‘A marvelous couple of hours’ atop Vail | VailDaily.com

‘A marvelous couple of hours’ atop Vail

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
CVR TOV mtn picnic KA 4-8-11

VAIL, Colorado – Not even wind gusts as high as 50 miles per hour could keep the foodies away from the Taste of Vail’s popular Mountain Top Picnic.

Friday afternoon’s event is one of the most iconic events of the 21-year-old festival. Hundreds flock to the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola to the event venue, an arena with walls made out of snow and ice that is perched atop Vail Mountain at 10,350 feet. Views of the Gore Range set the scene as guests walk from vendor to vendor to taste local chefs’ creations.

This year’s event seemed smaller to many guests in terms of food vendors, yet larger in terms of alcohol vendors. From Hennessy to Belvedere vodka to Grand Marnier – all being taken as shots out of glasses made of ice – to wine vendors representing wine regions from around the world, there was plenty to drink at the picnic this year.

That’s not to say the food wasn’t a main star of the event, though. Meat, specifically, was a big star this year as nearly every vendor served up some kind of it.

There was elk, turkey, pork loin, pork belly, bacon, sausage, beef tongue and ribs. If there were any vegetarians at the event, they were probably forced to drink wine most of the afternoon as just about every dish was made for carnivores.

But whether you like meat or veggies, red wine or white wine, the Mountain Top Picnic is about more than consumption – it’s an event that celebrates the true adoration people have for all things food and wine.

TJ Armstrong, a founding member of Taste of Vail’s board of directors, said the festive event is the quintessential Colorado picnic.

“What more could you want,” Armstrong said. “It’s windy, but we’ve got enough snow to protect us from the wind a little bit. What a marvelous couple of hours.”

As Armstrong looked around at the hundreds of smiling faces Friday afternoon, it reminded him of why the event is such a success every year.

“I think the beer, wine and food are the condiments to the good time,” Armstrong said.

At least one attendee, Kelly Riddell, couldn’t agree more. She said that even with wind gusts crashing in and making things a bit colder, there was nothing to complain about at Mountain Top.

“It’s just a fun event,” she said.

What’s also fun about it is there are no rules. You can show up in super motivated foodie mode, bouncing around from tent to tent with the goal of tasting every morsel available, or you can grab a snack from time to time while you bounce around tasting wine.

Want to grab three or four things at a time and find a seat at a picnic table? You can do that, too.

Want to get a sneak preview of one of the Taste of Vail’s many intimate seminars? Go right ahead.

That’s what Paul Mugnier, of Dow’s Port, was offering Friday afternoon out by a picnic table. Just hours before his Taste of Vail seminar on port and cheese at Sapphire, he was pouring ports for one couple at the picnic as if they were in a private tasting room and not surrounded by hundreds of foodies at the top of a ski resort.

He paired Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.’s blue cheese with several glasses of port for the couple, who didn’t seem all that concerned about eating anything – they were there to taste wine.

Vail second-home owners Butch and Cindy Tennison sat at a nearby picnic table taking it all in. They had never been to the picnic before and were happy they went.

“It’s just a cool atmosphere. I love the (snow) wall,” Cindy Tennison said. “Everyone seems to be having a great time.”

The Tennisons liked the pork and pork belly sandwich from Seven One Five the most out of the food they tasted, and Butch Tennison also liked the fact that the money from the event was going to charity.

“I like that a lot,” he said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.

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