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Taste of Vail kicks off today

Caramie Schnellcschnell@vaildaily.comVAIL CO, Colorado
Kristin Anderson/kanderson@vaildaily.com
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It’s three days of just-one-more-bite decadence. That’s right, Taste of Vail is back. The three-day food-and-wine orgy begins today, with two lambtastic events – a seminar by Kelly Liken on cooking with Colorado lamb and Belvedere Vodka at Terra Bistro and the always-fun Lamb Cook Off in Vail Village. And attendees will nosh and sip to their hearts’ delight right up until the big hurrah Grand Tasting on Saturday night at the Cascade Club. At least you have Sunday to recover from one of the year’s best food-and-wine hangovers. Most everyone has at least a touch of spring fever come April, but it reaches a fever pitch during Taste of Vail time. “There’s a buzz within the industry about Taste of Vail because it’s a nice end-of-season celebration,” said Doug Abel, owner of Juniper Restaurant in Edwards, one of 25 restaurants participating in this year’s Taste of Vail. “You get to see people you haven’t seen in six months because you’ve had your head down, working so much.”Abel isn’t the only one excited.”It’s such a great event,” said Kevin Furtado, the wine director at Larkspur as well as a winemaker and a waiter at Restaurant Kelly Liken. “People are excited to come and show their wines and just catch up. There’s been a lot of buzz among my winemaker friends. People participating in the event have been working on it and thinking about it for months … they’re stoked.”Furtado will be pouring wines from his label, K. Furtado, at an apres, pre-Grand Tasting event at The Sonnenalp on Saturday. But he’ll be attending the lamb cook off and the Grand Tasting, he said. “There’s an ubelievable level of wine professionals in this valley and this event is a great opportunty to showcase what they’re doing,” Furtado said.

But obviously Taste of Vail is about more than the wine. It’s about the spectacular food, too. Each year the participating restaurants think long and hard about how to one up each other when it comes to the tasty bites they unveil at the three big tasting events – the Lamb Cook Off, the Mountaintop Picnic and the Grand Tasting. Over at Juniper Restaurant in Edwards, they’ve tweaked the Grand Tasting offering to what they believe is near perfection.”We’re doing a cured salmon on crispy plaintains with creme fraiche and finished with chives,” Abel said. “It’s fantastic.”Meanwhile Steven Topple, the executive chef at Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek, has his eye on capturing top honors at the Lamb Cook Off, which takes place tonight in Vail Village. “I’m dying to win,” he said. On Tuesday afternoon he was hard at work chopping cucumbers to make a pickled cucumber salad. The salad will garnish mini lamb meatball sandwiches, which will be finished with a mint yogurt sauce. “It’s a play on a gyro, but with a meatball,” said Topple who has taken part in the competition for seven years, the first two as the Wildflower exec chef. “This is my year I think – I’m going for it.”Topple shares that desire with plenty of other chefs who are participating. And if the event is anything like its been in past years, he’s going to have some stiff competition. From Radi Slavov over at Marketplace on Meadow Drive, for instance. According to manager Mike McNichols, Slavov will be roasting their leg of lamb (each participating restaurant gets the same cut of meat, donated by the Colorado Lamb Board, for the competition) with beer and vegetables. They’ll serve the meat atop bread, with fried artichokes and a cool mint crema. “This is an exciting time of year,” McNichols said. “Everyone is getting amped up. But we’re trying to pace ourselves because we have a few more weeks of fun events.”High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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