Highlights from the Beaver Creek Food & Wine grand tasting | VailDaily.com

Highlights from the Beaver Creek Food & Wine grand tasting

Araxi’s Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Oil

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 shallots, sliced

5 pounds butternut squash (about 2 small), peeled, seeded and thinly sliced

7 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup whipping cream

3 Tablespoon pumpkin seed oil

2 Tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds

1 Tablespoon chopped chives

In a large saucepan fitted with a lid, heat the butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and lightly season with salt and white pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the squash is very soft.

Heat the chicken (or vegetable) stock in a medium pot on medium heat. Once the squash is very soft, pour enough hot stock over the squash to cover it by about 1 inch. Simmer the squash mixture for 5 minutes, then add the Parmesan cheese and nutmeg and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat, transfer to a blender and purée until smooth or use a handheld blender. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and discard any solids. Stir in the cream and season with more salt, if necessary. Drizzle each serving with pumpkin seed oil, and top with pumpkin seeds and chives.

Serves 6.

At Saturday’s Beaver Creek Food & Wine Grand Tasting, the experience was of singular exclusivity and palatable pleasure. Guests gathered in the intimate setting of the gorgeously renovated Ford Hall and felt a comradeship with the high-caliber chefs of Beaver Creek Resort and the top-notch visiting chefs from the Food & Wine domain. Imagine joining Shaun White on the halfpipe or Julia Mancuso slopeside, this boutique event gave guests unparalleled and ample access to a chef’s world. The welcoming surroundings set the tone and laid the foundation for what transpired into an impressive gourmet delight.

Under striking chandeliers, many began the culinary quest with, none other than, a sweet-and-salty breakfast bacon and oatmeal from chef David Gutowski, of Grouse Mountain Grill. A perfect commencing taste! “Top Chef” “Fan Favorite” chef Fabio Viviani offered gnocchi with duck sausage and caramelized fennel finished with pecorino. These decadent, buoyant potato pillows were perfectly balanced by the rustic sauce. As I swooned with each spoonful, I ruminated on this dish, indicative of the Italian cuisine that Viviani is notorious for creating.

Another strikingly superior dish was chef Naomi Pomeroy’s Brussels sprouts and lamb salad. Pomeroy is known for her complex and layered creations, such as the foie gras bonbon served on the charcuterie plate at Beast, her uber-successful Portland restaurant. Her fare-finesse was proven in each component of the salad that combined an impeccably spicy and slightly salty undertone to gorgeously pan-seared sprouts and earthly lamb. So far, the tasting was so grand!

A palate-cleansing opportunity, in the form of soup, came from Spago: a creamy, slightly sweet butternut squash soup shooter. If taste buds and a discerning palate serve me correctly, there was a hint of sweetness brought by either pureed apples or maple syrup. Although, not the recipe I sampled at the Grand Tasting, I offer a similar soup recipe from Whistler: Araxi Restaurant’s butternut squash soup. For a soup connoisseur, I would have sorely missed a simmering sensation.

Another dish to love, unable to evade the play-on-words, was chef Tim Love’s carrot home-fries. This distinctive taste of Love’s home-cooking was elevated by the perfect balance of flavors: caramelized sweetness of the carrots, creamy and silky goat cheese, bright Meyer lemon and a bite of chili spice. In true robust fashion, Love recommended the only way to devour the dish was with your fingers — no forks required. Also, thoroughly enjoyed by many attendees was the buffalo prime rib from chef Fabien Biraud, of Buffalos. The tender bites of meat were served on a garlic toast with a zing of horseradish and chimichurri. All in all, a very successful presentation of true Colorado cuisine with many tastes of veal, lamb, venison, pork belly, chicken, buffalo prime rib and duck confit … a carnivores dream! For gourmands looking for an exclusive event where they don’t feel rushed or crowded as they search for their next favorite bite and perfectly paired glass of wine or hand-crafted cocktail, look no further. The Beaver Creek Food & Wine events deliver.

Jennie Iverson lives in Vail and is the author of the “Ski Town Soups” cookbook. You can find more recipes and information at www.skitown soups.com.