course I want people to go home and make the recipes I'm presenting, and be inspired generally to cook, because healthy eating really begins with cooking for yourself."