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Island vibes at Blues, Brews and BBQ

Nearly two dozen restaurants will be cooking, smoking and marinating up something delicious for the 16th annual Blues, Brews and BBQ event at Beaver Creek this weekend.

Known as Beaver Creek’s signature Memorial Day weekend event that kicks off the summer season, Blues, Brews and BBQ brings together great eats, suds and tunes. In addition to the beer garden set up each day of the event, don’t forget about the Colorado Craft Brew Festival on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m., which is a ticketed event that gives you access to sample handcrafted beers from 30 Colorado breweries.

The musical line up this year includes Larkin Poe, a duo of two sisters, Megan and Rebecca Lovell, who are descendants of 19th-century American writer, Edgar Allen Poe. Also appearing will be Los Lobos, whose musical sounds span from rock, Tex-Mex, blues and traditional Spanish and Mexican influences.

Each year, Beaver Creek invites barbecue chefs and restaurants from Beaver Creek and beyond to dazzle the taste buds of event goers. Each restaurant is trying to earn the coveted People’s Choice award.

We caught up with Riley Romanin, executive chef and owner of Hooked Seafood, Sushi and Market to see which culinary direction he was going. “This year we are following our outdoor tiki bar theme and preparing some Caribbean-influenced barbecue,” Romanin said.

Romanin starts with wild Mexican white shrimp soaked overnight in locally sourced One Love Jamaican jerk marinade and then slow smokes it in the Big Green Egg, which is also the preferred method of cooking, smoking and grilling used in the annual Backyard BBQ Competition on Friday. In addition to the Jamaican jerk shrimp, Hooked will also have that same Jamaican jerk marinade on chicken wings at its booth throughout the weekend.  

At Romanin’s other restaurant, Revolution, his team will be preparing numerous items featuring Berkshire Duroc pigs from their partners at Mountain View Farms located in Meeker, CO. “We’ll have barbecue pork ribs, Hauxenbauer, which is a German barbecue rotisserie special of smoked pork hocks,” Romanin said.  

Revolution will also serve smoked bone-in headcheese with all the accouterments for those who want to be adventurous.

“We like being the first to do things. Sometimes our ideas might shock the guests because we are using interesting and creative new ways to deliver our delicious flavors that haven’t been seen or tasted before,” Romanin said. Case in point, Romanin came up with the Crimpster, a crab, shrimp and lobster combo which is a de-shelled lobster tail stuffed with shrimp that is stuffed with a snow crab leg that is wrapped in bacon. Delicious.

For the full schedule of the Blues Brews and BBQ event at Beaver Creek, visit www.beavercreek.com.

Chow down on Italian galore at Toscanini

Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from EAT magazine, featuring the best restaurants in the valley. EAT is available on magazine racks and in hotel lobbies for free.

With snow slightly falling, skaters of all sizes swirl around the ice rink at Beaver Creek; fire pits are silently dancing and almost every seat rink-side is occupied. If Currier & Ives were making a comeback, they’d start here to capture the lively warmth of togetherness. But even the most closely knit groups must heed the inevitable stomach grumble after a day at play. Fortunately, the cordiality continues at Toscanini with several different opportunities to enjoy la dolce vita.

For those who aren’t quite ready to land (and want a few more turns ‘round the rink), start with an aperitif or cocktail from Toscanini’s umbrella bar. Open from 3-9 p.m. when the weather cooperates, this convenient outpost serves wine, beer and hot beverages (both spiked and saintly). Sip and savor until the thought of a dish of comfort becomes too much to bear — then move inside.

If you play your cards right, you won’t need to abandon your people-watching: The tableau outside might be viewable from your table. After you’re seated, so begins the oh-so-onerous-yet-enjoyable task of narrowing down options. Take a tour of “the boot” with the wine list, which is entirely comprised of Italian wines. For those who are less confident choosing between a Nero d’Avola and a Nebbiolo, Toscanini’s full-time sommelier can help you navigate the more than 200 different wines.

The menu makes it equally difficult to choose: Do you start with calamari or carpaccio? Caesar or carciofo? Everything sounds amazing, so there’s only one options: Order several and share. Italian comfort classics, like the osso bucco, a fall-off-the-bone braised pork shank with baby carrots and whipped potatoes, or the lasagna just like Nonna wished she could make, are perfect for warming up from inside. Toscanini is dedicated to providing comforting Italian favorites for everyone — even those who are sensitive to gluten. There’s no need to pass on pasta or pizza here: Gluten-free penne pasta, made from GMO-free corn flour imported from Italy is available to create dinner options for vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores. A classic Margherita pizza, as well as pies with more modern options like fig with prosciutto and goat cheese, can be served on a gluten-free crust.

Guaranteeing that guests enjoy each bite is Chef John Zavoral’s goal with each dish. “Seeing the look of enjoyment on people’s faces when they taste our food and the pleasure they express following the meal is what inspires me,” says Chef Zavoral. “We strive to ensure they feel that way about every dish on the menu.”

If dessert seems an unattainable addition, take a few turns on the ice rink to make some space then return for a piece of tiramisu or torta, a warm, dark chocolate molten cake with caramel corn for crunch and salted caramel gelato for just a hint of savory with the sweet. It’s the perfect end to a print-perfect day in the snow.