The Ski Town Group troop had a wondrous weekend in Crested Butte, Colorado. Not only were the skies perfectly Norwegian-eye blue, but the experience of supporting a local charity – Mountain Roots Food Project– made us filled with a selfless sense of giving-back.
We arrived on the afternoon of Friday, March 18 and grabbed take-out from the notorious Secret Stash on Main St. We ordered enough to be snowed-in for days and not miss a beat: the spicy and sweet edamame marinated with sweet soy and togarashi chili pepper spice, a real Greek salad of cucumbers, feta, kalamata olives, tomatoes, pepperoncini, red onion, bell peppers, herbs, olive oil and red wine vinegar, adult-tested, kid-approved mozzarella cheese sticks with pesto marinara sauce, and a large pizza.
We settled into our beautiful, slope-side home at 8 Lapis Lane. This new, mountain contemporary style, 4-bedroom, modernly chic VRBO chalet was absolutely stunningly, and with another plus awaiting and welcoming us: at the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Quite ample spaces to stretch our legs after the Vail-to-Crested Butte drive, we enjoyed the March Madness basketball games and prepared for an amazing Crested Butte experience.
With Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Gold Link lift (a very quiet, unassuming portion of Crested Butte’s lift-served area) just right outside the patio door, the downhill skiing was a MUST! While the crowds of spring-breakers were dispersed among the greener and bluer runs, the Iversons skied the prized single and double black diamonds – International being the favorite run of the day. Upon weary legs, delicious, reinvigorating hot chocolate was consumed in Paradise (the on-mountain ski chalet). Thanks to Crested Butte Mountain Resort for the beautiful ski day – not a cloud in the blue-bird sky!
The Mountain Roots Food Project of Crested Butte is a non-profit that cultivates a sustainable food program benefitting the Crested Butte and Gunnison Valley communities by enhancing a healthy connection between earth, food and residents through gardening and “farm-to”mentality. Holly Conn, the director, and Cassie Pence, the board president, welcomed Ski Town Group to their fundraising event hosted by Arvin Ram’s Townie Books and Rumors Coffee and Tea House on Main St. A feast of après dishes from the Ski Town Après Ski cookbook were sampled, while book signings of Ski Town Soups and Ski Town Après Ski were in progress.
The local gathering place of Crested Butte natives, I perceived, must be Rumors Coffee and Tea House and Townie Books, which are connected and singularly owned by the Ram family. The community feel was palpable in this local haunt – from school-aged kids, to business people using the tables as impromptu co-working spaces, to locals talking small-town politics and chatting about the next meet-up at "Rumors". As in many supportive and collaborative communities, it is essential to have that “watering hole” for a tight-knit community. I was extremely happy to be a part of the place to see books and be seen by the Crested Butte familiars, while supporting a common love of food and where it is harvested. Thank you for the hospitality CBMR, Townie Books, Rumors Coffee and Tea House, Mountain Roots Food Project and the Faulkner family (owners of 8 Lapis Lane).
I have heard it said that variety is the very spice of life that gives it its entire flavor. While those are certainly words I associate with living a mountain lifestyle, they are concurrently true to eating in the mountains, as well, especially at the Grand Tasting event on Saturday, January 23, 2016. The Grand Tasting occurred at Beaver Creek’s Ford Hall and was a highlight event on the penultimate day of the Beaver Creek Winter Culinary Weekend 2016 – taking place Thursday, January 21 through Sunday, January 24. Weaving our gourmand-way through the western-themed event, we tasted such flavors as potato gnocchi with rabbit ragout, snow crab, seared venison loin, beef tenderloin, chicken noodle soup, shrimp toast, green curry and coconut mussel soup, cured Colorado trout, prime rib sliders, and, as one would conjecture on the idea that you can’t attend a Coloradan culinary event without lamb: lamb tartare, braised lamb shank, and cured lamb loin. All proteins were present … as far as the eye could see! (Pictured: seared beef tenderloin with parsnip mash, caramelized onion and chili ragout).
To Alan Jackson’s “Where I Come From” boisterously played by the live band, I sampled flights of Tierras Tequila drinks:
Other drinks were thoroughly enjoyed throughout the evening: Manhattans, Tito’s handcrafted vodka based Moscow Mules, even delicious Bloody Mary’s and Jalapeno Margaritas.
While the spirited theme of the evening was a little down-home cookin’, the tastes were elevated in a sophisticated and very cosmopolitan way. Red beets took a starring role in a couple of memorable dishes, one being a gorgeous, all-star dish from Mirabelle Restaurant. The three-cheese nougat comprised of an earthy, heady taste of goat cheese paired directly with a tangy, pickled red beet salad (pictured). The pickling technique carried through the tasting extravaganza in Dusty Boot’s prime rib dip sliders, where the zing of the pickled red onions gave a perfect crunch to the herb roasted prime rib on a brioche slider bun with horseradish crème, au jus and a crisp asiago chip. And, beets appeared again in a very classy and refined way, by Chef Christian Apetz. His beet and vinegar sorbet was 1 of 3 elements on his tasting plate, but most assuredly not of tertiary importance. The sorbet, with a sharp, zingy flavor combined with an earthy balance, paired perfectly with the caramelized onion and potato pierogi with whipped goat milk feta and the housemade smoked roasted garlic kielbasa sausage.
My undoubtedly favorite dish of the Grand Tasting was the quote-unquote chicken noodle soup from Chef David Gutowski from Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek. I quote-unquoted his dish title because the standard naming is almost blasphemy in describing this uniquely elevated and out-of-the-ordinary blend of flavors: decadently concentrated chicken broth, celery root reduced cream, pickled carrots, tenderly delicious potato gnocchi and rich chicken thigh confit. Oddly and confounding to me, this dish was reminiscent of home, but I assure you, “it ain't like mama fixed it” – Alan Jackson’s “Where I Come From”.
In finale, the pastry chef created the most mouthwatering Mud Pie lollipops with gooey marshmallow center and sweetly smooth chocolate covering adorned with chocolate pop rocks, which was a shining end to the evening. But, in stating a “shining” aspect – the well-buffed, mirror-like Stanley Cup with its own security detail even made an appearance at the Beaver Creek Culinary Weekend. It might have been the most photographed celebrity at this spectacular food event!
Jennie Iverson lives in Vail, Colorado and is the author of the Ski Town Soups and Ski Town Après Ski cookbooks. Jennie provides insight into the culinary scene of ski towns across America. You can find recipes, articles, and more information at www.skitowngroup.com.