Eagle County chefs’ favorite Web sites
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” A sense of awe settles over the kitchen when you dust off an old cookbook. You pore over every word, like how the witches from the TV show “Charmed” gush over “The Book of Shadows,” except you’re wearing a whole shirt.
For many local cooks, Googling a recipe lacks the mystique of sliding a bookmark between the pages of cheesecake instructions or unfolding the brownie-baking guide grandma wrote. Let’s face it, though: the Internet is a darn useful tool.
Just ask Kelly Liken, executive chef of Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail. “When it comes to cooking, I’m sort of old fashioned and I read cookbooks and I use paper books,” she said. The Internet comes in handy “for research in terms of where I should eat or what other people are doing.”
Recently, Liken turned to the online encyclopedia “Wikipedia” to research a red mullet fish from the Mediterranean. Likewise, she swung by the Rocky Mountain Growers directory at http://www.localsustainability.net to find organic eggs from a farm in Broomfield.
If factual information bores you, the Internet teems with food gossip. Foodies visit the comment board on http://www.chowhound.com to heap praise and hurl insults at Vail Valley restaurants.
For example, one anonymous poster plugs Sweet Basil in Vail with the remark “Everything was excellent, as expected. If you haven’t eaten at Sweet Basil, do so,” while another disses the soup. “Sweet Basil remains a mystery to me,” the nameless critic wrote last month. “The place was packed, but the food was entirely average. I had something they call ‘deconstructed onion soup’, but one might also have called it ‘cheese sauce with a few onions.'”
Although some posts equate mindless venting, local chefs take others to heart. Pollyanna Forster, co-owner of Dish Restaurant Edwards, said she recently acted on a writer’s suggestion to offer entree-sized meals along with small plates.
Along with monitoring gossip, chefs spy on their food idols. What’s celebrity chef Mario Batali up to this week? Both Forster and Michael Glennon, owner of Vista at Arrowhead in Edwards, log on often to find out.
For the most part, local chefs say the Internet has a positive effect on cooking. Chefs explore food trends in other parts of the country with the click of a mouse. The downside: Creativity can suffer. With everybody surfing the same Web sites, that can mean a restaurant in San Francisco serves the same lamb shank as a restaurant in Vail, Glennon said.
“I don’t think it’s wrecking it, though,” he said. “It’s just making chefs think more instead of doing the same old thing.”
Here’s a look at a few Web sites local foodies visit:
– http://www.foodnetwork.com: Because you can’t get enough of Rachael Ray’s perky food advice, this staple cooking site corrals recipes from celebrity chefs on the Food Network. Why do locals love it? Glennon likes to type “salmon” or “swordfish” in the search engine, then use the resulting recipes for inspiration. Eagle-Vail resident Margaret Barry hunts down recipes from her favorite TV shows.
– http://www.winelibrary.com: Wine commentary meets comedy. New Jersey wine guru Gary Vaynerchuk serves up wine critique videos worthy of “Saturday Night Live,” Forster says. She uses the Web site to research new wines for the restaurants.
– http://www.chowhound.com: Local chefs click on the “Southwest” icon to read gossip about Vail Valley restaurants. Customers use the comment board to seek out restaurant suggestions and post reviews. A variety of recipes, blogs and videos also populate the site.
– http://www.mariobatali.com: This Web site gives the scoop on all things Mario Batali, from the celebrity chef’s restaurant empire to his cookbooks, including “Simple Italian Food” and “Mario Tailgates NASCAR.” Forster likes to scope out the ever-changing menu at Casa Mono, a small plates restaurant in New York, for inspiration on dishes.
– http://www.americastestkitchen.com: Words of wisdom from chefs who experiment with recipes in a Boston area test kitchen. Chefs test each recipe 30 to 70 times and report on the variations. Liken visits this site for tips on basic recipes like pie crusts or roasted chicken.
– http://www.localsustainability.net: Local chefs surf the Rocky Mountain Growers Directory to find locally-grown ingredients from farmers and ranchers. Liken uses the site to research seasonal products and find out who plans to attend which farmer’s markets.
– http://culinary-colorado.blogspot.com: Musings on Vail Valley restaurants from the perspective of a travel writer. Claire Walter, Boulder resident and author of the book “Culinary Colorado” has been keeping this blog since October 2006. She chronicles her monthly trips to Vail Valley eateries with food photographs, descriptions and news tidbits. The site details restaurants and events across the state.
High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or email@example.com.