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What luxury tastes like in Vail

Sarah MausolfVail CO, Colorado
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VAIL, Colorado Taste of Vail is the Rolls-Royce of food festivals.Tricked out with celebrity chefs and a gourmet picnic on Vail Mountain, the event culminates with the grand daddy of tastings.The grand tasting is great, Avon resident Chad Peterson said. Everybody is out. Everybody is dressed to the nines.The guest list for the 18th annual Taste of Vail, set for today through Saturday features four A-list chefs.Foodies can cozy up to Diane Henderiks, author of Dietitian in the Kitchen or do some armchair traveling to one of New York Citys hottest watering holes with Aureole chef Tony Aiazzi. Also gracing Vails tastebuds are Chef Curtis Lincoln from The Brown Palace in Denver and Joseph Manzare, owner of Globe restaurant in San Francisco. The guest chefs will hold seminars and man tables at the tasting.But before Vail rolls out the red carpet for its gliteratti, the town will pay homage to a local critter.For the fourth year, a lamb cook-off in Vail Village kicks off Taste of Vail.More than 20 local restaurants will tackle the question: What is the best way to prepare a boneless leg?You can braise it, you can sautee it. You can grill it. You can roast it. You can smoke it. You can do anything with this product. Its very versatile, event founder Paul Ferzacca said.Visitors browse tents to sample the creations. A panel of judges select the winner of the cookoff, which is Sponsored by the American Lamb Board. This years first prize is a 42-inch flat screen TV, though certainly chefs are more interested in bragging rights.If walking around gets old, foodies can ride the gondola to a picnic on Vail Mountain. A Belvedere martini bar is new this year.Cuisine ranges from standard picinic fare (think cookies) to oysters and champagne. Kyle Cowan, executive chef with Up The Creek in Vail, said he plans to contribute a sundried cherry barbecue pork belly this year.Guests relax at picnic tables surrounded by snow walls.Its usually a blue sky day at the top, Peterson said. Yeah, its gorgeous up there and usually you end up getting a bit too intoxicated. Im not gonna lie. Its always a good time.Perhaps the biggest bash is the grand tasting at the Vail Marriott in Lionshead. For $175, attendees can sample fare from 34 local restaurants and 50 wineries from around the world.When you walk up to the table for the winery, it is the winemaker or the owner, Ferzacca said. Thats unusual for food and wine events.Once part of the tasting, a charity auction will move this year to a dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.Taste of Vail resulted from a brainstorming session. Local restauranteurs got together to ponder ways to draw tourists to Vail during a slow time, said Amy Oberly, owner of Sapphire restauraunt and Taste of Vail event organizer. They also wanted to celebrate the Vail lifestyle, which includes skiing, eating and drinking with friends.Their plan worked. Oberley expects 5,000 people to flock to Taste of Vail this year. Last year, organizers raised $10,000 for Pro-Start, a non-profit that introduces high school kids to cooking.Along with raking in the money, Taste of Vail scored a shoutout from the Luxury Institute in New York. A 2006 survey named it the third best arts-and-entertainment event in the nation.Thats a huge kudo for Vail, Ferzacca said. I think it brings a lot of destination guests in.High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

Wednesday, April 24th Annual Colorado Lamb Cook-Off3:30 to 6:30 p.m.Vail VillageThursday, April 3Cooking Seminar with Joseph Manzari9:30 to 11 a.m.Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and SpaGlass Seminar11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and SpaFour Points of the Russian River Valley Pinot Compass2 to 3:30 p.m.Marriottt Mountain Resort and SpaApres Ski Tasting: Life Beyond Chardonnay, Cabernet & Merlot3:30 to 6 p.m.Vail Plaza Hotel and ClubChef Showcase Dinner and Live Auction6 to 10 p.m.Ritz-Carlton Bachelor GulchCigars and Glenmorangie6:30 to 8 p.m.Tap Room, VailFriday, April 4Cooking Seminar with Curtis Lincoln9:30 to 11 a.m.Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and SpaMountain Top Picnic access via the Eagle Bahn Express Gondola12:30 to 3 p.m.Eagles NestBelvedere and WIne Spectator present the Bar Chefs Mix Off4 to 5:30 p.m.Sonnenalp Resort and SpaChef Showcase Dinner presented by Portmeirion6 to 10 p.m.Game Creek RestaurantSaturday, April 5Cooking Seminar with Diane Hendriks9:30 to 11 a.m.Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and SpaA German Reisling Seminar featuring Ernst Loosen of Dr Loosen Winery12 to 1:30 p.m.Marriott Mountain Resort and SpaStella Artois Seminar2 to 4 p.m.Best Life Lodge in Arabelle at Vail SquareRetrospective of 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon2:30 to 4 p.m.Marriott Mountain Resort and SpaGrand Tasting and Dinner Dance7 p.m. to midnightVail Marriott Mountain Resort & Spa Cost is $3 to $175 for individual events; $420 for the event pass. For more information visit http://www.tasteofvail.com.


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