Keeping Vail Valley springtime soirees simple |

Keeping Vail Valley springtime soirees simple

Sue BarhamVail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyAn artisan cheeseboard will be a hit with guests at spring parties in the Vail Valley

VAIL, Colorado Springtime in Colorado’s Vail Valley lends itself to lots of parties graduations, bridal and baby showers, Mothers Day and Fathers Day, engagements and dozens of other get togethers with friends and family. You can give parties a personal touch when entertaining in the comfort of your own home. Your personality can shine through the food, drink and decor you choose. Casual or formal, or somewhere in between, you decide, and your guests will follow your lead. If you are new to entertaining, start with something casual, maybe a backyard barbecue, gardeners brunch, baby shower luncheon, or drinks and snacks after a golf game. The key to any gathering is planning. Here are a few tips to get you started:What food would you like to serve? Keep it simple, said Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef of Restaurant Avondale. Plan a menu that can be made ahead of time, so you can enjoy your party without being trapped in the kitchen. If your guests will be standing up while they eat, plan finger foods, skewers or items that only need a fork. Where will your guests gather? If outside, do you have a back up location available for uncooperative weather? Will you serve food buffet-style or is it a sit-down meal? Let your space be your guide, and make sure you have enough room for all your guests. Whos on your guest list? Have you included people who have similar interests? Are there a few social butterflies you can count on to help people mingle? One fool-proof way to get your guests interacting is to ask them to help out. They will usually offer, so take them up on it. Guests can carry dishes to the buffet, pass a tray of hors doeuvres, pour wine, restock ice and bar supplies.Do you have adequate serving equipment? Would disposable plates, glasses and utensils be appropriate? There are many options for attractive disposables. Or go green and rent the supplies you need from a rental service. Youll spend a bit more, but these services offer the handy benefit of taking the items away to wash, thereby saving you time and energy in cleanup.What will you serve for beverages? A full bar is certainly not necessary, said Brian Harker, bar manager at Restaurant Avondale. Beer and wine along with soft drinks and sparkling water will be welcome by almost everyone. For a festive touch mix up pitchers of one special cocktail or a non-alcoholic punch.

Grilled beef tenderloin sandwiches6 pounds trimmed beef tenderloin1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced2 Tb. coarsely cracked black pepper1 Tb. fresh thyme, chopped2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped2 tsp. kosher saltCombine olive oil and seasonings and rub all over tenderloin. Let marinate in refrigerator for two to four hours. Light a grill and heat to high. Place tenderloin on the grill and cook, turning often until charred, about 30 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Slice thin and arrange on a platter. Garnish with rosemary springs and cherry tomatoes. Serve with crusty dinner rolls and an assortment of mustards, aioli and horseradish cream. (Can be made one day ahead. Slice and refrigerate, serve cold.) Caesar salad spearsDressing:16 anchovies 2 garlic clove4 Tb. red wine vinegar2 tsp. Dijon mustard2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oilSalt and freshly ground pepperPlace first 6 ingredients in a small processor and whirl to a smooth consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.Salad spears:3 large heads romaine, washed and dried1 cup homemade croutons1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheeseCarefully select 20 inner romaine spears that will hold individual salads and set aside. Tear the remaining romaine into bite size pieces. Toss with parmesan and enough dressing to lightly bind. Season with freshly cracked pepper. Fill the spears with dressed salad. Top each individual Caesar with croutons.Grilled marinated vegetables2/3 cup balsamic vinegar1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil4 red peppers, halved and seeded4 green peppers, halved and seeded4 yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise4 zucchini, halved lengthwise4 red onions, cut into slices, hold the rounds together with toothpicks1 pound asparagus, trimmedCombine the oil and vinegar. Place the prepared vegetables in a large bowl and toss with marinade. Let sit for one hour. Light a grill. Working in batches, grill the veggies till tender. Season with salt and pepper. Cut veggies into bite size pieces and arrange on a serving dish. (Can be made one day ahead. Refrigerate and bring to room temperature to serve.)Artisan cheeseboardIndulge in a trip to the cheese shop and select a number of different types mellow or strong, soft or firm, cows milk, sheep or goat. Place your selections on a large serving platter.Add complements to the platter: dried cranberries, golden raisins, almonds, fruit preserves of any flavor honeyseveral small knivesPlace a basket of assorted crackers next to your display.Strawberry shortcakes4 pounds fresh strawberries, washed and halved1/2 – 1 cup superfine sugar1/4 cup Grand Marnier, Kirsch, or other fruit liqueur (optional)2 cups heavy cream1 teaspoon vanillaToss strawberries with enough sugar to balance tartness. Add liqueur if desired. Allow to marinate at least one hour. Place in a serving bowl. Whip cream with vanilla right before serving, and place in another serving bowl.2 cups all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 4 tablespoons butter, cold, diced into small cubes 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold 2/3 -3/4 cup buttermilkPreheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray baking sheets lightly with vegetable spray. Using a food processor, pulse together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, until blended well. Add butter and shortening a little at a time, pulsing on and off after each addition, about 10 times. Mixture should look like fine crumbs. Transfer to a large bowl. Pour in buttermilk a little at a time and mix with clean hands or wooden spoon. Knead only enough to moisten all dry ingredients. (Do not work the dough too much as this will make for tough buttermilk biscuits.) Turn out onto large work-surface. Pat down into a square and with a rolling pin, roll approximately 3/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter (or shaped cookie cutter), cut into the dough, and place the pieces on the prepared baking sheets, leaving a little room to spread. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until nicely risen and light golden brown. Transfer to cooling racks. Makes 10 large shortcakes, or more smaller ones. Split in half across the diameter and place in a basket next to dish of marinated strawberries and bowl of whipped cream for guests to assemble their own dessert.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale and Larkspur Restaurant. Avondale recently opened in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The restaurant features a West Coast inspired, seasonal menu and the chefs use time-honored cooking methods, such as slow roasting and braising, to create simple dishes rich in flavor. The wine program focuses on small production wines to compliment the straightforward cuisine. For more information visit

Support Local Journalism