Vail Farmers’ Market hosts last of Farm-to-Table dinners on Friday | VailDaily.com

Vail Farmers’ Market hosts last of Farm-to-Table dinners on Friday

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com

If the festive white tent and small crowd gathered in the middle of Vail Village didn't attract attention, then the appetizing smells that wafted down Meadow Drive definitely did.

Diners are coming from all around the mountain communities to wine and dine — farm-to-table style — at the Vail Farmers' Market & Art Show's Farm to Table Dinner Series. The last dinner in the series will be held on Friday in Vail Village.

When it came to producing a farmers market that drew top quality farms and artisans from all over the area, the Vail market had done its job. However, organizers began to wonder if there wasn't also another way they could showcase local farmers and chefs. Last summer, the farmers market debuted its first dinner, using veggies, cheeses and meats from the market, cooked up by various restaurants around town. This summer, due to demand, the dinner has expanded into a three-dinner series. In future years, there may be even more, said Vail Farmers' Market Director Angela Mueller.

"We wanted people to know that we have more farms represented at our market than many markets ever do. Also, produce doesn't last — many of these vendors can't take it back to the farm. So what better way to showcase this fresh produce than to use it at these dinners?" she said.

Coming to the table

Throughout the series, chefs from Bol, the Vail Chophouse, La Tour, Larkspur, Flame and others took turns preparing different courses for the dinners. Even the wine was Colorado-made, provided by Sutcliffe Vineyards of Cortez. Main Squeeze, a Vail-based juicer, provided pre-dinner sips, Vail Mountain Coffee and Tea provided post-meal espresso, and Gypsum-based Vail Meat Co. meat provided chefs with the protein.

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"Each of the chefs and vendors come up during the meal and talk a little about what they've brought to the table," said Mueller. "We'll give you recipes for the dishes you have so that you can recreate it at home. People love doing organic and local, and this allows you to take something home with you as well."

At the second installment of the series, diners munched on Colorado goat cheese, Western Slope beets and fresh-squeezed juice. As diners settled in to long community-style tables, Bol Executive Chef Julian Smith served up stuffed Guinea hen alongside grilled vegetables from Vail Chophouse Corporate Chef Jay McCarthy.

For dessert, Larkspur Chef de Cuisine Bill Fitzgerald rolled out an inventive sweet-corn flan topped with crunchy popcorn bits as diners finished their wine and after-dinner coffee.

McCarthy said that the dinners provide chefs with creative challenges and a change of pace.

"Seeing ingredients that are at their peak and applying my diverse culinary skill set to showcase these ingredients is just a great creative release," he said.

The local movement

Mueller said she also hopes the dinners encourage diners to see the extent to which they can create a feast from local produce. At $75 per person, the dinners are by no means a budget meal, yet many diners clamor for the opportunity to participate.

It's a trend that many Vail restaurants have followed, showcasing local, organic food. Bol even has its own share of cattle from an Edwards ranch.

"Diners are seeking out fresh, local and seasonal more and more as they speak to the very soul of the soil in the area," said McCarthy, who said that his restaurants try to serve foods from within a 100 miles of Vail whenever possible. "We call it the 100-mile meal. It means we're sourcing from within a local area, and we do it when we can."

Smith from Bol said he's excited to see the industry-wide change in food sourcing, pointing out that trends have changed considerably since the beginning of his career 15 years ago.

"When I started cooking, the trend was importing everything, and over time we're realizing that we have all these things here, and the ability to make all these things locally," he said. "It's important to utilize things that are made by your friends and neighbors who are around you. We're so lucky to live here where we have so many things available to us — so why not?"

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

If you go …

What: Last of the Farm to Table Dinner Series

Where: Vail Village

When: Friday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

How much: $75 per person plus a service charge

More info: Tickets are available at http://www.vailfarmersmarket.com.