Vail’s & Crested Butte’s Spring Food Fests

 Ski or ride and also taste the local best at two Colorado resorts.

The Taste of Crested Butte and Taste of Vail combine great spring skiing and great food and wine tastings.

Taste of Crested Butte

TasteOfCB-logoThe Taste of Crested Butte comes in two versions — one in early spring (March 23-29) to bid a delicious farewell to the ski season and one three months later (June 14-21) to welcome summer.

The first features several days of lift ticket, lodging and perhas dining values. It peaks with an event with beers, spirits and food from around Colorado at Crafted, the big tasting event on March 29 from 12 noon 2:30 p.m at Ten Peaks (off the Painter Boy Lift). Tickets for this on-mountain brew fest can be purchased in advance online for $30 and on the day in CBMR’s Adventure Center for $35.

Taste of Vail

TasteOfVail-logoNow in its third decade, the Taste of Vail (April 2-5) has become the country’s premier ski-season food-plus fest. This huge food and wine festivalis  held at several venues throughout North America’s most popular mountain resort. This year, as many as 5,000 people are expected to taste not just the food but the Vail Valley lifestyle, all amid dramatic Colorado mountains.

The Taste of Vail features culinary offerings from the Vail Valley’s world-class restaurants, wines poured personally by winemakers and winery owners from renowned wineries throughout the world, interactive cooking seminars, the 10th Annual Colorado Lamb Cook-Off & Apres Ski Tasting, the icnoic Mountaintop Picnic extravaganza at the top of Vail Mountain, the Grand Tasting auction and other exciting events — plus the energy and buzz that surrounds such a big event. Click here for a full schedule and links to ticket purchases for the events.

Keeping Up with the Food & Bev Business

Online resource for biz news from the Rocky Mountain region.

CompanyWeek-logoSuch food and beverage producing businesses as wine-making, brewing, coffee roasting or making artisanal foods in Colorado and elsewhere in the Rocky Mountain region are covered by Company Week, an online publishing operation that launched last summer but that I just learned about. With the decline of print publishing, this is a valuable resource for keeping up with news about and trends in the production of things we like to eat and drink. What I really like about the searchable website and the free weekly digital newsletter is that they highlight news from small, local entrepreneurial businesses. Print publishing veteran Bart Taylor helms Company Week.

Between the weeks of September 10 and March 10, Company Week’s Food & Beverage category profiled Crooked Stave (brewing), Polidori Sausage, Peach Street (distillery), Rudi’s Organic Bakery, Sushi Den (“equal parts manufacturing and art”), Zum XR (performance beverage), Epic Brewing Company, Patsy’s Candies, Fresca Foods, EVOL (burritos), Door to Door Organics, Good Belly (probiotics), Mile Hi Foods, Kitchen Coop, Boulder Soup Works, Ska Fabricating (brewing), High West Distillery, Two Rivers Winery & Chateau and White Girl Salsa.

The Lifestyle category as included posts from the making of longboards to mountain bikes, but also inexplicably such food and beverage enterprises as Epic Brewing Company and Growing Spaces (off-grid greenhouses for growing vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs of all sorts year-round, without the need for heating). Thanks to Bart Taylor for hiring Wendy Aiello, Denver public relations diva, for spreading the word on this valuable site. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter.

Pizza-Plus at Basta

Chef-driven neighborhood hangout in Boulder’s Peleton.

001 Every time I go to Basta, I marvel at the riskiness of the venture and admire its success. This hard-to-find restaurant is located within the “courtyard” of an apartment complex called The Peleton, which had the misfortune of being built when the housing market was dragging. Even with many units vacant for a long time, fans of chef/owner Kelly Whitaker, who has cooked around Boulder, found the obscure place. The word got out about his artisanal pizzas, salumi, cheese selection and, of all dishes, chicken sensationally roasted in that wood oven.  Now, dinnertime is buzzingly busy, even on a weeknight.

Since I was last there, far too long ago, the run-of-the-mill, black-topped tables and pale chairs have been replaced by hefty custom furniture made from reclaimed oak. I wish I had remembered to take a photo. But the noise level was way high, and concentrating on conversation and taking some food shots was all I could manage. It was noisier than before, I think, because the restaurant is far fuller when I was there previously. The other evening, my husband, two out-of-town friends and I ordered items to share — for which the menu is especially well suited.

Wood Fired Vegetable Salad. Magnifico!
Wood Fired Vegetable Salad. Magnifico!
Romaine hearts with olives, lemon, olive oil
Romaine hearts with olives, capers, lemon juice and olive oil — simple and simply refreshing.
Peppers is what Basta calls the pizza made with roasted peppers, peperoni, mozzarella and basil.
Peppers is what Basta calls the pizza made with roasted peppers, peperoni, mozzarella and basil.
Arugula is the name of the pizza made with smoked mozzarella, tomato, prosciutto and, of course, the namesake salad green.
Arugula is the name of the pizza made with smoked mozzarella, tomato, prosciutto and, of course, the namesake salad green.

Basta also has a pizza called Cart – Driver, which is the name of a new restaurant opening in the not too distant future in Denver, at 25th and Larimer where the Ballpark Neighborhood and RiNo meet. Its inspiration is the quick-service stop along the Italian autostrade. Also, a pop-up café called correctedCoffee is currently utilizing Basta’s pizza oven for baking and occupying the dining space on weekday mornings.

Price check: At dinner, cheese, $7; salumi, $9; “small” (i.e., appetizer portions), $3-$9; salad, $10-$11; “large (i.e., entrée sizes); $12-$22; $32-$38; dessert, $3-$7.
Basta on Urbanspoon

Boulder on USA Today’s Best Food Cities List

Boulder one of six cited by national paper.

USA Today USAToday-logo. jpgpublished “Six Small Cities with Big Food Scenes,” including Boulder (no surprise to us locals). Boulder must be the one referred to as a “mountain town” in the lead, while Portland must be the “seaside hamlet.” Whatever. The national paper describes Boulder thus:

“There are scarcely more than 100,000 people living in Boulder, Colo., and five of them have earned the designation of master sommelier. For an expert food and drink pairing, visit Frasca Food and Wine, where a sommelier walks through the dining room nightly to offer thoughtful recommendations. Farm-to-table culture is alive and well in Boulder, thanks to Black Cat, as chefs Jill and Eric Skokan operate their own organic farm with humanely raised sheep, pigs, chickens, turkey and geese. You can also sample the flavors of Colorado at Salt and The Kitchen. While you’re there, don’t miss out on Boulder’s award-winning breweries, Upslope Brewing (try the Pumpkin ale when it’s in season), Avery Brewing Company, and Oskar Blues Brewery.”

The others are Asheville, North Carolina; Cincinnati; Pittsburgh; St. Louis, and Portland, Maine. I’m not sure how the paper defines “small,” but Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati all have populations of 300,000 plus or minus, which is not “small” by my standards. And BTW, Oskar Blues has locations in Longmont and one in Lyons, but last time I looked, nothing in Boulder.

Chef Demos at Cherry Creek Mall

Top local chefs, Ultra-luxe model kitchen & lots more at luxury home show.

HomeLifestyleShow=logoIf you’re dreaming about a to-die-for kitchen, check out the 2014 Home & Lifestyle Show, where you can drool over a luxury custom kitchen created by William Ohs Kitchens. The weekend show quite appropriately takes place the Grand Court of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center from March 14 to 16.

In addition to displaying suitably luxurious home products, the show stars some of Denver’s most renowned chefs who provide free demonstrations to show off the possibilities of these top products. Chefs include Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja, Euclid Hall and Bistro Vendôme and most recently, winner of the Cochon555 chef competition), Kevin Taylor (Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group), Tyler Wiard (Elway’s), Elise Wiggins (Panzano) and Scott Parker (Session Kitchen). which also includes seminars and a fun kids’ cooking lessons from Sticky Fingers Cooking. And if you’re a fan of Pat “Gabby Gourmet” Miller, she will be broadcasting live from the show on Saturday, March 15 from 1:00 to 3:00pm. Click here for a complete show schedule.

Restaurant Kevin Taylor & Prima Closing

Two restaurants will disappear from the Hotel Teatro

RestaurantKevinTaylor-logoDenver’s Hotel Teatro is planning a multimillion dollar renovation this spring, and two hotel restaurants operated by super-chef Kevin Taylor are casualties. Restaurant Kevin Taylor, a fine-dining establishment, and the more casual Prima Ristorante, both owned and operated by Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group, will be gone respectively on March 30 and May 1.  Penny Parker, long-time reporter about the Denver hospitality scene, called the news “a  major shocker.” I’m as shocked as she is — and sad too.

The hotel plans to operate a restaurant in the Prima space, but no word yet about the fate of the Restaurant Kevin Taylor space. However, it is on the same level with the modest reception area and mini-lobby, so perhaps more seating, a lobby bar or something along that line are planned.

As a chef, Kevin Taylor earned a reputation for wonderful, exquisitely presented dishes, and as a restaurateur, his eateries have won a slew of honors for cuisine, service and atmosphere. Restaurant Kevin Taylor has earned Four Star rating by Forbes Travel Guide (formerly Mobil) and Four Diamonds from AAA each year since it opened some 15 years ago. It is reportedly the only Four-Star, Four-Diamond restaurant Denver — certainly with such longevity. Through the years, it has received other honors from the likes of Wine Spectator, Food & Wine and Sunset magazines, as well as recognition from Zagat, Fodors and others. Kevin’s son Ryan inherited his dad’s culinary talent and has been executive chef there. I wonder where he will next cook — in one of the KTRG restaurants or elsewhere.

KTRG also operates Palettes in the Denver Art Museum, Kevin Taylor’s at the Opera in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and Limelight Supper Club & Lounge, also in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. In Central City, KTRG operates the seasonal Rouge and the Teller Bar, located in Teller Hotel next door to the Central City Opera House. It also caters special events at the art museum and the performing arts center. Kevin Taylor himself sees other doors opening for other restaurants as those in the Teatro close behind him. I’ve had splendid meals at these two restaurants, and I’ll miss them.
Restaurant Kevin Taylor on Urbanspoon
Prima Ristorante on Urbanspoon

6 Days of Craft Spirits & Cocktails in Denver

DSTILL features Colorado & out-of-state distilleries & cocktails.

DStill-logoColorado has earned a huge reputation as one of America’s top craft brewing states, and the legalization of cannabis has put the state into the national spotlight. Being a wine drinker, I pay more heed to the vineyards and wineries. But coming right up is DSTILL (March 10-16) that showcases this boom in spirits, presenting tastings, craft cocktail events, pairing dinners, workshops and other programs for the hospitality trade and the public alike.

The Colorado spirits boom has taken off like a Roman candle. Peach Street Distillers in Palisade was the first Colorado distillery that entered my consciousness when I was researching Culinary Colorado, the 2003 book that inspired this blog, and less than a decade ago, there were just eight. Now, there are somewhere between 40 and 65 artisanal small batch and micro distilleries within our state lines. A new generation of passionate spirit producers and imaginative bartenders is credited with today’s resurgent craft cocktail culture.

One distillery that especially intrigues me is Basalt’s Woody Creek Distillers, a  state-of-the-art distillery goes so far as to grow its own potatoes on a family farm to make vodka, gin, brandy, eau de vie and whisky. And in ultra-Colorado fashion, the tasting room is accessible by car, bike (Rio Grande Trail) or even raft (Roaring Fork River).

As part of the week, DSTILL welcomes the American Craft Distillers Association (ACDA) first-ever national conference to Denver for two-days of workshops, keynote speakers and master classes for the trade. The Showcase, the signature tasting even,t is on Thursday, March 13 from 7 to 10 p.m., features tastes from 50 craft spirit makers. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online  To follow next week’s events, check out the DSTILL Facebook page. Events are at various Denver venues.

Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.