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Vail-style tastes from the land and sea

Jennie Iverson
Special to the Daily
Apricot-Brie bruschetta
Special to the Daily |

Vail-inspired recipes

Apricot and Brie Bruschetta

from “Colorful Cooking”

1/2 cup apricot jelly

1/3 cup dried apricots

1/2 cup pecans, toasted

8 ounces Brie cheese

1 French baguette

2 tablespoon olive oil

Serves 4 to 6

Slice baguette into 1/3-inch rounds, about 20 pieces. Then, brush each side of the bread with olive oil. Heat broiler to high and layer bread on a baking sheet; place bread under broiler for 1-2 minutes each side, until lightly browned. Toast whole pecans in a dry saute pan over medium heat for 7 minutes, then chop. Coarsely chop the dried apricots. Thinly slice cheese to cover most of the toasted round. Assemble the bruschetta by layering on bread rounds: 1 teaspoon apricot jelly, a sprinkle of dried apricot, a slice of Brie, 1 scant teaspoon chopped pecans. Then, place bruschetta under broiler for 2 minutes.

Lamb Sliders with Pickled Onion Marmalade

from Ski Tip Lodge in Keystone

8 lamb shanks

2 quarts chicken stock

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 bay leaf

3 peppercorns

5 sprigs thyme

2 cups red wine

Cornstarch

Serves 4-8

Sear lamb shanks and place in a large pot; add wine, stock, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, peppercorn and thyme sprigs. Cover with a heavy lid and braise in a 300-degree oven for 6-7 hours or until tender enough to pull apart with a spoon. Remove from oven and cool in liquid. Remove shanks; strain and reserve liquid in separate pot. Simmer and thicken reserved braising liquid with cornstarch to desired consistency for 30 minutes. Pull meat from lamb shanks and fold into thickened sauce.

Pickled Onion Marmalade

7 red onions, thinly sliced

2 cups rice wine vinegar

3 cups water

1 cup sugar

3 whole cloves

1 1/2 tablespoon salt

Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer on low-medium heat without stirring until liquid is almost gone.

If you know the quote: “One if by land, two if by sea” from Henry Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” then you know it has nothing to do with food.

But, like the true meaning of the passage, there were secret signals, secret subtleties being orchestrated through Taste of Vail. At the Debut of 2014 Rose on April 8, I sampled delicious foods paired with just-released rose wines. I indulged in “land” tastes of tender lamb sliders with pickled onions, Asian meatballs with peanut sauce, shredded barbecue pork with refreshing coleslaw, pork belly with sweet sesame glaze, carrot puree and ground hazelnuts, and glorious beef tartar with warm bone marrow, white pepper vinaigrette and fresh tarragon, while the “sea” provided a bright crab ceviche in a corn tortilla. All bites were paired with the rose celebration in mind. In the case of Vail Valley’s successful Eat! Drink! and Dive, a beautiful duet was created between black truffle Brie cheese and sheep milk cheese with jalapeno-tequila jam paired with Muse Winery’s rose. This pairing brought out secret flavor profiles that made each singular taste sing in a beautiful symphony. It is truly amazing as this indescribable chemistry happens, almost as if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Apres Ski Lifestyle

The following evening’s signal, much like the historic signal of the American Revolutionary War, was “all taste buds a go” at the Lamb Cook-Off and Apres Ski Tasting. At this open-air tasting, lamb was the prominent ingredient. As Julia Child famously remarked, “I think anyone who is a carnivore needs to understand that meat does not originally come in these neat little packages.”

Well, au contraire, Mrs. Child, these little tasting packages of lamb goodness were served neatly and most deliciously, especially the lamb salami with mint pesto sauce and white balsamic pear chutney on an olive oil grilled crostini. This reminds me of the gourmet spin that is occurring in the apres ski culinary scene: no longer nachos, beer and merely Italian bruschetta. The apres palate is offered a plethora of gourmet bruschetta, like the ones showcased in the “Ski Town Apres Ski” cookbook: strawberry Brie bruschetta, smoked trout bruschetta, beet, gorgonzola and chopped walnut crostini, venison and morel mushroom bruschetta, elk and huckleberry goat cheese crostini, and apricot and Brie bruschetta from “Colorful Cooking” in the Vail Valley.

The Lamb Cook-Off also featured Matsuhisa Vail’s braised lamb steak over sesame-eggplant puree and black bean sauce. Chef Kevin Erving, the savant of meats, rubs and sauces from Four Seasons Resort Vail and Flame Restaurant, created a lamb street taco, which was anything but pedestrian, even though Erving stated that it was “simple, fun and easy to relate to on the street.” The lamb was prepared with a south-of-the-border rub (a signature preparation at which Flame prevails) and the taco was adorned with pickled shallots, salsa verde, house-made corn tortillas, micro greens and a lime wedge to brighten and combine the flavors. But, my favorite lamb dish was the lamb lollipop served by Larkspur with a parmesan crisp and garlic mustard sauce. In honor of the lamb abundance, enjoy the lamb sliders with pickled onion marmalade recipe. The bounty continued with the penultimate event on Friday — the Mountaintop Picnic — with sea-tastes in the form of Bistro Fourteen’s corn chowder with crab and a rich, decadent Maine lobster and Brie soup from The 10th. My culinary heart is still warm with hearty, simmering soup sensations!

The Secret Sauce

What is the secret sauce, if you will, to a 25-year success? I ask as we conclude the Taste of Vail’s 25th anniversary at the Grand Tasting on Saturday, which took place at the unique Four Seasons Vail venue — triple-ballroom and restaurant experience with alfresco seating and fire pits that created the ultimate ambiance, including Terra Bistro’s homemade honey marshmallows that guests roasted over said fire pits. Quite like relationships, a certain je ne sais quoi exists to make a food relationship, a food pairing, truly and extraordinarily successful. I would like to attribute this success to the little things, the attention to detail, the drizzle, the placement of micro greens, the … sauce!

Vin48 created a truly magnificent dish of 7x Ranch flank steak seared rare over a black pepper honey biscuit with bone marrow herb cheese and bourbon jus. The bourbon jus was rich and perfect for sopping-up with the sweet and spicy biscuit. Restaurant Kelly Liken offered a squid and octopus dish with Fra Diavolo sauce — a hearty, spicy tomato sauce with fresh herbs. This was enjoyed seconds out of the pan, and the dish was topped with pecorino cheese and a grilled ciabatta bread. Atwater on Gore Creek presented a beef tartar with a Coleman-based spicy mustard sauce that truly transformed the dish. Made with rice wine vinegar (instead of white wine vinegar) and with the addition of sesame oil, this spicy mustard certainly rivaled other mustards. And, finally, Zino Ristorante delivered a gorgeous arancini made of porcini risotto and a soffrito of caramelized onions, rapini, pancetta, a parmesan chip and pure veal reduction.

A relationship is always evolving, and Erving portrayed a perfect evolution in his progression through the food events: from street fare on Vail Road to munchies in the form of red dirt potato chips with roasted poblano pepper onion dip at the picnic, and finally to an impeccably executed classic braised short rib with peas, carrots, and a celery root puree at the Grand Tasting. This evolution wouldn’t be near complete if not for an exclamation point like the Two Elk tiramisu cupcake topped with frosting made from a substantial amount of Bailey’s Irish Cream, the Lord Gore salted chocolate ganache tarts with Irish creme and raspberries, a salted caramel macaroon from Mountain Cupcakes, or merely a sip of the yet-to-be-released, nutty Blanc de Blance Reserve sparkling wine from St. Innocent Winery.

From articulate questions about the longevity of rose wines in their bottles to my favorite, whimsical lamb lollipops served on ornamental grasses beside vases of vegetables to incredible views atop Vail Mountain surrounded by food, drink and unique Hawaiian shirts, and finally to an epicurean’s search for perfect flavor profiles at the Grand Tasting, the Taste of Vail was a triumph. There was a customized culinary adventure for every palate, whether one was seeking fruits of the sea or offerings from the land.

Jennie Iverson lives in Vail and is the author of the “Ski Town Soups” and “Ski Town Apres Ski” cookbooks. Iverson provides insight into the culinary scene of ski towns across America. You can find more recipes and information at http://www.skisoup.com.


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