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Taste of Vail continues with picnic, seminars

Katie Coakley and Caramie Schnell
Daily Correspondent
Nosh on gourmet sliders and other elevated picnic fare at the Taste of Vail's annual Mountaintop Picnic.
Zach Mahone | Special to the Daily |

TASTE OF VAIL EVENT SCHEDULE

Thursday

Vail Chophouse Hess Collection Wine Pairing , 5 to 10 p.m. Vail Chophouse, $38.

Featuring a special Taste of Vail wine pairing menu; includes two courses with wine tastings.

Davidoff Cigars Seminar , 5:30 to 7 p.m. Four Seasons Hotel Vail pool, $50.

Representatives from Davidoff Cigars pair their products with top-shelf spirits.

Friday

Breakfast of Champions! , 8:30 to 10:15 a.m. Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, $65.

The Breakfast of Champions! seminar features seven sparkling wines and an organic Colorado ingredient-driven breakfast with host Pete Marczyk of Marczyk Fine Food in Denver.

Mountaintop Picnic , Noon to 2:30 p.m. Eagle’s Nest, Vail Mountain via Eagle Bahn Gondola, $135.

Enjoy a gourmet feast prepared by the Vail Valley’s best chefs at the top of Vail Mountain, 10,350 feet above sea level.

Vail Chophouse Hess Collection Wine Pairing , 5 to 10 p.m. Vail Chophouse, $38.

Featuring a special Taste of Vail wine pairing menu; includes two courses with wine tastings.

James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour , 6 to 10 p.m. Larkspur Restaurant in Vail, $190.

Enjoy a cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres prepared by six chefs, followed by a six-course dinner with wine pairings.

Zino Ristorante Wine Dinner with Ca’ del Bosco , 6 to 8 p.m. Zino Ristorante, Edwards, $120.

Celebrate Ca’ del Bosco sparkling wine with five courses paired with five sparkling wines at Zino’s Ristorante in Edwards.

Saturday

“Understanding Tea — An Overview ” seminar, 8:45 to 10 a.m. Bol, Vail, $55.

Tea expert Devan Shah will present five teas from each tea category. Participants will taste and learn about white, green, oolong, black and the mystical pu-er teas.

“What Made You Pick That Wine?” seminar, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Sonnenalp Hotel, Vail, $50.

Join six Vail Valley wine experts as they discuss the tricks of the trade with a panel-chosen flight of diverse wines.

“Many Sips to Enlightenment with Josh Wesson” seminar, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Cucina Rustica, Lodge at Vail, $65.

Josh Wesson will guide guests through an educational matching of one dish with six different wines.

“Speed Dating with the Heartbreak Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon” seminar , 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sonnenalp Hotel, $55.

Spend seven minutes with nine different winemakers tasting their very best cabernet.

Grand Tasting and Auction , 6 to 10 p.m. The Four Seasons, Vail, $175.

The premier wine and food tasting event at Taste of Vail, the Grand Tasting is a wine and culinary spectacle. All of Taste of Vail’s participating wineries and restaurants take part.

VAIL — It’s springtime in Vail, and there’s no better way to celebrate the sun and bluebird skies than by succumbing to total and utter culinary debauchery. The 25th annual Taste of Vail is the perfect way to sip and sample from award-winning chefs and medal-worthy wineries, all under the guise of education with the many seminars and events that are packed into the event, which continues through Saturday night.

‘A celebration of chefs’

Bringing together some of the valley’s favorite and the country’s most up-and-coming chefs is the James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour dinner, slated for Friday night. Hosted by Larkspur owner-chef Thomas Salamunovich and chef Paula Turner, this dinner will feature passed hors d’oeuvres prepared by each chef as well as six courses paired with wines. Chefs include Brian Busker from Matshuisa and Kelly Liken from Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail; Armando Navarro from El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma, Calif.; Hosea Rosenberg from Blackbelly Market in Boulder; and Kelly Whitaker from Basta in Boulder and Cart-Driver in Denver.

“The cool thing is that every dinner (that we do with the Celebrity Chef Tour) is different — that’s what makes it such a great program,” said Jeff Black, president of the Celebrity Chef Tour benefiting the James Beard Foundation. “Some people come to five or six in one year and they equate it to a Grateful Dead concert: none is the same, all are different and they’re all super fun.”

The Celebrity Chef Tour brings the unique experience of dining at the famed James Beard House in New York to various cities around the country; each dinner features different chefs and, as a result, guests always enjoy a new experience. It’s a fun and rewarding experience for the chefs, too. Chef Rosenberg, who opened Blackbelly Market in Boulder at the end of last year, said that he’s looking forward to being in the kitchen with the other chefs.

“First of all, getting another excuse to go to the mountains is always good; I’m happy about that,” Rosenberg said. “I’m really good friends with both of the Kellys — Kelly Liken and Kelly Whitaker. I love being in the kitchen with them, and it’s rare that we can be in the same kitchen.”

Though each chef is responsible for a passed item and one course of the dinner, it’s a collaborative affair, with everyone lending a hand with plating and ensuring that everything is just right.

The plating isn’t the only collaborative element to the evening. Chef Whitaker, who owns Basta in Boulder and Cart-Driver in Denver, said that all of the chefs got together to plan the menu.

“We all started to talk about fish. I had first thought I’ll do seafood — but then everyone wanted to do seafood,” he said. “It’s very fish-forward. It’s a spine of what’s hot right now in a way.”

The entire evening promises to be an adventure in flavors and tastes, accented by passion and camaraderie of these very talented chefs.

“These dinners are really fun,” Black said. “Sometimes you go to wine dinners and sometimes they get a little stuffy. There will be wine people there — and they’re bringing amazing wines in — but it’s not just about the wine. It’s a celebration of chefs. It’s about the food and having a great time in the kitchen.”

Something New

There are several events that have become iconic for the Taste of Vail: Thursday’s Lamb Cook-Off, certainly, as well as Friday’s Mountaintop Picnic and Saturday’s Grand Tasting. But it’s the new events, like Breakfast of Champions!, taking place this morning, that keeps the schedule fresh and interesting. Wine for breakfast might sound more like a college exploit gone wrong, but this event will definitely include better vino and end with less carnage. Hosted by Pete Marczyk of Marczyk Fine Food in Denver, the event will showcase organic, local and Colorado ingredients in a special breakfast paired with seven sparkling wines.

The seminars continue Saturday and include new events like “Understanding Tea — An Overview,” with tea expert Devan Shah, the founder of International Tea Importers and Chado Tea Rooms in Los Angeles.

Chris Chantler, co-founder of Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea Company, has been doing business with Shah for close to two decades and spent three weeks traveling the world visiting tea fields and learning about tea. Shah helped create the tea program at the Minturn-based company and helped them build relationships with tea gardens so they could source their tea directly. At Saturday’s Taste of Vail program, people will taste the five basic tea categories: white, green, oolong, black and the mystical Pu-Er teas, and learn about each one.

“Tea is a 5,000-year-old beverage that is probably second to water the most consumed beverage in the world and it’s really misunderstood,” Chantler said.

Shah lives in Los Angeles where he “owns and operates three very famous tea houses and has an importing business,” Chantler said. “I’m excited to get him here to share his wisdom about tea.”

This isn’t the first time Taste of Vail has offered a non-alcohol seminar.

“Over the years we’ve done olive oil tastings and other things that aren’t wine, but some of my sommelier friends have said there are more identifiable tannins in tea than in wine,” Chantler said.

At the “What Made You Pick That Wine” seminar at the Sonnenalp Hotel, Master Sommerlier Damon Ornowski will moderate a panel of five industry experts, including Andreas Harl, the beverage director at Matsuhisa Vail. Each expert has chosen a wine to serve and they will talk about why they chose that specific wine. Try everything from a rose from the heart of Provence, to a pair of pinot noirs from the Willamette Valley, a chardonnay from Napa and even a sake.

Next up, wine guru Josh Wesson leads a seminar titled “Many Sips to Enlightenment” at Cucina Rustica at the Lodge at Vail starting at 1 p.m. For more information on that seminar, check out Saturday’s Vail Daily.

“Speed Dating with the Heartbreak Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon” is the final seminar before the Grand Tasting event Saturday night. Using an unconventional format, the event allows guests to taste some outstanding cabernet sauvignon from nine different winemakers.


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