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December 19, 2012
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Vail's Sweet Basil releases its first-ever cookbook

In the early days of Sweet Basil, the spinach enchiladas and the Monte Cristo sandwich were some of the most ordered items on the restaurant's menu.

"It was the trademark sandwich back in the day," said Sweet Basil co-owner Matt Morgan. "That said, as much as some people recognized that, that's not how we're cooking now, so we decided to eliminate those."

Instead, within the pages of Sweet Basil's just-released cookbook, you'll find classics like "Saffron Angel Hair Pasta" and "Hot Sticky Toffee Pudding" (a recipe that some people will buy the book just to get their sugar-craving hands on) and more recent favorites like Colorado lamb T-bone and herb-crusted Rocky Mountain trout.

"We got to brainstorm and got out menus from the last 15 years," Morgan said about how he and Basil's Executive Chef Paul Anders narrowed down the recipes to just over 50 included in the book. "It was difficult to narrow it down, but fun to look back and say 'Oh, I remember that one, it was a favorite,' or 'I loved that dish.' We tried to spread the recipes out across the years," Morgan said.

"Our goal was to select dishes that resonate with guests," Anders agreed.

One fan favorite that Anders was sure to include was the shrimp and calamari, which has been on the menu for 10 years.

"We've included the original recipe for the shrimp and calamari that was developed before I even worked for the restaurant," Anders said. "I changed the recipe a few years ago, and it was noticed - not in a good way. There are some classics that people have come to love, and some things don't need changing. For our guests, the shrimp and calamari was one of those classics not to be toyed with."

Over the years, Morgan and co-owner Kevin Clair have received many requests for recipes.

"We thought creating a cookbook was a great way to celebrate our 35th anniversary," Morgan said. "Although we focus on where Sweet Basil is now, we acknowledge where the restaurant has been, as well. People will see recipes for old favorites, as well as new dishes, featured in the cookbook. We like to think it's the best of both past and present."

While some of the recipes are easily executed by the home cook, some are a bit more challenging, Morgan said, and might be better attempted by "a home cook who is a foodie."

Along with selecting popular, mostly accessible dishes, the next challenge came when it was time to scale back the size of the recipes - from enough to feed a restaurant to enough to feed the family.

"The challenge was scaling them back to a size that works for cooking at home," Anders said.

Chef Anders worked tirelessly to replicate recipes on a smaller scale to ensure that what was produced in the restaurant was approachable and could be reproduced at home. All recipes have been scaled back to serve eight to 12 people.

Along with the recipes, the cookbook provides a glimpse into how a particular dish was born. Take the Vietnamese shrimp spring rolls, which Sweet Basil was kind enough to share the recipe for with this story.

"This Sweet Basil version of the mainstay Asian appetizer stems from an research and development trip to San Francisco, where chef Paul Anders got to sample the spring rolls at the famous Slanted Door restaurant," the text with the recipe explains. "The experience inspired him to come up with something on par, and the Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls are the result. The flavor combination of asparagus, mint, mango, and papaya was conceived for one effect: Fresh, vibrant flavor."

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Dec 19, 2012 04:08PM Published Dec 19, 2012 03:19PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.