A grand ending: Taste of Vail ends on a savory note | VailDaily.com

A grand ending: Taste of Vail ends on a savory note

Sweet Basil’s dark chocolate covered cherry lollipop came with a cherry sorbet inside.
Kimberly Nicoletti/Special to the Daily

Taste of Vail ended another year of culinary delights and extraordinary wine at its Grand Tasting on Saturday night at the Hythe.

Wine was literally front and center at the Grand Tasting. Guests milled about, weaving through short lines and friends gathering in aisles to chat, which made the event feel more cramped than Friday’s open-air Mountaintop Tasting, in which wine and food tents were separated by places to sit and savor. However, several round tables in the Hythe’s adjacent room (and some floor space) offered a bit of refuge, and the food and drinks outshined it all.

As usual, the wines were wonderful, and the food offered a range of flavors to please the palate.

One of the standout dishes, by both my estimation and guests who commented that it was their favorite, came from Bits and Pieces Con Cerveza in Denver: Beer-braised short ribs with mashed potatoes underneath delivered a soft protein, soaked in Modelo beer for 16 hours and paired with a dried chili demi glaze and creamy mashed potatoes.

Right next to it, Icú Cuchina de Mexico partnered with Puerto Vallarta tourism to showcase its fine Mexican cuisine and preview the Festival Gourmet International scheduled in Puerto Vallarta Nov. 9-19, 2023. Icú’s hearty New York Strip with mole negro represented its region proudly through Chef Mauricio Leal.

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And, just to the right, Mau Cucina de Alma complemented the lineup with a delicately spiced braised lamb quesadilla.

The tasting offered everything from lobster rolls on the softest, tastiest rolls from Mountain Fish House & Oyster Bar in Edwards to more casual BLT pizza slices from Blue Moose, which provided a crisp, refreshing alternative to more fancy food, complete with plenty of bacon bits. Likewise, Hythe’s Revel Lounge offered a different take on mashed potatoes with its deep-fried version, topped with cheese and aioli.

Chefs Kevin Chu and Tach Tran served up tasty New York strip with a black pepper sauce and refreshing green papaya salad from Denver’s Avanti F&B (which happens to combine a Chinese restaurant with ping pong tables in the back).

Wildwood Smokehouse’s smoked salmon with lemon goat cheese and Juniper Restaurant’s poke, accompanied by microgreens grown in Eagle County, extravagantly highlighted the seafood side of things.

While some guests commented that Elevation Foodservice Rep’s caramel espresso tortes “win best dessert hands down” with its coffee-and-rich-caramel bites, the most creatively visually pleasing dessert came from Dang Sweets. Its cherry confit, whipped cherry ganache, dark chocolate mousse, chocolate sponge and sable cookie formed the shape of gorgeous apples. Dang Sweets hopes to open a shop in Avon this summer, so keep your sweet tooth attuned.

Dang Sweets had the most visually pleasing dessert of the evening.
Kimberly Nicoletti/Special to the Daily

And, speaking of cherry, Sweet Basil’s dark chocolate-covered wrapped cherry lollipop came with a surprise, in the form of cherry sorbet inside, so a plate or napkin was a must (though I did see one man, apparently a seasoned expert, navigate it successfully without such safety measures).

When some food stations, such as Icú and Bits and Pieces, ran out of samples around 7 p.m., The Grazing Fox came through with fabulous cheese and charcuterie boards, not just supplying their own table, but also the bare tables. It was the perfect way to end the evening, while still sampling ample reds, whites and roses from throughout the nation. While there were more than enough spectacular wines, Stag’s Leap limited edition reserve cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley delivered a soft, elegant red, without overwhelming the palate. And, tequilas and botanical vodkas covered the hard-liquor side, while Liquid Death offered canned hydration.

As vendors started running out of samples, The Grazing Fox kept the fabulous cheese and charcuterie boards coming.
Kimberly Nicoletti/Special to the Daily

After a great four days of tastings, workshops and more, we all look forward to 2024’s culinary delights. Until then: Cheers!

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