Chef’s Roundtable column: Food and music for the soul
July 9, 2013
Funny thing about music and food — they go really well together. In fact, like a good romance, they do more than that; they improve each other. There's something about that simultaneous literal consumption of art — flavors taste better when you're under the spell of an intriguing melody, and that melody lingers a little longer when it's accented by memorable flavor. Hearing a perfect note as you take a perfect bite is a weird magic that's hard to describe. So let's just say that Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" and the best pizza I've ever eaten are now forever inextricably entwined in my memory, which is a good thing.
And like most good things in life, sharing fantastic music and food with others makes the experience even better. We're very lucky to have a choice of wonderful opportunities to do just that here in the Vail Valley this entire summer season.
Orchestrating jam sessions
The Jazz After series, a collaboration between the Vail Jazz Foundation, Bravo! Vail and Larkspur Restaurant, offers a uniquely distinguished culinary-musical fusion. After select Wednesday performances at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, members of the three symphony orchestras visiting Vail this summer will convene in the Larkspur Great Room for an evening of improvised jazz, while the audience feasts not only on musical brilliance, but delicious food and drinks from Larkspur's specially-created menu.
The season opened last month with the Dallas Symphony, this week it's The Philadelphia Orchestra, and on July 24, the New York Philharmonic are the guest performers.
But wait — Sonny Rollins after Sergei Rachmaninoff? Really?
"Yes!" said Howard Stone, Vail Jazz Foundation's founder. "A lot of talented jazz musicians choose to play classical music as their day job — well, actually, their night job, since that's when they're mostly performing. They have a lot of fun letting their hair down, and it's a spectacular show. This Wednesday, July 10, it's going to be even more special, because we've just gotten a call from the 13-member Cuban band Wil Campa. They're performing in Vail on July 11 and wanted to come a day early to play Jazz After with The Philly Orchestra. They are amazing. None of them speak English, but it won't matter. Music is the universal language!"
The Jazz After shows start at 9 p.m.; admission is $20 in advance, $25 on the day of the show, with an additional $20 food-beverage minimum per person.
Something to drink with that BLT?
If you can't make it to the Jazz After performances, or if they whet your appetite for more, local jazz duo Brian Loftus and Tony Gulizia (aka BLT) perform in the Larkspur bar on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m., playing every kind of jazz, from classic American songbook to Brazilian, Latin, bebop and contemporary.
"We bring the best of all the styles of jazz to our performance," Gulizia said. "Which lines up what the Larkspur does, bringing the best of all styles of cuisine to their menu."
As an homage to Larkspur's commitment to this great American musical genre, bar manager Christopher Eckert has created a special "Jazz Martini" that hits all the right notes and is available all summer long.
And executive chef Richard Hinojosa is creating a variety of limited edition dishes that deliciously play on the BLT theme. Currently offered: an appetizer inspired by the elements of a BLT, artfully deconstructed. Medallions of butter poached lobster served on a strip of candied bacon jam, with heirloom cherry tomatoes, mizuna greens from Larkspur's backyard garden, thinly sliced crisped multi-grain bread, and accented with a sauce made of wasabi rocket.
"Wasabi rocket is something I stumbled on when I was visiting a local farm recently," Hinojosa said. "It has a sharp arugula flavor with a late wasabi finish that I thought was really intriguing, and it makes a great accent to the dish."
Talk about improv!
On another note
True lovers of food and music confine neither to a specific category, though, because knowing there's greatness to be savored in every style. Sometimes we crave the sublime swing of Doc Cheatham, other times nothing but an old Doc Watson tune will do. And when you're in the mood for the latter, Woody's Bar and Grill in Edwards is where you want to be, preferably with a half-dozen friends.
Located in The Riverwalk at Edwards, Woody's Bar and Grill has been a favorite locals hangout for years.
"We're a community-based place," said day manager Markus Haverlandt. "Everyone knows everyone here. We combine great music by local bands with our great made in-house food — and that naturally brings people together."
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Woody's Bar & Grill features live music from 9 to 11 p.m. — and that could be anything from bluegrass to funk and rock — played by a variety of local musicians and bands. This Thursday, local favorites Laughing Bones and Dave Perron are performing.
And speaking of dining, the menu at Woody's pairs beautifully with the featured down-home music, offering everything from blackened tuna with a citrus vinaigrette to sandwiches made with hand-sliced meats and cheeses.
In other words, a perfect bite with a perfect note for everyone.
Madeleine Berenson is a freelance writer contracted by Larkspur Restaurant. Larkspur, located at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. For more information, visit http://www.larkspurvail.com.