New festival brings a 1920s-vibe to Lionshead Village Saturday
If you go ...
What: Top Shelf Harvest Festival.
When: 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Lionshead Village.
Cost: $25 general, $75 VIP.
More information: Visit http://www.topshelfharvestvail.com/Tickets/tabid/94/Default.aspx.
Restaurant + Distiller
The following restaurants and distilleries are paired for the event:
• Terra Bistro with Stranahan’s (Denver)
• Larkspur with 808 Distillery (Eagle)
• Vail Chophouse with Woody Creek Distillers (Basalt)
• Tavern on the Square with Breckenridge Distillery (Breckenridge)
• Blue Moose with 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits (Vail)
• Mountain Cupcake with Golden Moon Distillery (Golden)
• Moe’s Original BBQ with KJ Wood Distillery (Berthoud)
• Tavern on the Gore and Overland Distillery (Loveland)
• Big Bear Bistro with Woods High Mountain Distillery (Salida)
VAIL — This Saturday, Lionshead Village will morph into a gourmet, libation-filled experience from nearly a century ago. Picture a roaring 1920s speakeasy — complete with flappers, the Charleston and raucous jazz music. That’s the theme of the inaugural Top Shelf Harvest Festival taking place Saturday.
Event organizers will wear bolero hats and suspenders or flapper-girl-themed attire, complete with rhinestone headbands, and they’re encouraging attendees to get into the spirit of the event by coming in costume. Three roving musicians — the Greg Todd Toppers, of Denver — wielding a cello, jazz guitar and stand-up bass will perform jazz tunes during the event. During set breaks, Vail Valley Theatre Company performers will give a sneak peek at numbers from their fall production of “Chicago.”
The event kicks off Vail Beaver Creek Restaurant Week — taking place Friday through Oct. 5 — and pairs cuisine from nine Vail restaurants with classic and innovative craft cocktails made with spirits from Colorado distilleries.
“We wanted to put a spin on the gourmet-tasting-only or brewery-only events, which are already saturated in the area,” said Clare Hefferren, head of marketing for the event. “It’s a merging of several current trends. (It’s a) merging of the craft environment and the high-end tasting cuisine that Vail is already known for.”
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EXPECT UNEXPECTED TWISTS
Top Shelf Harvest Festival organizers wanted to provide locals with a place to experience their hometown in an unexpected way.
“We are trying to blend something familiar with something unfamiliar,” said Laurie Asmussen, an event producer with Eagle Valley Events and one of the event organizers.
The familiarity of restaurant week draws in the community with its discounts at high-end and well-known restaurants; whereas a boisterous 1920s-styled craft cocktail and food event provides something new.
The idea, according to Hefferren, is for people to attend the Top Shelf Harvest, find a restaurant they like and try out its $20.14 special that evening for dinner — eight of the nine restaurants taking part are also taking part in Restaurant Week — and then finish the evening out at Samana Lounge on Saturday evening, which will continue the speakeasy theme with prohibition-style cocktails, jazz music and a costume contest. The event starts at 9:30 p.m., and the cover is $10. Vail Valley Theatre Company cast members will be at the event, which is a fundraiser for the company.
TASTING AND SIPPING
Distillery owners, restaurant chefs and local bartenders have been working together to create unique specialty cocktails and cuisine with fall flavor profiles that complement each other. You won’t find run of the mill gin and tonics, instead expect interesting spirits — like limoncello, absinthe and more — paired with unexpected ingredients, like beets and fresh herbs including mint and thyme.
Eagle’s 808 Distillery will serve its signature Leo’s Limoncello liqueur at the festival.
“The good thing about limoncello is you can mix it with any other spirit to make a cocktail and it’s very versatile,” said Jeff “Leo” Leonardo, one of the men behind 808 Distillery.
808 Distillery will mix up a limoncello cocktail, dubbed the 808 Elixir, made with gin and muddled cherry, which will be paired with a Meyer lemon doughnut made by Larkspur chefs.
Overland Distillery in Loveland is bringing its Trinity Absinthe Superieure to town, an artisan spirit made from a “Holy Trinity” of homegrown herbs: grande wormwood, anise and fennel. The spirit has won a handful of awards, including gold at the 2013 Denver International Spirits Competition. They’ll serve up the refreshing Trinity Absinthe Smash at the event: their absinthe, which has hints of citrus and spice, combined with lemon juice, simple syrup, fresh mint and ice.
Blue Moose is making and autumn pizza with crimini mushrooms, parsley, parmesan, garlic, truffle oil, olive oil and goat cheese, which will be paired with a cocktail from 10th Mountain Whiskey.
Tavern on the Square chefs are making quail egg and pork belly with cheese grits, which will be paired with “Beet This” cocktails — Breckenridge vodka, beet reduction, pink grapefruit juice and lime zest — created by Breckenridge Disillery.
The Vail Chophouse is serving crispy smashed new potatoes with veal bratwurst and caraway slaw. Served alongside is the “Thyme Twist” from Woody Creek Distillers: potato vodka muddled with simple syrup and sprigs of fresh thyme and topped with sparkling lemon soda.
“A high priority has been put on making sure the items are complementary,” Hefferren said.
In that light, Mountain Cupcakes was rethinking it’s offering as of Wednesday because the cupcake planned for pairing with the cocktail from Golden Moon Distillery wasn’t quite right.
‘SWANKY AND SNAZZY’
“They’re going back to the drawing board. It’s time consuming from the event producer standpoint to make sure it’s unique and that it’s a collaboration and not just ‘here’s my product, eat it or drink it,’ but asking will the guest enjoy it? Swanky and snazzy is what we’re looking for.”
Recipes for both the cocktails and the food items will be available on the event website. Liquors served at the event will be available at 15 percent off (with event ticket stub) at West Vail Liquor, Grappa Fine Wines and Alpine Wine & Spirits.
AN INTIMATE ATMOSPHERE
Each chef and distillery owner will attend the event to discuss the details of their dish or drink. Questions and comments are more than just welcome; they are an integral part of the event. Every hour there will be live chef demonstrations to teach guests how to create the dishes. Also, each guest will receive three tokens with their ticket purchase in order to cast their vote in the People’s Choice Award contests for best dish, best distiller drink and best local mixologist.
“We wanted it to be more interactive. When I think of distilleries historically, the fun part is that they make you feel exclusive and special,” Hefferren said. “We purposefully started out small and to be a place where you can talk with the distiller about their spirit; kind of an educational thing.”
There will be a photo booth wall complete with a prop box and a photographer (the photos will be put on Facebook), an ice luge for cocktails, Charleston dance lessons and a mixologist contest on the main stage.
Five bartenders from Vail restaurants will compete in front of event attendees starting at 5 p.m.
The local bartenders who are competing in the competition include Nick Conover, of Mountain Standard; Tyler Jamison, of Tavern on the Square; Ben Moss, of La Tour; and Ana Vogen, of Elway’s Vail and Lancelot Restaurant.
Judges of the bartending competition include DC Bollard, former sales consultant at Summit Distribution; Steven Teaver, beverage director at Four Seasons Vail; and TJ Voboril, partner at RKV Law (Reynolds, Kalamaya and Voboril).
You’ll likely recognize the event emcee Kevin Sullivan — Sully — who is the maitre’d at Elways and host of Sunday bingo at the Red Lion.
Organizers hope attendees will partake for the duration of the event.
“I know as a guest I’ve paid the fee and been done in an hour and a half,” Hefferren said. “At Top Shelf Harvest, we want the guests to enjoy and stick around. … We are going for a really welcoming and casual atmosphere that allows people to stay a long time.”
Vail Daily High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2984. Tweet her what your favorite bite or sip of the event was @caramieschnell.