Category Archives: Festival

Upcoming Colorado Food & Wine Events

Food, wine and more ease the palate from late summer into fall

August 22-24 – Mesa Verde Country Wine & Art Festival

A highlight for Four Corners wine lovers and art lovers is the annual Mesa Verde Country Food, Wine & Art Festival in Cortez. The festival kicks off with Friday evening (that’s tomorrow!) with dinner in the famous Metate Room in Mesa Verde National Park’s Farview Lodge ($75), It kicks into high gear over the weekend. The wine tasting takes place Saturday at 12:00 noon-5:00 p.m. in Cortez City Park. Prices are $15 in advance, $20 at the gate for the Saturday events. Combo tickets for the dinner and festival are $90. Information and dinner reservations are at 800-449-2288. The festival wraps up with an open house and live entertainment on Sunday from 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. at Guy Drew Vineyard in Cortez and the overlapping Dawg Days Chili Cookoff from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at the Cortez Cultural Center.

August 30 – Taste of Keystone

The 20th annual Taste of Keystone takes place at the resort’s Lakeside Village (i.e., near the Keystone Lodge, not River Run Village) from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Admission is free, and tickets are just $1 each for tastes prepared by the chefs of such Keystone restaurants including as the Alpenglow Stube, Ski Tip Lodge, Keystone Ranch and The Bighorn Steakhouse — plus sweet treats made by Keystone’s gifted pastry chef, Ned Archibald. In addition to great food, there are kids’ activities, live bluegrass and the obligatory silent auction. The event supports Summit County’s Mountain Mentors. For more information, call 970-496-4FUN.

August 30-September 1 – Boulder Creek Hometown Fair

The 10th Annual Boulder Creek Hometown Fair takes place on the Boulder Library Lawn features the Chili Inferno Cook-Off, Great Zucchini Race, pie-eating contests, beer garden, food court and all manner of entertainment for adults and children. The hours on Saturday and Sunday are 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., and 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. on Monday. More information from 303-449-3137.

August 30-September 1 – Oktoberfest

October moves back a few weeks in Colorado. Case in point is Beaver Creek’s Oktoberfest with food booths and a beer garden set up from 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. on Beaver Creek Plaza. Maybe there will also be some wine! For sure, Bavarian-style cuisine will be sold from Vail Valley restaurant booths. Participants include Alpenrose, Beaver Creek Chophouse, Blue Moose, Coyote Café, Dusty Boot Saloon, Rimini, Saddleridge, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa and guest Austrian chef, Didi Mader. From 12:00 noon to 3:30 p.m., chefs will give complimentary culinary demonstrations at the state-of-the-art demo kitchen located. Free shuttle buses transport visitors from the free Bear Parking Lot along Route 6 in Avon to Beaver Creek Village, and Oktoberfest admission is also free. For more information, call 970-845-9090.

August 29-September 1 – A Taste of Colorado

The state’s big kahuna, attendance-wise, is “A Taste of Colorado,” a Labor Day weekend staple for a quarter of a century. Food — both from regular carnival food stalls an from more upscale eateries — are just part of the busy scene. Word is that participating restaurants include Funky Buddha, The Fire Within, Fat Daddy’s, India House, Gelazzi Gelato, Grand Lux Cafe and Papa John’s Pizza. The festival runs from 4:00-10:00 p.m. on Friday, 10:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. on Monday. Admission is free. Purchase tickets (eight for $5) to buy food. For information, call 303-295-6330.

September 6 – Woodland Park Wine & Jazz Festival

This celebration of wine and music takes place at Memorial Park in “Old Towne: Woodland Park from 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. to benefit the Charitable Treasures Workshop, which provides a challenging and supportive vocational apprenticeship opportunities for young adults with special needs. Admission to the Woodland Park Wine & Jazz Festival is $25.

September 7 – Denver Food and Wine Classic

The fourth annual Denver Food & Wine Classic takes place at Metropolitan State College of Denver, featuring more than 300 featured wines and spirits, and food from some 30 Denver restaurants from the Aspen Grill to Zengo. The will also be a wine auction, a steel chef competition and culinary demonstrations. The event’s Denver Five Chef Showcase features Keegan Gerhard of D Bar Desserts, Troy Guard currently developing TAG, Matt Selby of Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben’s, Goose Sorensen of Solera and Tyler Wiard of Elway’s. The Classic takes place from 1:00-5:00 p.m. Tickets are $55 and can be purchased online or from a number of retail outlets. The event benefits the Colorado Restaurant Association Education Foundation, Kroenke Sports Charities, Metro State’s Department of Hospitality, Tourism, & Events Program and Post-News Charities.

September 13 – Denver International Wine Competition

The Denver International Wine Competition, once a private event with with winning wines only announced to the public after the competition, is now open to 100 wine-loving guests to taste 250 wine entries from around the world on and cast their own votes for the Consumer’s Choice Awards. This fourth annual event takes place at the Warwick Denver Hotel on Saturday, September 13 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $40 in advance, and $50 at the door, including a souvenir logo glass. For tickets, call 303-664-5700 or go to the website.

September 19-21 – Colorado Mountain Winefest

Now in its 17th year, this event put Palisade and environs on the nation’s wine map as an increasingly important wine-growing region. The Rocky Mountain Association of Vintners and Viticulturists (that is to say, the winemakers and grape growers) sponsor the Colorado Mountain Winefest. Wine events include tastings of 250 wines from 45 wineries, wine-education seminars and an amateur wine-maker competition. In addition, there will be chef demonstrations, chocolate tasting, live entertainment, ice carving and an optional vineyard tour by bicycle. Adult festival tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the gate, and non-drinker tickets for minors under 21 and designated drivers are $20. Limited VIP tickets are $175. For information, call 970-464-0111 or 800-704-3667.

October 3-5 and 10-12 – Cripple Creek Fall Festival

Food, wine, art and, hopefully, fall colors highlight the two-weekend Cripple Creek Fall Festival in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. I have no details, but the local tourist promotion organization might be able to answer questions. Call 877-858-4653.

October 29-November 1 – Denver International Wine Festival

The Denver International Wine Festival includes tastings, education, restaurant participation and special winemaker dinners. It will take place at the University of Denver’s School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management of the Daniels College of Business. The 2008 schedule has not yet been finalized, but you can see last year’s schedule and extrapolate from that. For information, call 303-664-5700.

News Notes for June and Beyond

Restaurants coming, going and celebrating landmark anniversaries — plus noteworthy events

Boulder Area Sunday Supper Specials

Several Boulder area restaurants are offering well-priced prix fixe Sunday Suppers that are perfect for those hot, end-of-weekend evenings when cooking seems just too much. Daily Camera restaurant critic Meg Tilton evaluated three of them: Jill’s Restaurant at the St. Julien Hotel (three courses, $19.95), 720-406-7399; Empire Lounge & Restaurant (two courses, $14), 303-665-2521; Burnt Toast (“multi-course meal” including a glass of wine, $17.95), 303-440-5200, reservations required. Tilton wrote about what’s on the menu and her take on the offerings. She also noted that Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace does a prix fixe Sunday Supper in winter.

Upcoming Food & Wine Festivals

Here are some eating and drinking festivals in Colorado and other intriguing locations in the next couple of months.

June 26-29: Telluride Wine Festival, CO
June 28: Boulder Food & Wine Festival, CO
July 5: Colorado Brewers Rendezvous, Salida, CO (okay, so it’s not wine)
July 10-13: Central Coast Wine Classic, San Luis Obispo, CA
July 10-13: Park City Food & Wine Classic, UT
July 17-20: Killington Wine Festival, VT
July 18-19: California Wine Festival, Santa Barbara
July 18-20: Finger Lakes Wine Festival, Watkins Glen, NY
July 25-27: Pinot Noir Celebration, McMinnville, OR
July 26-27: California Wine Tasting Championships, Philo, CA
August 1-2: V Foundation Wine Celebration, Napa, CA
August 2: Vine2Wine, Temecula, CA
August 2-3: Great American Seafood Cook-Off, New Orleans
August 22-24: Mesa Verde Country Wine & Art Festival, Cortez, CO

East Coast Pizza Place Opens in Ballpark Neighborhood

Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria is the new kid on the Denver’s Ballpark block. It is stylish in a way that most East Coast pizzerias are not, but it does turn out thin-crust pies in the Naples-meets-New York tradition. Mark and Kristy Dym imported two Neapolitan pizza ovens and chicken wings, also firec in the 3,000-degree oven. The name “Coal-Fired” is somewhat of a misnomer, however, because the pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven (the phrase “coal-fired” isn’t quite accurate). Marco’s Pizza (not to be confused with Osteria Marco down the street) is at 2129 Larimer Street, Denver; 303-296-7000.

Fort Collins Chef’s New Restaurant in Old Town

Patrick Laguens, veteran chef/sommelier/restaurateur, has launched Plank, a small, dinner-only restaurant serving haute cuisine in the modern mode, meaning both innovative contemporary dishes and finely wrought renditions of traditional comfort food. The watchwords are “fresh,” “organic,” “natural” and “simple” food prepared and served with a flair. Features include indoor and outdoor dining and an open kitchen where diners can see Laguens at work. Lauguens had previously partnered with Pulcinella’s Antonio Race to open an ahead-of-its-time downtown wine bar called Ciao Vino. Plank is at 181 North College Avenue, Fort Collins; 970-484-0297.

Masters Shuffle

I’ve previously reported on the openings and closings of restaurants run by the Masters family, best known for the long-running Cherry Creek North hit, Mel’s Bar & Grill, now closed. Mel and Janie Masters meanwhile opened a couple of other restaurants, flirting on and off with the Mel’s name. Mel’s of Greenwood Village and Mel’s Bistro, plus the Agave Grill, were the three most recent restaurants displaying the Masters touch. Meanwhile, son Charlie had first established Brix, but he was also involved in his parents’ recent restaurant shufflings and also opened Annabel’s in Greenwood Village, which became the Agave Grill — or was it the other way round? Charlie has not been involved with Brix for a while, but the stylish bistro in Cherry Creek North is poised to close, and his parents will be leaving Denver for New Jersey for the saddest of reasons, to support their daughter through a serious illness. Word is the the Mel and Janie Masters are hoping to sell Mel’s, but if not, it too will close.

Wine Tasting on the Terrace

Happily, wine tastings abound in Colorado these days. One of the more beguiling settings is on the terrace of Randolph’s Restaurant & Bar in Denver’s Warwick Hotel. The next in the monthly summer series, a tasting of Australian and New Zealand wines, is scheduled for Tuesday, July 17, during the happy-hour period of 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The cost is $27, including hors d’oeuvres. Call 303-318-7272 to reserve.

Larkburger to Open in Boulder

Thomas Salamunovich is one of the Vail Valley’s top chefs. His Larkspur restaurant at the base of Vail’s Golden Peak is one of the resort’s fine-dining meccas. He opened Larkburger in Edwards a couple of years ago, and it quickly gained traction with locals and visitors alike. Now comes word that Salamunovich and partner Adam Baker are launching a second Larkburger this fall. It will be at 2525 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder. That is the address for McGuckin’s Hardware, Sunflower Farmers Market, Boulder Ski Deals, Changes in Latitude, Tokyo Joe’s and other businesses, so it’s unclear exactly which storefront it will occupy in that large strip center between Folsom and 28th Street and between Arapahoe and Canyon.

Chautauqua Dining Hall Turns 110

The landmark restaurant in Boulder’s Chautauqua Park opened around Independence Day 1898 and chooses that timeframe to celebrate. This year marks the first (hopefully) annual
Chautauqua Dining Hall Day on July 3 from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. The Green and the flagstone in front front of the dining hall will be the site of outdoor grilling, entertainment, field day games suitable families and the tapping of its keg of our own-custom blended ‘110 Ale’. Food and beer will be served a la carte. For more information, call 303-440-3776

Cheers to Flagstaff House’s Monette Family

The Daily Camera’s Fathers Day edition featured a wonderful piece called “Feeding the Family” that profiled the Monette family which owns the Flagstaff House. I know the restaurant as a Boulder institution and longtime culinary temple, and I had heard that the third generation is now working there. Don Monette bought it in 1971, and sons Scott and Mark now run the kitchen and the front of the house. What I didn’t know, because it was before my time in Boulder, is that Don and his wife Carole also had a continental restaurant called the Viking and the coffee shop in the Golden Buff Motel at the same time.

More Boulder Restaurant Longevity

There’s nothing in Boulder’s restaurant world as old as the Chautauqua Dining Hall and little as old as the Flagstaff House, but two popular downtown eateries are celebrating landmark anniversaries. Juanita’s on Pearl Street, just west of the Mall, mariachied its way past the quarter-century mark last week and the 14th Street Grill on the Mall is celebrating its 20th from July 2-5 with a three-course menu and paired wines for $88 per twosome. Call 303-444-5854 to reserve.

News Notes from Around Colorado

Restaurant, chef and special events happenings around the state

News from the Aspen Food Front

Next weekend (June 13-15) is the 26th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen where the elite of the food industry and deep-pocketed foodies meet. It always sells out early. Unfortunately, I won’t be there this year. It will also be a swan song of sorts for master sommelier Richard Betts, who leaves his sommelier spot at Montagna, the fine-dining restaurant in the Little Nell Hotel, after eight years. He will be devoting himself to Betts & Scholl, an Australian wine (and soon mezcal) label that he established in partnership with Dennis Scholl, and consulting. Before he leaves the Nell, he will be one of the featured sommeliers, co-hosting an exclusive reserve tasting at Food & Wine.

In other, less rarified Aspen food news, the old Popcorn Wagon, an original that was reportedly built in 1913 and has been parked across from the Wheeler Opera House for decades, is being replaced by a faithful replica. Dena Marino, who owns it with her husband, Marcus Wade, told the Aspen Times, “It was crumbling. The floor fell through. It wasn’t dirty, but it was old and corroded.” The Popcorn Wagon has been known for casual, affordable street food (gyros, crepes, popcorn, of course) and late hours. Along with a remade wagon, the new menu will focus on Italian offerings (piadinas, pizza crusts with spreads, plus such desserts such as gelato, tiramisu and sorbetto). Another change is that the new Popcorn Wagon will curtail its traditional hours to 11:00 a.m. to 9:oo p.m. daily schedule. Popcorn will still be offered but from now on made in new kettle-corn machine.

When I was in Aspen a few months ago, I was really sad to the see the Red Onion, a classic bar in the old-mining-town-turned-chic-resort, gutted and being renovated. Another bit of soul went missing once “the Onion,” its oldest bar dating back to the 1880s, closed in March 2007. I fear that something terrible will appear there. The replacement will be called Junk at the Red Onion (stupid name!) run by one Scott DeGraff, who reportedly lives in Aspen (I’ll bet he landed there recently) and presumably also still in Las Vegas, where he owns several clubs and restaurants including the Playboy Club. Other DeGraff projects include installing something called the Fun Worldwide Lab (another stupid name!) located in the alley space once occupied by the Cooking School of Aspen and a huge indoor-outdoor Liquid Sky (still another stupid name!) for dining, lounging and après ski in the growing Base Village at nearby Snowmass. DeGraff intends for these three enterprises to be operational by the beginning of the 2008-09 ski season.

Upcoming Frisco Barbecue Challenge

It’s months too late for Food & Wine, but a concurrent, considerably more down-home and way more affordable event is Frisco’s 15th annual Barbecue Challenge, June 13 and 14. Top teams and wannabes from such barbecue hotbeds as Texas, Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Kansas City make Frisco a stop on their BBQ competition circuit. Admission to the event is free, so you can wander around, gawk and inhale. If you want to taste some of the entries, it’ll cost you — $1 per ticket. For more information, call 970-668-5276.

Tune into the Taste of Fort Collins

Another food option for June 14-15 is the 12th annual Taste of Fort Collins in Civic Center Park, with proceeds benefiting Special Olympics Larimer County and the Kiwanis Club. Three cooking demonstrations by Whole Foods Market chefs highlight the Saturday program. A weekend pass is available in advance from Northern Colorado First National Bank Locations and Wilbur’s Total Beverage, and $10 day passes are for sale at the gate. Children under 12, seniors over 65 and military personnel with ID get are admitted free. of the participtinf restaurants are on the casual side, serving Italian, Mexican and American tastes.

Boulder Does Wine….

Mark your calendar for the second annual Boulder Food & Wine Festival from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. on June 28 will feature 26 Colorado wineries. It will take place downtown in Central Park and include culinary demonstrations, wine-tasting seminars and grazing from 20 local restaurants. These are expected to include Alba, Black Cat Eurobistro, The Kitchen, Laudisio’s, Meritage, Q’s, Restaurant 4580, 7, Sunflower and Terroir. The cost is $55 in advance ($60 at the gate) for food and wine tickets, and $25 in advance ($40 at the gate) for wine-only.

A free prelude event testing waitstaff skills and agility takes place on June 25, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the Wednesday Boulder County Farmers’ Market. Maybe you don’t want to dine at one of the participating restaurants that evening! For more information on this event, which benefits the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, call 303-442-4030, Ext. 634.

…And so Does Steamboat Springs

The fifth annual Wine Festival at Steamboat, July 31 to August 3, features wines from some 100 international and domestic wineries pour at the Reserve Tasting, The Stroll and The Grand Tasting. , the culinary component from around the nation, chefs from around the country show their stuff at Viking’s Kitchen Stadium. Pricing is a la carte, ranging from $25 for a Sustainable Wines Seminar and $40 for other wine seminars to $225 for a package to a combination of featured events. For more information, call 877-328-2783.

Restaurant 4580 Expands into Wine-Store Space

North Boulder’s Restaurant 4580 has taken over the space occupied by the owners’ former wine retail shop and expanded the restaurant. Susan used to run the wine store, Martin the restaurant, but now, both can be involved in the latter. I have no idea who the current chef might be be. Opening chef Kelly Kingsford is long gone (though her name still appears on the restaurant’s website) and Eric Laslow’s tenure was brief. The restaurant is, unsurprisingly, at 4580 Broadway, Boulder; 303-448-1500.

Lettering in Denver and Boulder

The Front Range has two new eating places that start with a letter of the alphabet followed by punctuation and a word. The names read a little like ranch brands. In Denver, D-Bar Desserts the husband-and-wife team of Lisa Bailey and Keegan Gerhard, both top pastry chefs (and he has been a Food Network baking celeb), are turning out such comfort sweets as cupcakes, peanut butter cookies, chocolate brownies, Rice Krispie treats and cakes — all with flair and unusual taste twists. It is located Uptown at 1475 East 17th Avenue, Denver; 303- 861-4710. In Boulder, a new small-plate, tapas-style restaurant called b.side Lounge has opened in the former Trilogy space. Like its predecessor in that location, it also offers up wine, drinks and music. It is located just off the Pearl Street Mall at 2017 13th Street, Boulder; 303-473-9463.

Restaurant SIX89 Offers Sunday Prix Fixe Special Through Fall

Restaurant SIX89 in Carbondale’s Sunday Suppers began last month and continue through summer and fall. In addition to supporting area farmers and growers by using local, sustainable food, the restaurant promotes community and congenial dining with guests seated at communal tables. The cost per person $26.89 for five courses, served family-style. Because owner/chef Mark Fischer finalizes the menu by 4:00 p.m. that day, reservations are required. SIX89 is at 689 Main Street, Carbondale; 970-963-6890.

Cookbook for a Colorado Springs Cause

The Springs’ Care and Share Food Bank new Recipes for Hope 2008, features recipes from southern Colorado chefs and cooks, accompanied by personal stories. The 124-page book is only $15, and 75 percent of the go directly to the region’s only food bank for locally and nationally donated and purchased food. Call 719-528-1247 for more information about the food bank or the book.

Steamboat Springs Welcomes New Sports Bar

The newest hangout in Skitown USA is the spanking new Big House Burgers and Bottle Cap Bar in West Steamboat. It will surely draw locals and perhaps also visitors who can tear themselves away from downtown and from the ski resort base. It promises moderate prices. Check it out at 2093 Curve Plaza, Steamboat Springs; 970-870-8500.

Checking Out Cheesecake in a Jar

Luscious cheesecake in unusual packaging. Enjoy the cakes, then reuse or recycle the jars

Santa brings presents. The Easter Bunny brings a basket full of jellybeans, Peeps and chocolate. The Tooth Fairy brings money. And the other day, the FedEx man brought a cardboard carton marked PERISHABLE. Inside was an insulated Styrofoam cooler with dry ice, and inside that was a little wooden crate containing half a dozen individual Cheesecakes in Jar. Grand Junction-based Decadence Gourmet Cheesecakes certainly makes full-size cheesecakes and even can pile different sizes, one on top of another, to create wedding cakes. But when it comes to cheesecakes that are practically foolproof for shipping, the jarred version takes the (cheese)cake, which I write in the most complimentary way.

I opened the carton to find six squat little glass jars nestled in a cute little wooden crate. Each contained a different type of cheesecake: Blackberry/Cabernet, Chocolate Decadence, German Chocolate Cake, Port/Fig/Currants, The Savannah (maple syrup, pecans and bourbon-infused cheesecake mixture) and Tiramisu. I don’t care for coconut (my husband does, however), but other than that, the Port/Fig/Currant was my favorite fruit flavor, and the Chocolate Decadence lived up to its name. The cheesecakes, built on a foundation of house-made biscotti, are baked right in those jars. They have the New York-style, cream cheese-based cheesecake moist richness rather than Italian-style ricotta-based type. Each flavor is distinctive and well balanced with the cream cheese mixture.

Actually, I am grateful the portion control, which is kind of like “willpower in a jar,” because I was able to confine myself to just one at a time. With a regular cheesecake, I probably would have kept cutting “just more little slice.” However, I am concerned about the waste. I knew that we would recycle the jars, the lids, the Styrofoam and the cardboard shipping carton, and either recycle the wood crate or perhaps find it useful for storing something. A friend who does some canning and also dries her own herbs saw the jars topped with preserve-making lids and staked her claim to them. The Decadence cheesecake website suggests such recycling or reuse, but I am under no delusion that more of this material will end up in landfills than I or the Decadence Gourmet Cheesecakes folks would wish.

Cheesecakes in a Jar are available at select Colorado and Utah retail stores, at the Palisade Peach Festival (August 14-17, 2008), the Colorado Mountain Winefest (September 19-21) and the Fruita Fall Festival (September 26-28). If the retailers aren’t convenient and you don’t want to wait until the festivals, call 970-256-4688.

Upcoming Food and Wine Events

Mark your calendar for a chance to taste the best — in glorious settings too.

Aspen Food and Wine: The Big Kahuna

When it comes to the 2008 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 13-15, you better do more than just mark your calendar. If it’s within your budget, you really need to pull out your checkbook or credit card now. Arguably America’s most celebrated epicurean event, Food & Wine tickets are limited and traditionally sell out fast. In fact, organizers say that tickets are going at a record pace this year. Recession? What recession? Not in Aspen, and not among the food and wine elite. In addition to the fabulous Grand Tasting in the big tent and some 90 seminars on such hot topics as bio-dynamic wines, American raw cheeses, sake, artisanal chocolate and the “rosé renaissance,” star presenters will include Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, Bobby Flay, Jose Andres, Michelle Bernstein, Danny Meyer, Ming Tsai, Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio. I mentioned checkbook or credit card, and I hope the former’s balance or the latter’s credit limit is significant, because tickets are $1,050 before March 15 and $1,150 thereafter. Reserve tastings and other special events are additional. If you charge your registration to an American Express card, you get a whopping $25 off. Register online or by calling 877-900-WINE.

Food and Wine Fests Events Elsewhere

Having written about the exclusive Aspen event with its critical deadine, I’m going to get chronological with other more accessible, more affordable opportunities to taste great food and wine in Colorado and beyond. Those in Crested Butte, Vail and Durango benefit local not-for-profit organizations, so if you attend, you’ll be supping and sipping for a good cause. Here goes:

A real fun food event with an enchanting hometown element is the Crested Butte Nordic Council’s annual Progressive Bonfire Dinner, March 22. Skiers and snowshoers follow a lumenaria-lit path at their own pace for a four-star, four-course, four-bonfire meal. Starting between 5:00 and 6:30 p.m. with hot wine or hot cocoa at the Town Ranch trailhead, people then follow the lit path along a 4 kilometers (2 1/2 miles) of Nordic trails for an appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert courses of tasty Italian fare at the bonfire stops along the way. The price is $35 for adults and $15 for ages 12 and under. For reservations (required), call the Crested Butte Nordic Center, 970-349-1707.

The 18th annual Taste of Vail, April 2-5, features seminars on food, wine, glassware, the annual Lamb Cook-Off (the event’s kick-off on Wednesday afternoon — cook-off = kick-off), two Chef Showcase Dinners, and the storied Mountaintop picnic. Most events take place in Vail, with a few at Beaver Creek. The festival pass is $420, with individual tickets to special meals and tastings are $110-$150. For more information or tickets, go to the Taste of Vail’s website or call 970/926-5665.

The 30th annual Scottsdale Culinary Festival is six-day food and wine celebration, April 8-13, with individual events at various Scottsdale venues. These include a James Beard dinner, Cooks & Corks and Food & Wine’s Best New Chef Reunion Dinner. The Great Arizona Picnic, outdoors at the Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza, will offer with foods from more than 50 restaurants, cooking demonstrations, vodka drinks courtesy of Absolut and Patron margaritas at the Gardunños Margarita Village, and live entertainment on two stages. For details visit the website or call 480-945-7193.

Tickets to the Durango Wine Experience, May 1-3, can be ordered a la carte or as a multi-event feast, with additional special winemaker dinners at top local restaurants scheduled during the same period. Friday’s Walk-About Durango ($50) is a day of roaming around the picturesque, historic downtown, stopping at galleries and shops where wine tastings (all with light appetizers) are set up. Saturday’s Grand Tasting ($75) features more than 100 wineries that set up tasting stations under canvas. Buy both for $99, or go whole hog and book a Platinum or Upgraded Platinum package ($250 and $300 respectively) that includes all of the above plus the Thursday evening welcome party for vintners and winemakers and admission to Saturday seminars. Three local sommeliers are organizing this festival that ranks as one of the most affordable multi-day, quality food and wine events around. Buy tickets online or E-mail info@durangowine.com for more information. There appears to be no single information phone number.

The Hotel Cheval in downtown Paso Robles, CA, has launched a weekly Meet the Winemakers event every Thursday at Hotel Cheval’s Pony Club. Cheval is French for horse, but the Pony Club is the hotel’s wine bar. Different winemakers are scheduled each week, as is live entertainment. Meet the Winemakers takes place from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Beyond these events, the The Pony Club is open Sunday through Friday from 3:00 to 10:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturdays from 3:00 to 11:00 p.m. The hotel is located at 1021 Pine Street, Paso Robles; 866-522-6999.

Sweet Fasnacht Treats

Special pastries highlight pre-Lenten carnival in Lucerne.

I’ve posted a report about the street scene during the Swiss/German version of Mardi Gras, and there are of course, associated sweets — very generally comparable to king cake in New Orleans but with very different origins. I might be spelling these wrong, but I enjoyed Fasnachtsküchli, Ziglkrapfer and Tschankerli. These are, respectively, large featherlight cookies (which I didn’t photograph), diamond-shaped donuts made of potato flour and small sweet crumb cakes shaped like small bread loaves (right).

Several Cities Plan Restaurant Weeks

Bargain prix fixe lunches and dinners and special menus to be offered from coast-to-coast

I am a big fan of promotional restaurant weeks — one reasonable price for prix fixe meals (usually three courses) at participating restaurants. They are the equivalent of a retail sale. The idea is for diners to try new places that might otherwise be out of their normal budget range or familiarity comfort zone, while also enabling restaurants to entice new customers and thank existing ones with a good deal. And both business or leisure travelers score a bonus, because visitors tend to eat out anyway. Each restaurant week is a win/win situation of foodies and restaurateurs alike.

In most cases, diners can go to one website to search restaurants and book reservations online. Restaurant weeks are usually offered in a city’s low season. Taxes, gratuities and (usually) beverages are additional. Upcoming weeks that I know of:

Dine About Town – January 15-31

San Francisco’s seventh annual restaurant week now extends for 16 days. That’s a dozen midweek days and two weekends, including the long MLK Weekend. The caveat is that some restaurants may opt out of some days or times (some, for instance, offer either lunch or dinner specials but not both). Still, scores of restaurants from Absinthe to Zingari Ristorante will be serving $21.95 lunches and/or $31.95 dinners. If there’s a better eating city in the country, I don’t know it.

Dine Out Vancouver – January 16-February 3

This “week” extends for 19 consecutive days and boasts 182 participating restaurants of all cuisines and styles that are offering CDN$15, $25 or $35 meals. Most restaurant also recommend pairings with British Columbia’s truly wonderful wines and many offer specials on those to accompany the dinner specials. New this year is the “Best Bite” awards, which allow diners to select their favorite courses, service, food and wine pairings, and best overall menu. Participants are eligible for prizes, including two tickets to anywhere in North America on Air Canada. Visitors who want to go to Vancouver just to eat (a worthy objective) can also check out hotel specials on the Dine Out Vancouver website.

New York City Restaurant Week – January 21-25 and January 28-February 1

I’m sure that I’m not the first writer to suggest that this event allows diners to take a bite out of the Big Apple at a reasonable price. Sorry. I couldn’t resist. More than 200 restaurants of all sorts in many parts of the city (Manhattan and outer boroughs) have signed up. The good news is that this promotion runs for 10 days. The bad news is that it is not offered on the weekend, when many people like to dine out. The price is $24.07 per person at lunch and $35 at dinner. American Express is donating 50 cents per diner to City Harvest, a New York anti-hunger agency. Sunday Stays is a concurrent lodging promotion with significant discounts at major hotels.

dineLA – January 27-February 1 and February 3-8

The inaugural dineLA promotion offering takes place over two consecutive midweeks. There are two categories of restaurants and two categories of pricing for three-course meals: deluxe $15 at lunch and $25 at dinner, and premier $22 at lunch and $34 at dinner). American Express card-members get dibs on reservations through January 15, after which reservations are open to the general public starting January 16.

San Diego Restaurant Week – January 27-February 1

This Monday-through-Friday promotion is hardly enough to make a dent in the roster of more than 130 participating restaurants with $30 or $40 three-course dinners, so chow down now and plan to reprise it for the second segement June 22-27. This is the fourth year for San Diego Restaurant Week. Organizers report that a quarter of a million diners are expected to dig in.

Center City District Restaurant Week – January 27-February 1

While other city’s restaurant weeks spread out into suburbia, Philadelphia’s concentrates on the heart of the city — the best part — with “a minimum” of three-course dinners for $35. In addition to more than 100 restaurants, parking facilities are offering concurrent specials of their own, not trivial in a city whose roots date back to colonial days and whose narrow streets reflect its horse-and-carriage history. All it the week that the City of Brotherly Love becomes the City of Brotherly Dining, and oh brother, is it expected to be a good one!

Hudson Restaurant Week – January 28-Februrary 8

Unlike other resaurant weeks, this promotion in Hudson County, notably Hoboken on the west side of the Hudson River just across from Manhattan, does not require the 30 participating restaurants to offer the same-priced menus. The only promise restaurants make is to provide prix fixe meals that are a value. Lunches start at $13 and dinners at $23. Diners must check with each restaurant for specifics. Before I moved to Colorado, I lived in Hoboken and note this another indication of Hudson County’s relentless gentrification.

Denver Restaurant Week – February 23-39

As of now, a month before it starts, Denver Restaurant Week has 175 restaurants signed up. These range from longtime classics as The Fort and the Buckhorn Exchange to such brand new restaurants as the Limelight Supper Club and Elway’s Downtown. The price is $26.40 per person, which comes out to $52.80 for two — which, without the dollar sign or decimal point, is Denver’s official elevation above sea level. If you’re planning a ski trip to Colorado in that time frame, you might want to spend a night or two in the Mile High City to sample its interesting restaurants.

Boston Restaurant Week – March 9-14 and March 16-21

Like New York’s promotion, Boston’s runs over two weeks with a weekend break between. Restaurants in Boston, Cambridge and the ‘burbs are offering $20.08 lunches and $30.08 dinners. Last year, 137 restaurants participated. This year’s website, including reservations capabilities, is expected to go live on February 11. In addition to the official listing, BostonChefs.com will offer an unofficial guide to Boston Restaurant week (right), which should be interesting supplementary reading.

Bon appetit!