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Savoring a Taste of Vail

Last week, I participated in a Taste of Vail and found the annual event large enough to have a great diversity of content as well as to exhibit perfect professionalism, yet still small enough that it remains friendly and almost intimate. Moreover, a Taste of Vail remains true to its name in that all of its food events feaured chefs who work in Vail and not the usual array of Food Channel stars who travel so much they are almost strangers in their own kitchens.

The three-day event was also attractive for foodies who love to ski, allowing them to take to the slopes in the morning – when few activities were scheduled – then satiate themselves in the afternoon and evening when the most-preferred food and wine events were taking place.

For example, 33 Vail-area restaurants competed in Taste of Vail’s signature, 15th annual American Lamb Cook-Off (which I helped judge), which kicked off in the traditional après-hour of 3 p.m. Hundreds of local residents and visitors mingled together in the streets of Vail village, going from food booth to booth to vote on the lamb dishes in a “people’s choice” selection. Since there are limitations to growing grapes at 8,000 feet in the Rockies, various distributors, importers and producers provided hundreds of wines from around the world to give “A Taste” the needed international flair.

One memorable event was a morning Champagne brunch at the Vintage brasserie where representatives of Larmandier-Bernier, Collet, Canard-Duchêne, Henriot and Bérêche poured bubbles to match dishes from the kitchen of Chef Keith Hammond – oysters with caviar and fried tarragon; a fruit salad with kiwi chips, mango gelée and blackberry foam, and galettes with brie, black truffles and quail eggs.

Other events included a mountaintop food and wine extravaganza at 10,000+ feet, a mega-tasting of more than 200 rosés with nibblies such as a giant pan of paella cooked in the courtyard by Revolution Foods and seminars on sustainable wines, wines of Corsica, wines of Santa Barbara (with Rajat Parr, the closest the event came to relying on star power) and a Pouilly Fuissé tasting and crus update. The final event was the Grand Tasting & Auction on Saturday evening.

“Last week they were predicting rain for every day of the events, but it didn’t happen,” said a relieved Angela Mueller, director of Taste of Vail, who probably should send some leftover Champagne and chocolate truffles to the local forecasters.

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