Taste of Vail culinary festival begins April 5, with signature events, seminars | PostIndependent.com

Taste of Vail culinary festival begins April 5, with signature events, seminars

Kim Fuller
Special to the Daily
As a category, rose wines embrace a diversity of styles and flavors, and more than 100 of these wines will be available to sample at the Taste of Vail's Debut of Rose 2016.
Zach Mahone | Taste of Vail |

Taste of Vail schedule

Wednesday, April 5

3 to 6 p.m. — Debut of Rose 2016, Grand Ballroom at The Arrabelle at Vail Square, Lionshead Village; $55

Thursday, April 6

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — Paella luncheon and Spanish wine seminar with Ole Imports founder Patrick Mata, White Bison Restaurant, Vail Village; $50

2 to 3 p.m. — Pinot Noir Around the World: Burgundy, Oregon and Germany with Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman, Cucina at the Lodge at Vail, Vail Village; $50

3 to 6 p.m. — The American Lamb Cook-Off & Apres Ski Tasting, Vail Village; $85

Friday, April 7

Noon to 2:30 p.m. — Mountain Top Tasting, top of Eagle Bahn Gondola, Lionshead Village; $145

3 to 4:30 p.m. — Howell Mountain exploration: Napa’s Magic Mountain, Cucina at the Lodge at Vail, Vail Village; $50

4:30 to 6 p.m. — Hard to Handle: Perfect Pairings for Difficult Dishes, Express Lift, West of Gondola One, Vail Village; $60

6 to 10 p.m. — Larkspur & Taste of Vail Present James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour, Larkspur Restaurant, Golden Peak; $195

Saturday, April 8

9 to 10:30 a.m. — Blend with one of the Best, Bob Iantosca from Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Grand Ballroom at Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, Lionshead Village; $50

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — Grenache Tasting with Tablas Creek Vineyard, Matsuhisa Restaurant, Vail Village; $50

1 to 2:30 p.m. — Taste of Vail Blind Tasting with Advanced Sommelier Jeremy Campbell, The Sebastian, Vail Village; $50

1 to 2:30 p.m. — Riesling Rising: Refined, Expressive & Dry, Matsuhisa Restaurant, Vail Village; $60

3 to 4:30 p.m. — Explore the hidden treasure: Portuguese wine with Esporao, Quinta do Mouro and Master Sommelier Brett Zimmermann, The Sebastian, Vail Village; $50

6 to 9 p.m. — The Grand Tasting & Auction, Grand Ballroom, Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, Lionshead Village; $190

Package pricing for seminars and signature events is also available. Find tickets and more details at www.tasteofvail.com.

Early April was once a quiet time of year in the valley, but Taste of Vail has given resurgence to spring. From today through Sunday, culinary movers and shakers will head to Vail venues for memorable tastings centered on current trends in food and wine.

“I think we have seen a major trend toward ‘casualization’ and more approachable food, even with fine-dining restaurants,” said Paul Anders, executive chef for Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard. “Items that are inspired by traditional street foods, peasant-type dishes and off-cuts are being used all of the time with a modern re-interpretation and spin.”

International flavors also are really popular right now, Anders said, from Southeast Asian to Mexican and African.

“As the past winner of the Lamb Cook-Off, we have had hot dogs, steamed buns and Vietnamese crepes, all representatives of street food with international flavors,” he said.

More and more chefs are focusing on vegetables as the stars of the show — a lighter way to go when choosing samples from 25-plus restaurants at the Mountain Top or Grand tastings — and don’t be surprised if those veggies are fermented, Anders said.

“Not sure why it has made such a comeback, but chefs will try to ferment just about any vegetable,” he said. “Kimchi, sauerkraut and hot sauces are all likely to be seen.”

Signature events

The first of four signature events on the festival schedule, the Debut of Rose today, gives participating winemakers the opportunity to showcase their expertise in making rose from many different varietals of grapes. Last year, the event offered more than 118 different Old World and New World rose labels to taste.

“There has been a massive resurgence in rose in the U.S. over the past five years,” said Chris Chantler, Taste of Vail board member. “The U.S. wine enthusiast has managed to forget the dreaded sweet blush pink wine trend and embrace the delicate, dry, versatile rose wines.”

The American Lamb Cook-Off & Apres Ski Tasting follows the Debut of Rose on Thursday and is the only Taste of Vail event where chefs compete head to head.

“All have been practicing new lamb recipes and preparation techniques throughout the winter season,” Chantler said. “Our chefs’ restaurant menus are constantly changing, adapting to and creating new trends in food. This shows year-in and year-out by the creative, exquisite dishes that the chefs choose to serve at each event.”

Megan Wortman, executive director of the American Lamb Board, said that while often linked to fine dining — 64 percent of fine dining menus feature lamb, she said — the meat is now one of the fastest growing proteins on non-fine-dining menus.

“Today’s lamb has moved beyond your grandma’s overcooked roast with mint jelly,” she said. “Lamb is not being paired with fresh ingredients and featured in approachable, hand-held menu items.”

Tasters at the Cook-Off will see for themselves how lamb is being featured as more informal fare in small plates, sandwiches, burgers, tacos and flatbreads.

“Chefs in the Taste of Vail American Lamb Cook-Off use Colorado lamb legs to showcase the diversity of lamb, creating a wide variety of interesting dishes — often reflecting the latest in street foods and broader culinary trends,” Wortman said. “The leg can be ground for sliders, roasted for lamb leg French dips or sous vide for use in pulled lamb tacos.”

Anders said Taste of Vail, and especially the Lamb Cook-Off, is a celebration of the best in Colorado cuisine.

“And, of course, Colorado is well know for its amazing lamb,” he said. “For us, the Lamb Cook-Off has become a great venue to create some fun street food. This is what chefs love to eat. It’s honest, flavorful and always hits the spot.”

While Anders and his team have to keep their lamb dishes secret at this point, he said that for the Mountain Top Tasting — held Friday at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola on Vail Mountain — Mountain Standard will be doing a play on Korean Bo Ssam, with smoked pork belly, buttercrunch lettuce cups from a local farmer friend in Eagle, fermented vegetables and lots of fun condiments and sauces.

The final signature event, The Grand Tasting & Auction will be held Saturday in the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort. This showcase features all of the Taste of Vail’s wineries and restaurants.

Sip in some seminars

This year, Taste of Vail seminars will touch on trends in the wine world, with participating Master Sommeliers Brett Zimmermann, Sean Razee, Richard Betts and Jesse Becker.

“It’ll be really exciting to have several master sommeliers and leading winemakers from around the world present and participate,” said Andreas Harl, beverage director at Matsuhisa Vail.

Here are some new seminar concepts this year:

Riesling Rising: Refined, Expressive & Dry, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Matsuhisa Restaurant, Vail Village, $60 — Dry Rieslings are becoming more and more popular every year due to the grape’s versatility. In this seminar, Becker and Von Buhl’s winemaker Richard Grosche will discuss the emergence of dry Riesling and the difference between the growing regions of Germany and Austria.

“The ‘Burgundian’ style of dry Rieslings are in extreme demand with sommeliers and consumers catching on to it,” Harl said “We’re excited to be presenting four of Europe’s absolute best wineries this year. It’s like having four first-growth Bordeaux producers at the Taste of Vail.”

Howell Mountain Exploration, Napa’s Magic Mountain, 3 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Cucina at the Lodge at Vail, Vail Village, $50 — Napa wine isn’t trendy or new, but year after year, the distinctions between valley fruit and mountain fruit are becoming clearer and more important to the consumer. This seminar will help participants learn about the nuances of Howell Mountain and its wines.

“It’s clear that Howell Mountain might be the ‘Grand Cru’ of Napa Valley,” Harl said, “and it’s exciting to have three of the top producers from Napa’s magic mountain at the tasting.”

• Explore The Hidden Treasure, Portuguese Wine: Espora, Qunita Mouro with Brett Zimmerman, 3 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, The Sebastian, Vail Village, $50 — With the rising quality of dry Portuguese wines and trying to put the image of sweet port wines in the past, Portugal wines are up and coming.

“There’s lots to learn and we’re excited to have Master Sommelier Brett Zimmermann, who recently traveled to Portugal, lead through a seminar with young winemakers from the country,” Harl said. “If there is one country in the world that’s stepping out of its shadow of sweet wine making it may just be Portugal. New technology, combined with centuries of wisdom, is elevating the dry wines of this area.”

Meet the chefs

A final highlight of this year’s Taste of Vail is the James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour held at Larkspur Restaurant on Friday. Eight renowned chefs from around the state are collaborating with Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan MacKinnon, of Frasca Food & Wine, for the dinner.

“To have Lachlan and Bobby from Frasca come up to cook, along with the other talents, speaks for Vail as a destination itself,” Harl said.

Overall, the Taste of Vail weekend is a delicious opportunity to see what the local talent is creating and a chance for guests to mingle and chat with those talented people.

“Too often, they are tied to the stove and rarely do you have the chance to chat with them directly,” Anders said.

“I don’t know what every chef will be preparing, but I do know that they all want to show well and put out delicious food,” Anders added. “It really is a chance to showcase what you are doing in your restaurant but also a great chance to have some camaraderie and fun.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.tasteof vail.com.