Front-door fondue | VailDaily.com

Front-door fondue

Fondue virgins, take note. There are rules when it comes to fondue, and you best pay attention, otherwise prepare to pucker up or ante up, depending on your gender. "Tradition says that if a man loses his item in the pot, he buys the next round of drinks. If a woman loses her item in the pot, she must kiss her neighbors." This morsel of info is included in the "Traditions and Etiquette" section of a flier that Derek George, owner of the newest food delivery service in town, Fondue at Home, drops off with the fondue spread as part of his new business venture. He likens Fondue at Home to something in between pizza delivery and a private chef, but after experiencing it firsthand recently, we can attest it's much more similar to the latter of the two options. Simple, yet amazing On Valentine's Day Eve, George showed up at our door with a big plastic box containing fixings for a three-course fondue experience for four people, complete with both cheese and chocolate fondue, two fondue pots, forks, a fondue burner, lighter and fuel. He only asked that we provide a handful of serving items: four plates, four small bowls, two larger bowls and a platter. Immediately, George went to work in the kitchen, preparing the cheese fondue and plating the food. It's about 30 minutes from the time he walks in the door, to when he slips back out it, leaving behind a convivial party centered around a red fondue pot filled with bubbling, creamy cheese. George does much more than hand you a box of food — he dons a white apron, heads straight for the stove, whips up the cheese fondue and then prepares bowls of cubed French bread, blanched broccoli, hunks of ham (he'll do roasted fingerling potatoes if you're a vegetarian), cubes of apple, cocktail onions and gherkins. If you opt for the three-course option, George will leave a mixed green salad with homemade Dijon vinaigrette (another family recipe), traditionally eaten between the fondue courses. He leaves chocolate fondue, a simple-yet-amazing blend of semi-sweet chocolate chips melted into warm cream with a pinch of salt, warming on the stove. The decadent chocolate is served with pieces of pound cake and fresh fruit, such as strawberries, bananas and kiwis. The three courses will run you $50 per person ($35 per person for just the cheese fondue), with a two-person minimum requirement. It's more than enough food for dinner, but it would be a very fun apres spread as well. The thought of having George meet you at your house or condo after a day on the mountains and having him prepare the food while you change out of ski gear sounds pretty amazing. After you're done, you simply pack up the forks, pots, burner and any other supplies in the box and leave it outside your door; George will swing back by and collect it. 'Something special about fondue' George's love for fondue started young, passed along from his parents who traveled to Switzerland, eating the national dish at restaurants throughout the country. They made fondue for the family back at home, instilling in George a lifelong appreciation for the gooey, communal style of eating. "It was our family tradition," George said, confirming that indeed, his recipe for traditional Swiss cheese fondue — a combination of cave-aged Gruyere and Emmentaler cheeses, melted into white wine and topped with kirschwasser and finished with a touch of nutmeg — is a family secret. Now with his own family, fondue is a tradition George continues. He and his wife, Jodi Link, host fondue parties with friends often at their home in Avon, and their one-and-a-half year old daughter, Indiana Rose, already loves cheese fondue, George said. "I just love the social aspect of fondue," George said. "It's so fun to have friends over and have fondue. It's just more fun than just having dinner; for some reason, there's just something special about fondue." For those interested in wine pairings, be sure to ask George to take care of that detail as well. He can pick up pairings he recommends from a local wine shop for you. The crisp white wine he paired alongside for our fondue party, Pierre Boniface Domaine les Rocailles Apremont from Savoie, France, cut through the sharpness of the cheese. "It has these beautiful, subtle fruit flavors and citrus characteristics," George said. "And it's nice and light too, which is important when eating heavier-style foods, like cheese fondue." Word of mouth With a background in food and wine (George is a sommelier) and an entrepreneurial spirit, it wasn't a stretch to start a fondue delivery business. "I love fondue, and I basically thought other people would love fondue, too," he said. "I hadn't seen anything like that around here, so I thought it'd be a great business here in the Vail Valley." The Avon resident came up with the idea in December and promptly built a website (www.fondueathome.com), set up a mobile app for payment, enabling him to use his iPhone to accept credit card payments — "There are lots of cool tools for entrepreneurs out there now," he said — and launched the business in January. So far, feedback has been all positive. "People are really excited about it," George said. "So far, all of my clients have been from word of mouth, that's pretty cool. People are telling their friends about it." For more informaion, call 844-4-FONDUE or visit http://www.fondueathome.com. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 and cschnell@vaildaily.com.

A trip to Switzerland at the Swiss Chalet at Sonnenalp

Would you have guessed fondue, that humble, traditional Swiss dish, was once key in settling religious battles? Well, according to swissinfo.ch – my Swiss umbilical cord – that’s what occurred in Switzerland in 1529. During the Reformation, feuding religious factions – Catholics and Confederate Reformists – reportedly resolved disputes while eating “Kappel Milk Soup,” a creamy, milk-based soup that some believe to be in the DNA of today’s silky cheese fondue. Of course, they battled first and some folks had to die before the soup was served. But it seems the disputes were settled. With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder if Vail might contribute to ending Washington’s gridlock if we assembled feuding members of Congress at Swiss Chalet in Vail’s Sonnenalp Resort to sit and settle disputes over Chef John Beddard’s authentic fondue. Well, one can wonder – and hope. With all the vibrant energy in Sonnenalp’s dining scene since Executive Chef Steve Topple’s arrival in November, it’s the perfect place for a “Fondue Summit.” After a long dust season – we had no precipitation to call it “mud season” – I returned to experiential research, this time at Swiss Chalet. Like my Louisiana visit, this experience was full of emotions influenced by more than two decades of living in Switzerland. Our home near Crans-Montana in mountainous Canton Valais gave us front-row seats to enjoy Valais’ enticing culinary experiences. Valais is famous not only for its skiing and spectacular trekking but for vineyards, orchards and high-mountain alpages, where cows graze on tender alpine grass and wildflowers that flavor the treasured milk used to make Valais’ signature Appellation Origine Controlee cheese, raclette. When I stepped into Swiss Chalet and joined Beddard and his sous chef Michael Keller, fond memories of Valais and great meals with dear friends washed over me like a refreshing summer rain. Although I like working when the “joint is jumping,” I reveled in the relatively slow, early-summer pace that gave the chefs time to prepare some of their classics. Beddard’s repertoire of traditional Swiss dishes is not limited to raclette and variations of fondue. The restaurant’s menu also includes timeless classics: rosti, Zurcher Geschnetzeltes, spaetzle and Wurst Salat new on the summer menu. Never have I eaten so much on the job! All were delicious. Take it from this Swiss food ubersnob, their traditional dishes are as true to their origins as anything you’d find in a restaurant in Zermatt! Fondue was first on Beddard’s list of dishes he wanted to prepare with me. Fondue has a rich and storied history and a special place in Swiss culture. Although also popular in the French and Italian Alps and taking its name from the French verb “fondre” (to melt), fondue is most often associated with Switzerland. In the 1930s, during a cheese surplus, the Swiss Cheese Union promoted fondue as the “national dish.” Beddard showed me the cheese they use for their fondue and raclette. I can solemnly swear their cheese is authentic. When in Switzerland, we opt for artisanal cheeses, usually from local alpages, but handcrafted cheeses are cost-prohibitive for American restaurants. Swiss Chalet uses Emmi, a large producer of high-quality Swiss cheeses made in the traditional manner. When the weather’s cold and Vail is filled with skiers, the chefs use approximately 300 pounds of cheese per week for fondue. Emmi is no doubt fond of Swiss Chalet, as it is the No. 1 importer of cheese in Colorado and fifth in the nation! As Beddard cut into the 70-pound wheel of Gruyere, its distinctive, pungent aroma filled the air. Suddenly, I was transported to that lush, bucolic Swiss canton from which the cheese takes its name. The creamy texture and fruity taste were just as they should be. I continued my virtual journey back “home,” with tastes of raclette and other fondue cheeses, Vacherin Fribourgoise – a delicious semi-soft cheese with a smell of a teenager’s sport socks – and Appenzeller. All superb. Swiss fondue is one of those dishes that everyone “autographs” with their own twists. I learned mine from cherished longtime Swiss friend Pierre Perrenoud. Pierre taught me to smash garlic cloves and rub the pot (inside!) before beginning. Of course, garlic cloves remain in the pot and, along with the Religieuse, are gobbled up as a great finale. Religieuse – French for “nun” – is that delicious crispy, golden crust that forms in the bottom of the fondue pot. It is the object of desire when all the melted cheese is gone. Never let your pot be removed without first asking to scrape the Religieuse. Another trick Perrenoud taught me was to add a pinch of baking soda just before serving. It puffs up the cheese, yielding a light, creamy mixture. Always happy to learn other techniques, I carefully watched Beddard as he transformed simple ingredients into a pot of velvety delight. Fondue is easy to make but requires high quality-cheese and patience to slowly melt it. Letting fondue bubble is a definite faux pas. Beddard begins with about a cup of white wine, a teaspoon of minced garlic – a must in any respectable Swiss fondue – finely ground white pepper and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Once the wine begins to simmer, it’s time to add two generous handfuls of cheese mixture. No one cheese is used in fondue. Although Gruyere is most often present, other popular Swiss fondue cheeses are Vacherin Fribourgeois, Appenzeller and Emmentaler. Comte savoyard and Beaufort are popular in France. Fontina is used in Italian fondue (fonduta), served in Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont regions. My favorite is “moitie-moitie” (half-half), a blend of Gruyere and Vacherin. The proportions vary since, like wine, the taste of these cheeses is so highly dependent on the whims of nature, in this case, the quality of summer grass. With cheese added to the pot, stirring began. Once the cheese began to melt, Beddard added cornstarch to emulsify the cheese and wine. Now the hallmark velvety texture began to appear. But we’re not through. What fondue would be complete without Zuger Kirsch, the cherry brandy from Canton Zug south of Zurich where cherry trees abound? Et voila! It’s now time to serve and dip. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to wait for the formation of the Religieuse! With so many wonderful dishes on Swiss Chalet’s menu, you’ll have to come back next week to learn about Beddard’s other culinary secrets to making authentic Swiss dishes. En guete, Mitenand! Bis spater. Suzanne Hoffman is a local attorney, wine importer and the Chambellan Provincial of the Southwest Region and Bailli (president) of the Vail chapter of the Chaine des Rotisseurs. Visit http://www.facebook.com/vailvalleysecrets or email comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.

Vail Valley businesses offer convenience by bringing groceries and more right to your door

In the olden days, the milkman (or woman) would deliver fresh, cold milk to our doors almost daily. Now, in our modern technologically-advanced world, the idea of having someone stop by our house with exactly what we need feels like a luxury we could only dream of. Well, it's time to wake up, as there are quite a few local delivery services you can now call on to come to your rescue. Especially in the winter, when the roads can get icy and you'd rather be spending your time having fun instead of on an endless errand run, these delivery companies provide a welcome convenience to both locals and visitors. There may not be such a thing as a milkman anymore, but here in Eagle County you can get almost anything delivered, from baby equipment to fondue. Stay home, curl up by the fire and let someone else run the errands for once. GETTING THE NECESSITIES If you've rented a condo for the week or are simply just too tired to trek to the store, then grocery delivery can save you from having to argue in the aisles with your family members about whether to buy the regular or double-stuffed Oreos. Skip the store and try one of these grocery deliveries instead: Resort Delivery in Vail Village offers same-day delivery from the early morning until 10 p.m. from East Vail to Cordillera, and even Aspen and Snowmass if needed. Typically they can get your food to you within the hour. If you're coming into town, then you can also have your groceries delivered the day you arrive. They also do luggage pickup from the airport if needed. Delivery charge is $35 plus 25 percent of the grocery order. Order online at http://www.resortdelivery.com or call 970-845-8216. Home Shop at City Market in Avon will deliver to anywhere in town, Beaver Creek or Edwards for a flat rate of $19.99 plus 10 percent of the order. Delivery charges increase for farther distances. Orders placed before 11 a.m. will be delivered that day, after 11 a.m. for the next day. You can also submit orders online at homeshop.kroger.com. Freshies Organic Market in Edwards delivers in town for free and charges $10 to deliver to Vail or Beaver Creek. No minimum for delivery. Call 970-926-8622 to order. For food delivery, many restaurants located from East Vail to Edwards partner with A La Car. To see their menus, visit http://www.alacarvail.com. To place an order, call 970-949-4000. DRINK, BUT DON'T DRIVE Especially around the holidays, alcohol is something you won't want to run out of. If you do, then plenty of local liquor stores and wine shops will deliver right to the party. Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards offers free delivery with a $100 minimum to anywhere in the valley. They also do customized gift baskets you can send to someone else. Wine specialist Jarrett Osborn said bourbons are really hot right now, as are large-bottle craft beers like Great Divide's Hibernation Ale. If you're trying to find something to sip for your next soiree, Osborn recommends wine from the Rhone region in southern France. "You can get a Cotes du Rhone for $13," Osborn said. "It's the best value in red wines right now and it's one of the best wines out there." For sparkling wines, Osborn suggests a Moutard Champagne rose. "(They) have an extra berry flavor but are still nice and crisp and dry," Osborn said. "They go really well with ham." In addition to Riverwalk Wine & Spirits, some other places that offer free delivery are West Vail Liquor Mart, Lionshead Liquor Store, Grappa Fine Wines & Spirits, Vail Fine Wines, Village Warehouse Wines and Avon Liquor. Minimum prices for orders vary, but typically range from $50 to $100. It's best to call the store closest to where you're staying to get the best price and fastest delivery. EQUIPMENT FOR TODDLERS AND TOTS It's hard enough to carry a baby around all day. Add to this the hassle of having to bring a crib or a stroller with you on vacation, and you might just decide to stay home and watch "Finding Nemo" for the 500th time. Luckily for parents, Travel Vail Baby provides all types of baby equipment so you don't have to lug anything on the plane or pack it into an already-full car. Owner Daniela Demeillac started her company three years ago after realizing how hard it was to travel with her own child. "It's just easier to walk into a hotel or private residence and everything is there for you," Demeillac said. "When you've been on a plane with a crying baby for a few hours, you appreciate it very much." Demeillac said while many hotels and resorts will provide things like a Pack n' Play, parents with small children often need things like strollers, car seats, high chairs and even toys. "They love the convenience," Demeillac said. "They love the brands that we use; most of the time it's the same brands they have at home. We offer them a full-sized crib; the baby sleeps a lot better and everybody is happy." Travel Vail Baby charges by the equipment and offers daily and weekly rental rates. Strollers are $18 a day; cribs are $15. Delivery is $25 for both drop-off and pick-up. Demeillac said orders fill up quickly during the winter season and around holidays so it's best to call in advance once you know your travel plans. To book, call 970-390-4859 or visit http://www.travelvailbaby.com. A CHEF THAT COMES TO YOU One may not necessarily need fondue, but it sure is a fun option to consider for your next get together. Fondue At Home will bring the party to you, providing everything you need for a fabulous cheese or chocolate fondue spread, including wine. Derek George, owner of Fondue At Home, started the service last year and said so far he's gotten nothing but positive feedback. "People love the concept of it," George said. "They love the fact that they don't have to drive anywhere." George asks for a 24-hour advance notice and will deliver from East Vail to Eagle. Cost is $50 per person for three courses with wine, $35 per person for just cheese fondue, two-person minimum. For more information on Fondue At Home, visit http://www.fondueat home.com or call 844-4-FONDUE. AN EASIER WAY TO GET YOUR MAIL Mountain Mail Delivery is your own personal post office concierge. Not only will they pick up your mail from your P.O. Box and drop it off at your house or business, they'll also send out your packages instead of having to pay for a FedEx or UPS pickup. Nathan DeWindt started Mountain Mail Delivery this past spring when he noticed how time-consuming these tasks could be. While DeWindt said most of his clients are small business owners and the resort industry, he's also picked up new customers while on the job. "People will say, 'Wait, so if I hire you, you'll stand in line for me?'" DeWindt said. "I've signed up five to six people in the post office before." Residential delivery is every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for $45 a month. Small business delivery is Mondays through Fridays for $60 a month. Delivery for hotels and resorts is Mondays through Fridays for $100 a month. Right now, Mountain Mail Delivery is offering a free one-month trial for those who want to try out their service. To sign up, visit http://www.mountainmail delivery.com or call 970-460-6245.

Vail Valley businesses offer convenience by bringing groceries and more right to your door

In the olden days, the milkman (or woman) would deliver fresh, cold milk to our doors almost daily. Now, in our modern technologically-advanced world, the idea of having someone stop by our house with exactly what we need feels like a luxury we could only dream of. Well, it's time to wake up, as there are quite a few local delivery services you can now call on to come to your rescue. Especially in the winter, when the roads can get icy and you'd rather be spending your time having fun instead of on an endless errand run, these delivery companies provide a welcome convenience to both locals and visitors. There may not be such a thing as a milkman anymore, but here in Eagle County you can get almost anything delivered, from baby equipment to fondue. Stay home, curl up by the fire and let someone else run the errands for once. GETTING THE NECESSITIES If you've rented a condo for the week or are simply just too tired to trek to the store, then grocery delivery can save you from having to argue in the aisles with your family members about whether to buy the regular or double-stuffed Oreos. Skip the store and try one of these grocery deliveries instead: Resort Delivery in Vail Village offers same-day delivery from the early morning until 10 p.m. from East Vail to Cordillera, and even Aspen and Snowmass if needed. Typically they can get your food to you within the hour. If you're coming into town, you can also have your groceries delivered the day you arrive. They also do luggage pickup from the airport if needed. Delivery charge is $35 plus 25 percent of the grocery order. Order online at http://www.resortdelivery.com or call 970-845-8216. Home Shop at City Market in Avon will deliver to anywhere in town, Beaver Creek or Edwards for a flat rate of $19.99 plus 10 percent of the order. Delivery charges increase for farther distances. Orders placed before 11 a.m. will be delivered that day, after 11 a.m. for the next day. You can also submit orders online at homeshop.kroger.com. Freshies Organic Market in Edwards delivers in town for free and charges $10 to deliver to Vail or Beaver Creek. No minimum for delivery. Call 970-926-8622 to order. For food delivery, many restaurants located from East Vail to Edwards partner with A La Car. To see their menus, visit http://www.alacarvail.com. To place an order, call 970-949-4000. DRINK, BUT DON'T DRIVE Especially around the holidays, alcohol is something you won't want to run out of. If you do, then plenty of local liquor stores and wine shops will deliver right to the party. Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards offers free delivery with a $100 minimum to anywhere in the valley. They also do customized gift baskets you can send to someone else. Wine specialist Jarrett Osborn said bourbons are really hot right now, as are large-bottle craft beers like Great Divide's Hibernation Ale. If you're trying to find something to sip for your next soiree, Osborn recommends wine from the Rhone region in southern France. "You can get a Cotes du Rhone for $13," Osborn said. "It's the best value in red wines right now and it's one of the best wines out there." For sparkling wines, Osborn suggests a Moutard Champagne rose. "(They) have an extra berry flavor but are still nice and crisp and dry," Osborn said. "They go really well with ham." In addition to Riverwalk Wine & Spirits, some other places that offer free delivery are West Vail Liquor Mart, Lionshead Liquor Store, Grappa Fine Wines & Spirits, Vail Fine Wines, Village Warehouse Wines and Avon Liquor. Minimum prices for orders vary, but typically range from $50 to $100. It's best to call the store closest to where you're staying to get the best price and fastest delivery. EQUIPMENT FOR TODDLERS AND TOTS It's hard enough to carry a baby around all day. Add to this the hassle of having to bring a crib or a stroller with you on vacation, and you might just decide to stay home and watch "Finding Nemo" for the 500th time. Luckily for parents, Travel Vail Baby provides all types of baby equipment so you don't have to lug anything on the plane or pack it into an already-full car. Owner Daniela Demeillac started her company three years ago after realizing how hard it was to travel with her own child. "It's just easier to walk into a hotel or private residence and everything is there for you," Demeillac said. "When you've been on a plane with a crying baby for a few hours, you appreciate it very much." Demeillac said while many hotels and resorts will provide things like a Pack n' Play, parents with small children often need things like strollers, car seats, high chairs and even toys. "They love the convenience," Demeillac said. "They love the brands that we use; most of the time it's the same brands they have at home. We offer them a full-sized crib; the baby sleeps a lot better and everybody is happy." Travel Vail Baby charges by the equipment and offers daily and weekly rental rates. Strollers are $18 a day; cribs are $15. Delivery is $25 for both drop-off and pick-up. Demeillac said orders fill up quickly during the winter season and around holidays so it's best to call in advance once you know your travel plans. To book, call 970-390-4859 or visit http://www.travelvailbaby.com. A CHEF THAT COMES TO YOU One may not necessarily need fondue, but it sure is a fun option to consider for your next get together. Fondue At Home will bring the party to you, providing everything you need for a fabulous cheese or chocolate fondue spread, including wine. Derek George, owner of Fondue At Home, started the service last year and said so far he's gotten nothing but positive feedback. "People love the concept of it," George said. "They love the fact that they don't have to drive anywhere." George asks for a 24-hour advance notice and will deliver from East Vail to Eagle. $50 per person for three courses with wine, $35 per person for just cheese fondue, two-person minimum. For more information on Fondue At Home, visit http://www.fondueathome.com or call 844-4-FONDUE. AN EASIER WAY TO GET YOUR MAIL Mountain Mail Delivery is your own personal post office concierge. Not only will they pick up your mail from your P.O. Box and drop it off at your house or business, they'll also send out your packages instead of having to pay for a FedEx or UPS pickup. Nathan DeWindt started Mountain Mail Delivery this past spring when he noticed how time-consuming these tasks could be. While DeWindt said most of his clients are small business owners and the resort industry, he's also picked up new customers while on the job. "People will say, 'wait, so if I hire you, you'll stand in line for me?'" DeWindt said. "I've signed up five to six people in the post office before." Residential delivery is every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for $45 a month. Small business delivery is Mondays through Fridays for $60 a month. Delivery for hotels and resorts is Mondays through Fridays for $100 a month. Right now, Mountain Mail Delivery is offering a free one-month trial for those who want to try out their service. To sign up, visit http://www.mountainmail delivery.com or call 970-460-6245.

Town Talk Tidbits: Cool Stuff, Sweet Deals

Eagle Ranch Wine & Spirits, located across from Capitol Theater in Eagle, invites you to an in-store wine tasting from 5 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday. Come sample wines from different regions and vineyards around the country and world. Call 970-328-CORK (2675) for details. Tonight is the finale of a wonderful run of Wine Wednesdays at the Swiss Chalet in Vail Village. Choose from three, individually-priced flights of wine, each with a complimentary mystery wine. Tonight, dip into la bella Italia Piemonte Perfection! While youre at it, go for the fully Monty cheese fondue, salad, beef fondue and chocolate fondue. Call 970-479-5429 for reservations.

Fondue without the hassle

Editor’s note: Jimmy Bradley is one of the many celebrity guest chefs heading out to Beaver Creek from Feb. 1 to 3 for the annual Culinary Classic. Chef-submitted recipes will continue to run leading up to the food-and-wine event.This is fondue without the fondue pot, without the cans of sterno and without the wine, cornstarch or other supporting ingredients. You just take some cubed Fontina cheese, top it with slivered garlic, thyme leaves and olive oil, and broil until it’s melted and bubby enough to scoop up with hunks of bread. It’s a great appetizer, and paired with a green salad and a glass of wine, a pretty nifty lunch or dinner as well. Be sure to use an Italian fontina; the Danish varieties don’t melt right for this recipe.- Jimmy Bradley This recipe indicates a range of cheese quantity; scale the portions to your taste/appetite.1 to 2 pounds Fontina, soft, brown rind trimmed and discarded, cut into 1-inch dice 4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced1 tablespoon thyme leaves1 teaspoon chopped rosemary SaltFreshly ground black pepperSliced country bread or rollsPreheat the broiler. For individual servings divide the fontina among four 6-inch cast-iron pans. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter the garlic slices, thyme leaves, and rosemary over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. For one large pan, use a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and follow the same directions.Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 6 to 7 minutes.Serve each person their own pan, setting it on a trivet or napkin, or serve the 12-inch pan from the center of the table. Pass the bread for dunking.A note to the cook:You can also make this with young, soft Gruyere or cheddar, just as long as they’re not hard or aged, in which case the fats will separate out when melted.Serves 4.

Seven date ideas for adventurous couples to explore the Vail Valley

Spontaneity is fun, but a little bit of planning can make an experience all the more special. Whether you are surprising your sweetie or creating a grandiose holiday gift package for your parents, we've got some ideas here to help you put together a first-class string of date days. Triumph Mountain Properties concierge Meridith Lowe is a master of "what to do in the valley," whether it's getting a coveted restaurant reservation or putting together a string of experiences to create the perfect date night. "We're here, we're your neighbors, we're a part of the community, and we're so dedicated to supporting our community and helping small business thrive," she said. "We do it with such an incredible amount of passion because we know what this valley has to offer." Some of Lowe's ideas are included in this list; to get a little bit of personal concierge help, contact her at 970-479-9990 or concierge@triumphmountainproperties.com. Gourmet adventure If you're on a ski-town schedule, then there's no reason to wait until the evening to have a date. Beaver Creek's Winter Wine Excursions begin at the Beaver Creek Nordic Center, continue along the snowshoe trails of McCoy Park and end with a warming finale at The Osprey Fireside Grill, complete with a roaring fireplace and a selection of charcuteries and wine pairings. "Snowshoers trade their boots for warm slippers at the foyer of The Osprey Hotel," said Nate Goldberg, of the Beaver Creek Nordic Center. "A cozy fireplace and intimate dining setting creates the perfect place for family and friends to warm up, enjoy apres gourmet decadence and recap their adventures together." Find more information at beavercreek.com/events-and-activities/gourmet-snowshoe-adventures, and contact the Beaver Creek Nordic Sports Center at 970-754-5313 to reserve a Winter Wine Excursion; 24 hours advanced reservation is required. Get creative Cocktails & Canvas is offered every Wednesday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Alpine Arts Center in Edwards. Other art-inspired events offered by Alpine Arts include Cocktails & Clay, Wax & Wine, glass etching and wine-bottle painting. "These events are great for a date night because they are fun and social and a creative activity couples can do together," said Lauren Merrill, owner of Alpine Arts Center. "It's nice to share experiences that are not your typical night out at the bar, but where you can still loosen up with a few glasses of wine while getting messy with paint or clay." At the end of the date, you can take your masterpiece home. Specific projects for each evening are posted on the Alpine Arts Center event calendar at alpineartscenter.org/upcoming-events. Dinner and a movie Keep date night classic with food and a flick. Cobb CineBistro at Solaris Plaza in Vail Village has a gourmet burger bar and a lounge with libations. Place your order and wait for your pager to flash that your food is ready, and then pick up your meal and have dinner in the lounge or take it into the theater to eat during the feature film of your choice. Watch from high-back leather rocking chairs that are ideal for snuggling, and a ticket to the movies also means you get a four-hour parking validation for the Solaris lot. Validate your parking ticket at the CineBistro concierge desk. Check the schedule at cinebistro.com/solaris/. Fondue at home Going out is fun, but sometimes staying at home for an evening makes for the best date night. Fondue at Home is a Swiss fondue delivery service in the Vail Valley, providing a full meal that includes salad, main course, dessert, beverages, fondue pot and forks. A chef shows up to set it up for you with instructions and then will return the next day to pick up the pot and forks you place in a convenient container. Of course, you can keep it an intimate date, but you may be tempted to invite friends. "Fondue at home is a communal dining experience," said owner Derek George. "To me, that's what makes it so special — everyone gathered around a pot of bubbly cheese, sharing stories and creating memories." Visit fondueathome.com for a full menu and more information, or call 844-436-6383. Sleigh ride to a wine dinner An aspen grove hides Allie's Cabin, set back in a quiet pocket of Beaver Creek's front side slope. The cabin offers on-mountain dining, and throughout the winter, Allie's Featured Wine Dinners combine cozy romance with culinary prowess. Every Thursday, Allie's features a different winery, highlighting big names in the business such as Far Niente, Chateau Montelena and Simi Winery. An open-air sleigh takes you up the slope of Beaver Creek to arrive at the gourmet experience. Five courses and wine pairings are accompanied by the fireworks of Thursday Night Lights right out the window. For more information visit beavercreek.com/events-and-activities/allies-wine-dinners, and for reservations call 970-754-5545. Ice-skating and a show Beaver Creek Village is magical in the winter months, adorned with accents of snow all around and twinkle lights lined between bustling storefronts. In the center of it all, an ice rink is the focal point for joy and fun throughout the season. Bring a friend or your sweetie for $5 admission with your own skates, or $15 admission and rentals. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. daily, so you can either skate out in the sunshine or under the stars. After making an on-ice memory, walk into the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek with your date and a 17-foot Christmas tree will greet you in the spirit of the season. The holiday lineup at this Vail Valley venue includes headliners such as LeAnn Rimes, Adam Trent, George Winston and The Ten Tenors. "Nothing can replace the feeling of seeing a live show," said Ruthie Hamrick, marketing lead for the Vilar Performing Arts Center. "The thrill of on-stage performance is then doubled when you can share that experience with someone you love." Get the full lineup for the season and purchase tickets at vilarpac.org, or call 970-845-8497. Wine class and adventure If you're not skiing, or you're looking for an early-afternoon activity, then Root & Flower in Vail Village has wine and spirit classes every Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Class themes range from plain and simple, such as how to taste wine, to wine and chocolate or cheese pairings to the spirits of Mexico. "The tasting classes we do are pretty special," said Samantha Biszantz, who co-owns Root & Flower with advanced sommelier Jeremy Campbell. "Each of our sommeliers have a very approachable way of teaching, so anyone from the novice to the expert feel comfortable." See rootandflowervail.com/classes/ for a list of upcoming tastings. Rest a little or shop around before heading up to Adventure Ridge for the evening. The mountaintop fun zone is a catalyst for laughter. "You can enjoy fun for all ages at Adventure Ridge, where you can bike on snow, take a free guided nature snowshoe tour, fly through the forest on the Forest Flyer — an alpine coaster — to ride the Adventure Skyway to tubing paradise," said Maggie Meisinger, senior specialist of communications for Vail Mountain. "The options for fun and entertainment are endless and make for a great date night." Catch a preview of Adventure Ridge activities at vail.com/activities/adventure-ridge.

A FEAST fit for Vail

From "rugged" red wines to not-so-red bloody Marys, Elway's sommelier Jim Lay is going drink crazy this weekend for the inaugural FEAST! culinary festival in Vail. Lay will lead four seminars this weekend: two today and two tomorrow. This morning he'll lead the Summer Sparklers session at Solaris, where he'll discuss sparkling wines while attendees sip different styles and nibble on cheese. "There will be some prosecco, and we're going to have California sparkling wines," he said. "The focus is on inexpensive, lighter styles … Just some nice, easy-going sparkling wines." Then after lunch, he'll lead a session dubbed "Rugged Reds," where attendees get to taste Cabernet and red blends from the West Coast. "These will be good barbecue wines," Lay said. Then on Sunday, Lay turns his attention to spirits, serving up a yellow tomato bloody mary made with Goat vodka from Palisade (the "Contrary Mary") for the morning session and a cucumber jalapeno margarita in the afternoon. Visit this story online for the bloody recipe. But a feast isn't anything without the food, and this weekend isn't all about booze. Vail marketing consultant Adam Sutner describes FEAST! Vail as a culinary offering, catered to high-end tastes. Which is to say there's plenty of yummy food being served, like fondue courtesy of Sonnenalp's executive pastry chef Bernie Oswald. Paul Anders from Sweet Basil will show attendees how to get economical cuts of meat. Here's a look at the full FEAST!: Today • 9-10:30 a.m.: Yoga for a Cause, Gore Creek Promenade, donation requested. Donations benefit Habitat for Humanity of Eagle and Lake Counties and Africa Yoga Project. • 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.: Belay & Brunch, Vail Vitality Center and Terra Bistro; $45 per person with climbing or $30 per person brunch only. • 11 to 11:45 a.m.: Sides, session 1 various Vail locations; $20 per person per event. • 12:30 to 1:15 p.m.: Sides, session 2 Choose from: Desert Fondue, Swiss Chalet, Sonnenalp Hotel —a hands-on tasting with executive pastry chef Bernie Oswald, with personal recipes from decadent chocolate fondue to healthy yogurt based fondue. Includes a drink. Pizza & Craft Beer, Vail Blue Moose​ — Enjoy hand-crafted pizza inspired by local, seasonal ingredients sourced by chef Jay McCarthy. Tasting includes craft beer flights. Make the Most of Your Grill with Rubs, Brines and Marinades, Sweet Basil — This demonstration shows you how to take more economical cuts of meat and improve flavor and texture via the rubs, brines and marinades. Summer Sparklers, Solaris Plaza (only available session 1) — Raise a glass to sunshine in the mountains with wines guaranteed to sparkle Lay hosts the event, showcasing a variety of sparkling wine crafted from different grapes and in different styles, paired with cheeses. Rugged Reds, Solaris Plaza (only available session 2) — Lay has curated an adventurous tasting of wines from rugged wine producing regions. Includes a cheese tasting. • 4 to 6 p.m.: Pins & Pours, Bol. Retro cocktails, bites and bowling. Admission free. Sunday • ​8:30-11:30 a.m.: Trail Mix, Tavern on the Square, Lionshead; $45 per person with hike or $30 per person brunch only. Brunch is from 10 to 11:30 a.m. — Another day of culinary action starts with hike up Vail Mountain. You'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view and a delicious brunch at Tavern on the Square, which includes signature bacon bloody Marys and mimosas. • 9-10:30 a.m.: Casting Clinic, Gore Creek Promenade, presented by Fly Fishing Outfitters; $35 per person ­— A fly fishing clinic with Chef Kelly Liken, other chefs and local professional anglers. Fly rods and food provided.  • ​11-11:45 a.m.: Sides, session 1; $20 per person per event • 12:30-1:15 p.m.: Sides, session 2; $20 per person per event Best in Show, Steak & Bourbon, Vail Chophouse — Chef Jay McCarthy showcases the perfect steak with hand-crafted bourbon from Woodford Reserve. Chill, Wines with Attitude, Solaris Plaza (session 1 only) — Celebrate wines with attitude that stand out in the crowd. Winemaker Kevin Furtado hosts. Farm to Glass, Elway's — Elway's sommelier Jim Lay is committed to sourcing fresh ingredients locally, and introducing inspired specialty cocktails on a weekly basis. He shares his passion for farm to cocktail culture. Barbecue-Friendly Wines, Solaris Plaza​ (session 2 only) — The FEAST! team has talked to the pros and put together top picks for the grill or fire pit. • 6:30 p.m. Vine to Table Dinner, Restaurant Kelly Liken; $125 — Reservations available through http://www.kellyl iken.com/reservations or 970-479-0175. Events are sold a la carte and tickets can be purchased online at http://feastvail.eventbrite.com. Individual event tickets vary in price. Visit http://www.feastvail.com to learn more.

Wine and beer reviews in Eagle County

I have a friend that calls me from time to time as shes staring down a row of wine bottles at her local liquor store. She always wants to know what my latest, greatest under $10 pick is. This, my friend, is it. Land of Fires white hails from the Mendoza region of Argentina, the countrys main growing region. Its a nice, crisp Chenin-Blanc/Chardonnay blend with a sweet, floral aroma. It has that really dry white peach flavor, which is what I really like about it, said Jarrett Osborn of Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards. At under $9 a pop, Osborn called the bottle quite the little surprise. Some Chenin Blancs in America, and the original ones in the Loire Valley, are an off-dry style. Just like Riesling, they can give you sweet flavors, but be bone dry and lovely, he said. I can picture drinking a glass as I eat one of my favorite meals, which really isnt a meal at all: A few slices of good cheese, a handful of grapes, a few apple slices and maybe some almonds. Or you could skip the food part entirely; this wine is great on its own, too. Osborn has some other recommendations. He said to treat it like a Pinot Grigio and serve it alongside light seafood dishes raw oysters or shrimp. It would also go well with cheese fondue both in the fondue and drink it with the fondue. And its cheap enough to do that. Its getting to be fondue time of year, isnt it?Yes, yes it is. This wine is available at Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards.Caramie Schnell, High Life Editor When making a quick stop at the liquor store without a lot of time to remember that perfect Shiraz, its tough to go wrong grabbing a bottle of almost anything Penfolds makes. The South Australian winemaker excels at making reasonably priced (OK, some are downright cheap) bottles that tread the middle ground between overly complex and boring.I was pretty well familiar with Penfolds Shiraz-Cabernet blends reliable bottles in the under-$20 range. But the Bin 2 blend of Shiraz- Mourvdre was something new. Mourvdre is an old grape of Spanish origin thats high tannin, high alcohol. It mixes well with the full-bodied Shiraz for a pretty big red thats got a lot of flavor but not as jammy as some of the other big Aussie reds.The Bin 2 has a fair amount of complexity for a wine in its price class. A dark, ruby red, it has hints of pepper and smoke underneath the top notes of cherry and raspberry. With a nice, full mouth, the Shiraz accounts for much of the body while the Mourvdre provides the acidity to keep things in the medium-bodied range.The wine would go nicely with milder meats like lamb or duck and it wouldnt be out of place alongside a cheese tray. For the price, its hard to beat if youre looking for a bottle thats a little bit more charismatic than the average pour.This wine is available at Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards and Avon Liquors.Alex Miller, Summit Daily Editor With apologies to Monty Python: And now for something completely different. When you think of Oktoberfest beers, you generally think of something with a bit of an amber tinge to it, a little more malt in the mixture and little more body in the glass. But that, apparently, is a gross generalization.We have something very different here in Hofbrau Oktoberfest along with Paulaners festival brew, one of the official beers of Oktoberfest in Munich.This is a relative newcomer to the festival, since it was first served just shy of 200 years ago, after being brewed especially for the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria. The beer apparently caught on, and has been served at Munichs Oktoberfest ever since.This isnt anything like the more common Oktoberfest beers reviewed here the last few weeks. In fact, Hofbrau Oktoberfest is more like a traditional German beer, with a light color light enough that just looking at the glass youd think you were looking at a Budweiser but with a much heartier flavor. If you need a point of comparison, think Becks or St. Pauli Girl, including the hint of skunkiness but in a pleasant way associated with those beers.This would be dandy on a warm fall afternoon accompanied by an oompah band, some big, soft pretzels and the best wurst you can find. It also went down pretty easy following a moderately hectic, daylong trip to Denver recently, quickly washing away the speed-and-headlights jangle. This is the fourth Oktoberfest beer weve had in as many weeks, and this ranks a close second to the traditional Paulaner Oktoberfest.Its like cars: Other makers try to copy BMW and Mercedes, but there are just some things the Germans do better than anyone else. Along with invading Poland, this is one of those things.This beer is available at Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards and Avon Liquors.Scott N. Miller, Daily Staff Writer

Eagle eatery to host wine dinner

EAGLE, Colorado Paradigms restaurant in Eagle will host a five-course dinner Wednesday night featuring newly-released wine from a Colorado vineyard.Jack Rabbit Hill vineyards in Hotchkiss will unveil its 2007 Vintage Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir blend, a wine made from organic grapes.Anna Hanson, co-owner of Jack Rabbit Hill Vineyard and Peak Spirits Distillery will share her approach and practices regarding organic and biodynamic wine making.Tom McMullen, co-owner of Paradigms, said he met Jack Rabbit Hill co-owner Lance Hanson this past summer and was extremely impressed with both his clear understanding of organic and biodynamic wine creation and the amazing flavors of his wines and spirits.Paradigms chef Anthony Kueper said he created the menu by tasting the wines and incorporating Hansons spirits.Rather than overpowering the wines with flavors, Kueper said he sought a subtle balance that highlights the wines complexity.Using smoke to add depth to the scallops so they pair with the red wine is an interesting move, but so is making a taco shell from caramelized Parmesan cheese and serving it with Cap Rock Vodka cured salmon, he said. The spice and the sesame will counter the sweetness in the rose, while the lamb will bring out the earth in the M&N (Meunier and Noir), the fruit will be highlighted by the Cherry Buerre Fondu.Kueper said the wines will complement the other Colorado products the restaurant uses in its daily operations.I love JRH wines not only because they are Colorado and organic, but they are some of the best wines from any small winery in the USA, he said.For more information on Jack Rabbit Hill winery, visit http://jackrabbithill.com. For more information about Paradigms Restaurant, visit http://www.eagleparadigms.com. Cap rock cured ruby trout, parmesan taco, avocado pureePairing: 07 Cox Family Vineyards Sauvignon BlancBeef tenderloin carpaccio, ginger-sambal-sesame sauce, red pepper and cashew emulsionsPairing: Wild Rose 07 Estate RoseCap Rock Gin and Tonic GraniteChai smoked scallop, pomegranate molasses, truffled cauliflower puree, wasabi peasPairing: Barn Red 06 Estate BlendLamb confit, asparagus salad, toasted almonds, goat cheese sauce, cherry buerre fondue, parsnip crispsPairing: 07 M&N Estate Pinot Noir/ Pinot MeunierSake poached pear, bread pudding crouton, gratinated foie gras foam Pairing: Peak Pear BrandyChef Anthony Kueper and his crew What: Wine dinner featuring Jack Rabbit Hill vineyardsWhen: Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.Where: Paradigms Restaurant, 343 Capitol St., EagleCost: $45 per person; the event is limited to 30 peopleMore information: For reservations call 970-328-7990