Are there too many cooks in the kitchen?
VAIL – It’s been my experience that wine auctions are pretty dull at times. But on Friday night at a Taste of Vail Chef’s Showcase dinner, the beautiful Italian winemaker from Castello delle Regine grabbed the mic to personally tell the crowd why she loves her 2001 Estate Old Vine Sangiovese. People had already bid $425 and going for the 3-liter bottle, but when the winemaker added a four-night stay in Italy at her winery, the room was buzzing, and suddenly we had a paddle war.That bottle of vino went for $950, and it’s part of the funds Taste of Vail will donate to Vail Valley charities. The auction, even with its noble cause, still took a back seat to the food, which was the real star. Five chefs prepared five courses, all paired with wines from participating wineries, and it’s easy to imagine the friendly competition in the kitchen. Celebrity chef Lee Hefter from Spago, Beverly Hills, won my vote as best dish. He slow braised Japanese Kobe beef shortribs with Indian spices and served it with eggplant-lentil masala and Bengali tomato chutney. Long before the dish arrived at our table, the spices drifting through the dining room had our mouths watering.The most unusual dish came from Jay McCarthy of the Beaver Creek Chophouse, the host restaurant. He made hickory-smoked Olathe sweet corn and Maine lobster flan. The smokiness was even more acute when paired with passion-fruit-flavored 2004 Treana wine.Charles Hays of Toscanini prepared Colorado lamb loin with butternut squash puree, mint lamb sauce and fava beans. Steve Topple of Beano’s Cabin cooked halibut with a tomato-crusted top and served it over a cassoulet of white beans. For dessert, white-chocolate brioche and a pistachio-ice-cream sandwich made by Josh Mendel of Terra Bistro was gobbled up. It was truly a fulfilling evening.