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.