Beaver Creek’s Food & Wine fest returns Thursday through Sunday
A chat with Top Chef Fabio Viviani
Owner of Cafe Firenze and Firenze Osteria in California, Fabio Viviani is best known for his appearance on Bravo’s “Top Chef” in 2008, earning the “Fan Favorite” title. Other appearances include cooking segments on “Good Morning America,” “The Talk,” “The Chew,” “Ellen,” “Good Day LA” and “Access Hollywood.” His formal training took place in his native Italy and the Mediterranean. Enjoy his multi-course lunch with paired wines at the Snowshoe and Gourmet Lunch on Friday and at Saturday’s Grand Tasting.
Vail Daily: What are you looking forward to at this year’s Beaver Creek Food & Wine Weekend?
Fabio Viviani: The culinary scene has really evolved from few major cities to more remote areas of the country, and the Beaver Creek Food & Wine Festival is the perfect example — you will have one of the most prestigious food and wine festivals in a set-up that also allows you to be (among) the scenery and the activities. Florida beaches and major cities will have to give in to free some room in the future, because these smaller events are a reality. They have the same prestige and quality as the major and bigger events. I’m happy to help create this reality.
VD: What are you expecting for the foodie-focused events you are involved in. And what are you expecting for your collaboration with other chefs?
FV: I’m a very straightforward chef — no fuss, no unnecessary embellishment — but I think that’s what people like about me. I’m a crowd pleaser that does it 50/50 between food and personal relationship. I didn’t reinvent the wheel of Italian food; I just make it spin in a more fun way.
VD: How do you think this year’s Beaver Creek Food & Wine Weekend will stand out from other events?
FV: How many events do you know that will happen while you are able to also have a good time skiing in one of the most prestigious skiing resorts in America? This is truly one of a kind, and the (atmosphere) and surroundings will play a fundamental role in this event.
Good things come in threes, especially when the first two are food and wine.
The third annual Beaver Creek Food & Wine Weekend returns Thursday through Sunday, featuring top visiting and local chefs, interactive cooking demonstrations, wine and spirits seminars and gourmet wine pairing dinners.
Festival attendees can split time between carving powder and swirling cabernet, while chefs will be busy throughout the weekend prepping for events, including the highly anticipated Grand Tasting finale on Saturday night.
“Anytime you work with a different chef, you have an exchange,” said Daniel Joly, executive chef and owner of Mirabelle Restaurant at the base of Beaver Creek. “Someone might do something different than I do, and it’s a true education for everyone when you mingle with a bunch of talent in the same room like that.”
Joly described the festival weekend as a learning process — a time to pick up new techniques and cultivate culinary relationships.
“The reward is that melting pot,” Joly said. “It’s an excuse to get everybody together and create that good energy, to have a drink and chit chat about everything and nothing.”
Best chefs of the West and beyond
This year’s visiting chef talent includes Gavin Kaysen, Tim Love, Alex Seidel, Naomi Pomeroy and Fabio Viviani, along with notable mixologist Alex Ott. The kickoff event on Thursday will give guests a chance to meet and mingle with visiting and local chefs at the Meet the Chefs Reception from 6 to 9 p.m.
Beaver Creek chefs and restaurants will host events with the visiting chefs, including at the Snowshoe and Gourmet Lunch on Friday, with “Top Chef” contestant Viviani and Grouse Mountain Grill’s Executive Chef David Gutowski. Lunch and Learn — Beer Pairing Edition will be at Mirabelle also on Friday, with Food & Wine Best New Chef Naomi Pomeroy and Joly, who is a Stella Artois brand ambassador.
“Stella is big about trying to educate people about beer,” Joly said. “In Belgium, we look at beer very much the same way as French people look at wine — where there’s a tradition behind the wine — the same as in Belgium with beer.”
Returning guest chef and Texas grill master Tim Love and Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Executive Chef Christian Apetz will continue the Friday fun with a Rocky Mountain luau Apres-Tiki party at the base of the mountain from 3 to 6 p.m.
“This is a new one that Food & Wine came up with this year,” Apetz said. “There will be fire throwers and a luau dancer, and Tom Love and I will be cooking on the back of McCoy’s on the deck.”
“One of the best parts of coming to Beaver Creek is working with the local chefs,” Love said. “They are so talented and probably the friendliest and most accommodating crews of chefs I work with the entire year. So, I look forward to not only making great food but hopefully some sick tracks on the mountain as well.”
Love will roast a whole pig and a whole lamb, with accompaniments and sides to go along. “I love roasting whole animals,” Love said.
Attendees will nosh on ham sandwiches with candied pineapple, as well as huli huli chicken wings and chicken feet.
“My team and I are trying to get in some kind of large Hawaiian fish to go along with the theme,” Apetz said. “Like a hammerhead, mako, giant swordfish or sail fish. I will be butchering it out there and grilling it over an open fire as well.”
McCoy’s is known for its lively afternoon apres crowd, and Apetz said the event will highlight good food and culinary camaraderie.
“It’s always fun to cook with Tim Love — he is just a fun guy to be around,” Apetz said. “We speak the same language, with my love of the South and his love of barbecue.”
Spotlight on Beaver Creek
Friday evening multi-course events include dinner at Allie’s Cabin with executive chef Kirk Weems and guest chef Gavin Kaysen. At Splendido at the Chateau, executive chef-owner David Walford teams up with guest chef Alex Seidel, of Denver.
All taste buds turn toward Saturday’s Grand Tasting event, but not before the Eat. Ski. Eat. gourmet lunch designed by guest chef Kaysen, and Apres-Ski Burgers, Beer & Bourbon in the Beaver Creek Plaza, hosted by some of the best grill chefs in Beaver Creek.
“This year, I think the festival has really taken hold and the word is out there,” Apetz said. “Year after year, you can’t just rewind the tape and push play; you have to come up with new and fun and creative events, otherwise you lose traction.”
Joly said the festival definitely keeps improving with its diversity in talent and variety of events.
“I think for us, it’s about showcasing what we do,” Joly said. “And getting more of a spotlight on what the Beaver Creek restaurant scene is about.”
Individual event ticket prices for the event range from $40 for apres-ski and seminar events to the exclusive Allie’s Cabin dinner for $200, which includes a multi-course meal prepared by top culinary talent and paired with exquisite wines.
For complete details and information about the Beaver Creek Food & Wine Weekend, visit http://www.beaver creek.com/foodandwine.