VAIL — In the beginning, God gave mankind dominion over the beasts of the field, which explains why the entries at the Taste of Vail Lamb Cook Off tasted like they were divinely inspired.
Fare was limited only by the chef’s imaginations, which is to say it saw no limits.
“The Taste of Vail Lamb Cook Off showcases American lamb in diverse ways, from lamb tamales, to lamb meatballs. It celebrates the shepherds of Colorado,” said Mary Ramsey Humann, of the American Lamb Board.
Mountain Standard lives by its classic American cuisine, and sous chef Chris Schmidt came up with what may be the most American entry, a handmade lamb dog.
It’s like a hot dog, only completely different — you know what we mean?
He takes a leg of lamb, breaks it down and chops it up, seasons it and makes lamb dogs out of it. Yeah it’s work, but it’s worth it.
“We wanted to do something fun that also represents what we do at Mountain Standard,” Schmidt said. “One day this just popped into my head.”
NOD TO AMERICA’S PASTIME
It was a nod to America and this week’s Opening Day for major league baseball.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it was.
Mountain Standard won first prize from this year’s panel of judges.
Hooked is a seafood restaurant and market in Beaver Creek, and it was the judge’s second choice for its In The Woods and On the Street lamb dish.
Chef Riley Romanin led the crew out of the sea and onto dry land to create lamb jerky and carne seca. It’s a Sonoran dish. Back in the day, natives used to dry it on their roofs. When they got home they made, among other things, empanadas with mint Tabasco. OK, they might not have, but Romanin did, and they would have if they’d thought of it.
Their menu choices are easy to understand. Everything was ready when they showed up.
“It’s already done and we want to enjoy the day like everyone else,” Romanin said.
Zino has been back for four years, and this is the restaurant’s second trip to the Lamb Cook Off. Its Drunk and High Colorado Lamb dish was awarded third by the judges.
The 10th came down from the top of Vail Mountain to make Jamaican spiced Colorado lamb and tartlet — and they laugh politely when you wisecrack that tartlet sounds like one of your high school girlfriends. Vishu Nath is the chef at The 10th.
All of Vail Resorts’ sit-down restaurants competed in Friday’s Lamb Cook Off.
They don’t argue about who’s entering what dish. In fact, they don’t even talk about it. No one knows what the others are doing, Nath said.
Douglas Dodd is chef at Tavern on the Square. He cut to the heart of the matter when asked how chefs come up with their ideas.
“It’s the borderline between genius and mad scientist, but mostly it’s what we want to eat,” he said.
Dodd, for example, loves Southwestern cuisine, which explains why his entry had a Southwestern flair.
It snowed Thursday afternoon, which meant Kelly Liken’s Andrew Evanisko’s Colorado lamb and spring vegetable soup was a huge hit.
“We wanted to do something different, and who doesn’t like warm on a cold day?” Evanisko asked.
SPRING SEASONAL CUISINE
Unlike Vail, it’s spring in many parts of the world. That means spring vegetables are beginning to roll in, and they like to stay seasonal at Kelly Liken.
Liken and her staff have been part of the Lamb Cook Off since the restaurant opened. Development coordinator Sarah John looked back through about 10 years of recipes, got together with Evanisko, and decided that soup it would be.
Life is uncertain, which is why people who entered on the east side were lucky enough to wander by the Juniper booth and get dessert first.
Chef Scott Ofsanko and pastry chef Charles Broschinsky put together white chocolate and milk chocolate Napoleons.
“We’ve always done desserts. It’s a change of pace, and besides, they’re good,” Ofsanko said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.