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Focus on food and wine

Cassie Pence
Special to the Daily/Vail ResortsDavid and Ken Franke prepare dishes for the Grand Tasting.
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BEAVER CREEK – The food industry is a lot like the fashion industry. It’s constantly in a state of change. Like designers, chefs move on and off the A-list. Ingredients are as trendy as a pair of short-pants and can go out of style just as quickly. Remember when you couldn’t find an entree without wasabi? And everyone involved, the chefs, the restaurant managers and critics, are all watching and listening for the next hot thing (which I hear is tropical flavors.)The Bon Appetit Culinary and Wine Focus, which begins in Beaver Creek today, is a perfect opportunity for foodies to catch up on what’s in-style. The event, which was once called the Beaver Creek Culinary Classic, is now a signature Bon Appetit Culinary and Wine Focus event. It’s part of a culinary series of events to come to Beaver Creek. There will be a wine and spirits series in March. “By making this a signature Focus weekend in 2007, we’re able to extend the Bon brand and create the luxury of experience with our editors, readers, vintners, spirits producers, and the worlds most celebrated chefs,” Amy Foster of Bon Appetit magazine said.It’s a three-day food and wine extravaganza featuring more than a dozen celebrity guest chefs, seminars, cooking classes, dinners and a luncheon snowshoe. The star chefs go toe to toe in some friendly cooking competitions, like the Master Chef Challenge tonight at the Vilar Center, and they will also test their skills on skis at the Celebrity Chef Ski Race on Saturday. Our local chefs are in on the action, hosting the star chefs in their kitchens and cooking right along side of them for the Grand Tasting on Friday, the event’s biggest tasting, and they will also compete in the chef challenge and ski race. It’s all part of the effort to stay on top of the ever-changing epicurean world.”Good chefs travel a lot to see what’s going on in the restaurant scene. It’s even better when they come to you,” said David Walford, executive chef at Spendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek.Walford will cook with guest chef Laurent Tourondel of BLT Steak, BLT Fish and BLT Prime in New York, who Walford described as “one of the chefs of the moment.” They will both teach cooking classes on Friday at Splendido, and Walford added he feels honored to cook with chefs of this calibur.”These guys are hugely successful in New York, LA or San Francisco or Chicago, where there is a lot more had to be gotten,” Walford said. “When you succeed there, you are hugely successful.”On the flip side, Walford, who has participated in this event for many years, said he thinks the guest chefs are always pleasantly surprised by the fine cooking happening in Beaver Creek. Fellow local chef Ted Schneider of Grouse Mountain Grill hopes that’s the case.”The more exposure to different cuisine, to different chef styles the better,” Schneider said. “Even the chefs that are coming into this event, we hope that they would learn on a daily basis and pick up tricks along the way.”Schneider is cooking with Richard Sandoval of Modern Mexican Restaurants for Friday’s Snowshoe Excursion and Luncheon, a new event that pairs a hike along Daybreak Ridge with a lunch. One of the dishes he will serve is seared diver scallops on a bed of winter squash and pork belly hash with Palisade apple butter reduction. Schneider will also test his culinary chops against Steven Topple of Beano’s Cabin at the Master Chef Challenge. Chefs are given mystery ingredients and asked to whip up culinary delights in a timed format.”I’m going to dig deep in my culinary background and make the judges go ‘wow’ when they eat and see the food,” Schneider said.Owner and chef Jimmy Bradley of The Harrison and The Red Cat in New York said he absolutely learns from our local chefs and any other chef for that matter. Bradley said he seeks out new techniques, different flavor combinations and new outlets to source food.”Cooking is an ever-evolving form of self expression,” Bradley said. “No matter where you go, you learn about food and people.”The biggest night to shine during the Focus is at the Grand Tasting on Friday, where attendees nosh their way through local and guest chef creations, while talking with the stars one on one, who will serve their own food. This is where all the latest food trends emerge.”The West Coast trends tend to consistently lead the path in seasonal, local ingredient driven menus,” said guest chef Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake in San Francisco. “However, I like to use my pastry background to play around a bit in crossing over the savory and the sweet and tend to have elements of surprise in whatever I make.”At the Grand Tasting, Falkner will serve a not-too-sweet dessert called Spanish Quincition featuring quince cream gel with manchego-pimenton crunchy bits and a burst of sherry gastrique. Falkner is a repeat guest chef at the Culinary and Wine Focus. She said she loves events like this because it showcases so much culinary talent in one place.”It’s a great way to see what people cook regionally, what the trends are in places like Colorado,” she said. “I think chefs are great spirited, great sportsman like competitive people, and I think everyone wants to make something that is delicious and loved.”Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 748-2938, or cpence@vaildaily.com.


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