Vail Daily Editor and Publisher Don Rogers: Dining at its peak |

Vail Daily Editor and Publisher Don Rogers: Dining at its peak

Don Rogers
Vail, CO, Colorado

It’s not often I can make Wren Wertin, our resident foodie and magazine editor, jealous of me.

I’m a cold-beer-at-the-game kind of guy. She’s a nice-Cab-at-the-dance-fest kind of gal. As palates go, think refined, discriminating Persian for her; old goat for me. Our cultural worlds spin at opposite ends of the universe.

But I think she will be positively green when she learns where I was last Sunday night. I crossed into her culinary territory, and it was great.

I was invited to join a venerable dining society (originated in 1248 in France) dinner at a home in Cordillera for some of the best food I’ve ever tasted.

Me. The one whose wife had to box his ears at one of Vail’s finer restaurants after a waiter said, “The sommelier will be over in a moment.”

Me, when the waiter moved on: “I don’t care what country he’s from.”

Wife: “What?”

Me: “Dude said the Somalian will be right over.”

Wife, after the boxing and some reflexive eye rolling: “You know, you really can be a moron sometimes.”

True enough, and she was out of town Sunday, so I was on my own. I figured a Chaine de Rotisseurs event would at least be a step up from City Market fried chicken and the Rockies.

Let’s put it this way: I’ve never liked baked beans. But first bite of the very dish prepared by Karen Haeffner and I had a new favorite food of all time.

Wow. And that was just a taste of the meal overseen by Splendido’s David Walford, the Vail chapter’s vice culinairi.

Splendido chefs handled the roasted pig. Ed Shriner put eight hours into pork ribs that turned out perfect, enhanced with sauces from Michael Connolly, executive chef at Adams Mountain who has a side business called Red Canyon Spices. Shriner and wife Jane also cooked the margarita salmon on cedar planks in a Big Green Egg cooker that has a justifiable cult following. All fantastic.

Jordan Goncharoff, from Home Chefs of Vail, prepared the hors d’oeuvres. I’d tell you they were great, too, as I’m sure they were, but I kept turning them down. You know, saving my appetite and enjoying the wine and conversation too much.

Ah, Wren, did you ever miss out on this one! Suddenly I could understand the foodie fascination.

Suzanne Hoffman-LeBlanc, whose behind-the-scenes restaurant stories in the Vail Daily are must-reads, has led the Vail chapter of the worldwide dining organization since August 2008. She and husband Dan Hoffman hosted the event at their home.

You cannot not share in her excitement when she gets talking (or writing) about one of her many interests.

This night it was food, camaraderie at the table and one of the chief aims of the organization — helping develop future chefs through scholarships to culinary students.

Seeing as I had Lynette Dallas on my left and Carol Moore on my right, the company was right up there with the food.

The Bailliage de Vail was founded in 1991 and is approaching 60 members, including some of the valley’s top chefs.

They will break from their usual private affairs as a gastronomic society to support Colorado Mountain College’s Culinary Institute.

They’ll do this in a way even I understand — with a team of chefs of Olympian abilities much like America’s Dream Team of superstar basketball players currently tearing through the field.

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, at Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek, the all-star chefs will put on “Summertime in Piemonte” as a benefit.

The price is reasonable at $195, considering the lineup: David Walford, executive chef at Splendido; Steven Topple, chef of Ludwig’s; Daniel Joly, chef of Mirabelle; Justin Hugill, of QUINNtessential Chefs of Denver; and Splendido Chef de Cuisine Brian Ackerman, Sous Chef Quint Wicks and Pastry Chef Alex Daly. All are donating their time, by the way.

Suzanne tells me that Piemonte is a region in northwestern Italy, along with many other facts that Wren knows well and I don’t have room to include.

Each chef will contribute a course, and, I’m sure an expert, ahem, sommelier will help select just the right wine pairings.

I might be a moron, but even I can tell this will be a great experience. And I’ll bet it’s up to Wren’s fine standards, too.

For more information, contact Suzanne at, call 970-376-8132 or visit

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at or 970-748-2920.

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