Vail’s Gourmet on Gore culinary festival is all about planning, logistics |

Vail’s Gourmet on Gore culinary festival is all about planning, logistics

Krista Driscoll
Jared Dingmann shows off Larkspur's answer to traffic issues at Gourmet on Gore: a bicycle-towed trailer that can carry six hotel pans of the restaurant's popular crispy beef tacos from Golden Peak to the festival in Vail Village.
Courtesy of Larkspur |

Gourmet on Gore schedule

Friday, Sept. 4

6-9 p.m. — Gourmet on Gore Tasting Tour, presented by Alpine Bank, Vail Village, $75 per person, space is limited

Saturday, Sept. 5

9-10 a.m. — Yoga on the Lawn, presented by Vail Vitality Center, Solaris Plaza Lawn, Vail Village, free

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Open-Air Tasting, Gore Creek Drive, Vail Village, pay as you go

Noon to 4 p.m. — Slifer Smith & Frampton Live Local open house tour, Slifer Smith & Frampton Lounge,

Noon to 5 p.m. — Kids’ Culinary Corner, Gore Creek Drive, Children’s Fountain, free

Sunday, Sept. 6

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Open-Air Tasting, Gore Creek Drive, Vail Village, pay as you go

Noon to 5 p.m. — Kids’ Culinary Corner, Gore Creek Drive, Children’s Fountain, free

Monday, Sept. 7

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Brunch on Bridge Street, Gore Creek Drive and Bridge Street, Vail Village, pay as you go

Visit for more information.

Gourmet on Gore: By the numbers

• 2,000 — Crispy beef tacos estimated to be served by Larkspur each day

• 500 to 750 — Festivalgoers estimated to be served each day at the Elway’s Vail tent

• 400 — Pounds of beef used to create 1,800 to 2,000 mini Larkburgers

• 30 — Hours of prep needed to create 1,800 to 2,000 mini Larkburgers

• 30 — Pounds of butter used to make 1,000-plus Mountain Cupcakes

• 9 — People needed to man and support the Larkburger tent

• 6 — Hotel pans the Larkspur bike trailer can haul at one time

• 4 — Years Elway’s Vail has participated in Gourmet on Gore

• 3 — Chefs, minimum, needed to prepare Elway’s Vail’s 7X Wagyu burgers

What does 30 pounds of butter look like? Roughly the weight of the average beagle, it’s 120 sticks, which if carefully stacked end on end would be taller than most of the buildings in Vail Village. That 30 pounds of butter also equates to about 1,000 cupcakes, the minimum number that Lauren Smith, owner of Mountain Cupcakes, expects to crank out with her staff for this weekend’s Gourmet on Gore culinary festival.

Like many others who are participating in the Open-Air Tastings on Saturday and Sunday as well as Brunch on Bridge Street on Monday, Smith began preparation early — as much as possible, anyway.

“If the weather holds, I start prepping today and do whatever we can to get ready,” Smith said on Tuesday. “It all comes down to fridge space and what’s going to last long enough to go. All of the cupcakes are made the day of, and the frosting the day of or day before.”

Mountain Cupcakes will be in continuous baking mode all weekend, supplying a steady stream of fresh confections to its booth. The on-demand system allows the team to adjust to what’s popular, rather than pulling from a premade stock, and also keeps the cupcakes from drying out. A few days before the festival, Smith will also start making French macaroons, which come with their own challenges.

“If the weather is intermittent, I have to get there very early to get everything done before the doors open,” Smith said. “If I can keep a controlled environment in my kitchen, I can do what I have to do. If the door is open and people are coming and going, cold air coming in, warm air coming out, changing the humidity in the kitchen — sometimes I get here at the crack of dawn and make macaroons.

“That’s really the only way to get around the weather. But they are so delicious, and they are so worth it.”

Planning and prep

Cole Carper, dining director at Larkspur, said the restaurant staff plans to crank out about 2,000 crispy beef tacos each day of the festival through a combination of peddling and pedaling.

“Last year, we built a trailer for a bicycle that holds six hotel pans, and we carry the tacos preassembled in the hotel pans to the tent and then they get cooked at the tent,” Carper said. “So we have people running back and forth with the bicycle and the bicycle trailer all day long.”

The bike trailer also supplies Larkspur’s booth at the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show, which takes place simultaneously on Sunday, adding to many restaurants’ logistical gymnastics. Prep work for the double feature begins about two weeks out, Carper said, when longtime Larkspur chef Angel Herarra begins butchering, portioning and braising the meat.

Closer to game time, Hector Landaverde, who has been working alongside Herarra since Larkspur opened 14 years ago, handles assembly and packing the tacos into their hotel pans. Served with pico de gallo, Mexican slaw and pepper jack cheese, the tacos have become a tradition for Larkspur, and it’s a challenge to keep production at a pace with their popularity.

“We put as many people back there as we can,” Carper said. “We’ll have one person who’s frying the tacos, one person who’s dressing the tacos, one person who’s taking the orders and writes the name down on a plate and passes it over to the assembly person, and somebody else who is the person who greets and explains and is free to talk, as well as to pass out the finished product.

“On any day we expect to be busy — which for Gourmet on Gore we definitely do — we’ll keep up to four people back there, and we’re going full speed the whole time.”

Order up

Both the Larkspur and Larkburger tents at Gourmet on Gore will be supplied from the Larkspur kitchen on Golden Peak, and Larkburger CEO Adam Baker said he’d be employing a staff of nine, including a dedicated food runner, for the festival.

“It’s tricky for us,” he said. “Nine people is a pretty big staff, and a lot of our people are coming from the Front Range, so finding a place for people to stay is a logistical challenge. The other part is cooking outside in a small space. To serve that many people, we’re using every square inch of our 10-by-10 tent. It’s a really successful event, so we’re cooking full steam for the entire time that we’re in business.”

A large amount of work goes into planning prior to the event, ordering and preparing the right amount of food and nearly cleaning out their distributor to get enough beef all at once, Baker said. That’s all followed by a few solid days of food prep for this year’s burgers, which will be served with truffle sauce and cheddar cheese.

Despite the headaches, Larkburger has remained a part of Gourmet on Gore since Day 1, and Baker said it’s all worth it in the end.

“The Vail Valley is our home turf, and it’s fun — the guests are having a great time, they’re outside in the sun, it’s Labor Day weekend,” he said. “It’s a fun thing to be a part of.”

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