The top 10 from Vail’s Mountain Top Picnic |

The top 10 from Vail’s Mountain Top Picnic

Caramie Schnell
Vail CO, Colorado
AE Picnic PU 4-4-08

VAIL, Colorado ” Hundreds of hungry people walked, skied and hitched snow cat rides to the Mountain Top Picnic, the annual Taste of Vail event atop Vail Mountain. As in years past, a two-story, hand-built snow fortress wrapped around one side of the picnic area, a sea of wine and food booths stretched out before it. Crowds of people gathered in front of each booth as chefs and servers scrambled to fill patrons’ outstretched hands with black plastic plates of gourmet picnic fare.

“Doing well?” a server behind the Mirador booth asked a waiting patron. “Prepare to be better,” he said, handing over a lobster and foie gras “hot dog” topped with saffron aioli, homemade tarragon ketchup and roasted red pepper caper relish.

“This is my kind of hot dog,” the woman replied, her mouth filled with the carnival-meets-coast concoction.

With at least three restaurants dishing up decadent, gourmet macaroni and cheese, the comfort food was a definite theme, Maureen McDonald said. Her favorite was Chap’s version ” cheesy Strozapreti pasta mixed with white truffle oil and rosemary ham, topped with toasted brioche crumbs and served in cone-shaped cup.

The Mountain Top Picnic is one of the premiere food and wine events in the country, said Tom Hilde of Flowers Vineyard and Winery.

“Taste of Vail ranks right up there with Nantucket Food and Wine, Kapalua Wine and Food Festival in Maui and Pebble Beach Food and Wine, said Hilde, who has attended the picnic for five years running, and will “keep coming back as long as they keep inviting us,” he said. “We can’t do them all, we have to pick and choose, but you can’t get more exquisite than this,” he continued, gesturing to the clear, blue skies and the sea of happy, satiated picnickers.

Read on to find out what other picnic-goers enjoyed most at the event.

– Tom Hinde ” “Robert Stemmler’s 2006 Chardonnay is a beautiful lunch wine. If it were snowing I’d be drinking a 16.4 (percent) Zin and looking for a fireplace, but today is all about a sophisticated picnic wine.”

– Jen Rizza ” “The Schramsberg Rose was very refreshing and clean. It’s lively and great for a nice sunny day.”

– Jack Panter ” “The Barnett Vineyards Merlot. It’s full bodied and has good legs.”

– Niki Johnson ” “Treana’s viognier-marsanne blend. It was very delicious ” it’s the best wine here.”

– Cassie Pence ” “The Schramsberg Champage. It’s so crisp and for me, I like a fruitier champagne. You could taste the raspberry in it ” it’s very refreshing.”

– Maryanne Evans ” “The tuna nachos from Matthew’s. There were so simple but really good, especially followed by their chocolate mousse. Life is always better with chocolate.”

– Alisa Pelton ” “The braised short rib from Chaparral in Cordillera. It just melted in your mouth, which is exactly how you want a rib to be.”

– Kevin Foley ” “The (apple-cider braised) pork from Up the Creek was tasty, tasty.”

– Thomas Hemerka ” “I liked the Granny Smith Apple soup from La Tour. It was kind of tart but very smooth.”

– Travis Flores ” “The slider burger from Wildwood. It had bleu cheese, field greens and a garlic aioli. It was great.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or

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