A change of venue was in order for the Small Plates, Big Valley Flavors portion of the Feast! Vail weekend, though fortunately not an alteration in the scrumptiously unique cuisine. On Friday at The Sebastian in Vail, local and guest chefs presented mouthwatering plates with tantalizing flavors. After arriving at the impressive Sebastian Hotel with its urban and modern flair, guests began a tasting extravaganza. I commenced by sampling Terra Bistro’s beautifully braised beef and silkily pureed potatoes with heartwarming gravy — a comforting introduction to the evening. I proceeded to devour TAG chef-owner Troy Guard’s smoked brisket and potato rosti (a Swiss version of a potato pancake) served with deliciously sweet cipollini onion marmalade atop a buttery crostini. This small bite was an absolute favorite, not just because his tremendously adorable daughter was sprinkling micro herbs atop the nibbles.
Vail’s own chef Kelly Liken really shone with a refreshing baby vegetable salad that showcased shaved carrots, marinated artichokes, spring greens and an impeccable green goddess dressing kept vegan by the absence of anchovies, which were not missed one iota. It was a taste of spring with every savored bite. Another local chef, Jason Harrison from Flame at Four Seasons Resort Vail, highlighted a robust pork belly bao with an impressive Kimchi slaw that added — to the soft, steamed bun — a layer of crunchy freshness I was seeking.
The caprese kabobs, which included mozzarella, grape tomatoes, arugula and basil, were served with a sweet and tangy balsamic reduction and a garlicky pesto dipping sauce. This light, palate-cleanser led to a more hearty consumption — chef Florian Schwarz of The Sonnenalp Resort stayed true to the Tyrolean and Bavarian cuisine by serving a creamy, silky, cheesy plate of Kaesespaetzle (cheese dumplings). Not to be outdone by its edible counterparts, the celebrated aperitifs wowed guests, as well. Wines, microbrews and specialty, handcrafted cocktails were enjoyed as gourmands continued sampling.
With a mid-way, sweet treat of blueberry preserve-center cupcakes with lemon meringue whipped cream topping, caramel eclairs and chocolate-drizzled profiteroles, offered by Mountain Cupcake, I was able to continue with two remaining fresh, light and perfectly palatable bites.
Chef Paul Reilly, of Beast + Bottle in Denver, persisted by carrying the freshness aspect in his asparagus vichyssoise with the sweetness of Jonah Crab salad and richness of a smooth, cured egg yolk. La Tour’s chef-owner Paul Ferzacca showcased Yukon Gold potato gnocchi — fluffy pillows that would have been sorely missed at Feast! Vail.
Accented by fresh and seasonal morel mushrooms and English peas, this dish was tied together perfectly with a vibrant and decadent lemon brown butter. A winning dish was proven! Thus, between the vibrant green color of the asparagus vichyssoise and Ferzacca’s use of English peas, I am apt to offer the Green Pea Soup from Alta Ski Area in Utah, which can be served warm or chilled and features a bright selection of your favorite herbs. In honor of Feast! Vail’s celebration of spring, here’s a perfect addition to a brunch or lunch, with the hopes that the weather stays wonderfully warm for ultimate patio enjoyment.
Jennie Iverson lives in Vail and is the author of the “Ski Town Soups” cookbook. Iverson provides insight into the culinary scene of ski towns across America. You can find more recipes and information at www.skitownsoups.com.