Beaver Creek’s Cookie Contest

Beaver Creek selects this season’s official chocolate chip cookie.

Beaver Creek ResoBeaverCreek-logort opened on November 26 with 589 acres of terrain, six feet of snow in November and the new Centennial Express combination gondola/chairlift.  But for chocolate chip cookie addicts, perhaps the best part was the afternoon taste-testing of 5,000 cookies at the 11th annual World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Competition.

Cookie bakers submitted their entries to Beaver Creek Resort Company back in October, and the five finalists were chosen by local judges. Entries came from all over Colorado plus Texas, California, Wisconsin, Georgia, Oregon and elsewhere. Conveniently, the finalists all came from Colorado, because each one had to bake 1,000 cookies to be judged. Finalists were Lori Lavicka of Avon, Cassie Sewell of Eagle, Kristen Gorrell of Gypsum, Hannah Bailey of Lone Tree, and Julianna Kopec of Avon. After sampling all of the cookies, guests had the opportunity to vote on their favorite recipe. Kristen Gorrell and her “baker’s Dozen” recipe took home the top honors and $1,000.

Her recipe is the new “official” Beaver Creek cookie for the season. Second place winner, Hannah Bailey won third place and $750 for “Hannah’s Mile High Chocolate Morsels,” and third place winner, Julianna Kopec  took home $500 for “Cookies of Prey.” Fourth place recipient, Lori Lavicka’s “2015 Champion Chip Cookie” earned her two tickets to Dancing Like Pros Live performance at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, and fifth place netted Cassie Sewell two tickets to the Cirque Mechanics Pedal Punk at the Vila for her Cassie’s World Class Chocolate Chip Cookies.”

Beaver Creek's signature daily cookie service begins on day one of the ski season.
Beaver Creek’s signature daily cookie service begins on day one of the ski season.

Cookie Time is Beaver Creek’s guest service program daily at 3 p.m. when Cookie Time chefs in chef whites serve warm, fresh, chocolate chip cookies on silver trays.  The tradition started in 1985 and evolved into the cookie competition in 2004 providing opening day guests with a village celebration. More than 500,000 cookies are served annually and the new Beaver Creek Cookie & Crepe Company, located by Beaver Creek Lodge, now allows guests to purchase their favorite Beaver Creek cookies to take home  or to their resort accommodations.  

Kristen Gorrell’s Baker’s Dozen Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, partially melted
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup tightly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons additional brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups  semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beaver Creek did not provide baking instructions, but typically all ingredients are combined (I’m guessing first dry ingredients, then butter, then sugars followed by eggs and finally chips). The dough is dropped in balls about two inches apart on cookie sheets often lined with parchment. Without instructions, I’m mystified by the divided brown sugar, but perhaps you will figure that out and post a comment. Bake at 350 to 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until the edges begin to brown and crisp. Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly. Devour.

Green Bean Casseroles by the Numbers

Del Monte’s study of cliché Thanksgiving casserole.

DelMonte-logoMy husband often teases me, saying that that I am not a “real American,” foodwise, because I have never made a casserole of any sort, country gravy, a Jello salad or other such staples on the American food scene. Guilty of food treason, I suppose. But I am oddly fascinated by statistics. So when an Email from Del Monte announcing that Colorado is #8 in the country for its love of green bean casseroles, presumably made with canned ream of mushroom soup mixed in with the canned green beans, according to something called the Del Monte Green Bean Index, I was intrigued and, frankly, amused.

Del Monte says that “30 million green-bean casseroles [are] set to appear on Thanksgiving tables,” according to a study that was conducted by, ahem, bean counters at Del Monte. The survey asked 1,500 Americans to “go green bean” and rate their fondness for the classic green-bean casserole side dish. I took Statistics 101 AND 102, which makes me a little skeptical about a survey of 1,500 people representing 320 million or so in all 50 states. But I’m putting my skepticism aside. Here goes:

Del Monte’s Top 20 States With the Most Green Bean Casserole Lovers

1. Kentucky (78% of residents ‘really like or love the dish’)
2. Wisconsin (77%)
3. Missouri (76%)
4. Iowa (75%)
5. Maine (74%)
6. New Hampshire (73%)
7. Florida (72%)
8: Colorado (71%)
9. California (69%)
10 Mississippi (68%)
11. Oklahoma (67%)
12. Utah (66%)
13. Kansas (66%)
14. Texas (65%)
15. Maryland (64%)
16. Ohio (63%)
17. Massachusetts (62%)
18. Illinois (61%)
19. Michigan (60%)
20. New York (60%)

Top Five Ingredients for Green Bean Casseroles

Del Monte also asked state residents to rate their favorite “secret ingredient” — described as “a single, creative item that can be added to the casserole’s iconic green bean, cream of mushroom and French fried onion flavors to make it unique and different.” I feel snarkiness coming on, but that is mean, so I will simply post what Del Monte released:

1. Bacon (37% picked it as their favorite secret ingredient)
2. Cheese (19%)
3. Mushrooms (15%)
4. Bread crumbs, croutons, or crushed crackers (12%)
5. Almonds (8%)

Now, since I am posting this, I hope I qualify as a “real American” in my husband’s eyes. But I’m not ever making this casserole —  or serving canned jellied cranberries either.


Happy Hour at Ella

006I had great expectations for excellence at Ella Fine Diner in North Boulder. But breakfast shortly after it opened was flawed (hard-poached eggs!); click here for my post. We returned this evening for a pre-Thanksgiving bite during happy hour and sampled very few dishes, so I continue to give it the benefit of the doubt.

We were seated in a booth in the Lounge, as the bar area  is called. Again, it was a mixed experience — one item way better than others and pleasant but uneven service, even though the restaurant was not terribly busy.  I don’t know whether the eclectic menu is, well, too eclectic, or whether three meals a day are excessively ambitious, but there are still inconsistencies that I hope will be resolved. I really want Ella (as the sign out front reads) to succeed. If you go, please post a comment about your experience.

Pea soup was tasty enough, but anorexically thin.
Pea soup was tasty enough, but anorexically thin.
Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette featuring Ozark All Seasons Lettuces Ella’s signature lettuce blend salad is decribed as

Ella’s signature lettuce blend salad is described as  lettuces “tossed in lemon poppy seed champagne vinaigrette with toasted pine nuts, fresh Granny Smith apples, purple onions, red grapes and crumbled goat cheese.”While those components were on the plate, it was in reality far less interesting than the description. The greens were crisp and fresh, but perhaps it was the undistinguished dressing that disappointed.
My nostalgic favorite is palacsinta, the Hungarian version of what my Austrian family called Palatschinken. A thin pancake with a slightly sweet cheese filling, a sprinkle of powdered sugar and fresh fruit is one of my comfort foods. Ella's was fine.
My nostalgic favorite is palacsinta, the Hungarian version of what my Austrian family called Palatschinken. A thin pancake with a slightly sweet cheese filling, a sprinkle of powdered sugar and fresh fruit is one of my comfort foods. Ella’s was fine.

Price check: There is no specific happy hour menu online.  Items on the Lounge menu are $7-$14, but does not include anything that we ate. Also, you can find lunch and dinner prices on the website. (Note: I have edited this post three times, because the links kept going to Ella’s Restaurant in Arkansas. This is my fourth try. If Fayetteville comes up again, please copy and paste it into your browser. Sorry.)

Ella on Urbanspoon

Denver International Winefest’s Winning Chefs

Best Chef, Most Creative Chef & People’s Choice selected.

DenverWinefest2014Once again, it was my privilege and my pleasure to be a judge at last night’s Pairsine chef competition component at the 10th annual Denver International Wine Festival.  Each competing chef was given two gold medal-winning wines from the wine competition several months ago and charged with creating two dishes — one to pair with each wine. We judges were charged with selecting our first and second choices for “Best Chef” and “Most Creative Chef.” Only one in each category could win, but a runner-up was also chosen in case one chef was picked in both.

Each chef (plus assistants) set out tasting portions of two dishes. Here, Relish Catering's Bill Miner presents house-made duck Mortadella sausage on a toasted seed cracker topped with cranberry puree and apple-fennel relish.
Each chef (plus assistants) set out tasting portions of two dishes. Here, Relish Catering’s Bill Miner presents house-made duck Mortadella sausage on a toasted seed cracker topped with cranberry puree and apple-fennel relish.
Joshua Hesho, the new chef at the Omni Interlocken Resort where the event is taking place, presented spiced chocolate cake with cranberry and rosemary on a lollipop sitck.
Joshua Hesho, the new chef at the Omni Interlocken Resort where the event is taking place, presented spiced chocolate cake with cranberry and rosemary on a lollipop stick.
Chefs at work throughout Pairsine -- plating, arranging and interacting with guests.
Chefs at work throughout Pairsine — plating, arranging and interacting with guests.

The Winners

The winners, with yours truly on the far right.
The winners, with yours truly on the far right.

It is a testimonial to Colorado’s culinary level that the standards were high, even though not one of the area’s big-name chefs was among the competitors. Only the winning chefs were announced, at the event but since I was privy to the judges’ voting, I’ll share those results, plus the People’s Choice winner.

Best Chef

1. Joshua Hesho, Omni Interlocken Resort
2. Jeff Bolton, Kachina Southwestern Grill, Westin Westminster

Most Creative

1. Bill Miner, Relish Catering & Events
2. Lauren Mechin, Jill’s Restaurant, St. Julien Hotel

People’s Choice

Chris Teigland, Balistreri Vineyards

Grand Tasting This Evening

There is still one big event: this evening’s Grand Tasting which begins at 4 p.m. for early VIP entry, with regular admission from 6 to 9 p.m. FoMoInfo on admission categories, hours and prices, click here. All guests go home with a Reidel commemorative wine glass, with upgraded admission including more goodies.

Coming Up: Two Celebrations of French Wine

Beaujolais and Burgundy this weekend.

BeaujolaisBeyond2014The 16th annual Beaujolais and Beyond Food & Wine Festival on Thursday, November 21 from 5:30 to 9:30 the McNichols Building in Denver’s Civic Center Park. The annual fundraiser for the Rocky Mountain French-American Chamber of Commerce is a French-themed event featuring 20 of Denver’s best restaurants pairing their cuisine with fine French wines. Participating chefs include Jesper Johnson of Randolph’s Restaurant & Bar, Bob Meyer of Luke’s A Steak Place, Michael Rosendal of The Modern Edge Events and Catering and Jean-Luc Vogele of the Westin Tabor Center. This direct scheduling conflict might explain the reason that Chef Voegele will not be at the Denver International Wine Festival’s Pairsine chef competition on Thursday. Other competitors are Pairsine are probably relieved that the formidable French chef will not be there this year. Cooking demos and live music. Tickets are $70 in advance and $80 at the door; FoMoInfo click here.

The fourth annual Boulder Burgundy Festival from November 21 through 23 is a rarified three-day celebration of Burgundy wines that includes tastings and seminars with winemakers and top U.S. wine directors, as well as wine dinners hosted by Boulder’s best restaurants. The fact that it is in Boulder speaks to the food and wine folks here that such an event would be held here. Credit goes to Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman, owner of the Boulder Wine Merchant, and fellow Master Somm Bobby Stuckey, partner in Frasca Food & Wine, which is hosting one of the dinners. The event — seminars, dinners, Grand Tasting — is pricey and does tend to sell out. But I did want to make note of it here because it is that important.’s Denver Awards

Foodie website’s local winners. names a host of national award winners and all local winners in the cities it covers — one of which is Denver. No person or place from the Mile High City once again made it onto the national list, but we do have local winners to celebrate. They are:

Restaurant of the Year
Nominees: Acorn, To The Wind, The Plimoth, Stoic & Genuine, Work & Class
Winner: Acorn

Chef of the Year
Nominees: Dana Rodriguez , Kelly Whitaker , Jorel Pierce, Pete Ryan, Alex Figura
Winner: Kelly Whitaker

So Hot Right Now
Nominees: Stoic & Genuine, Cart Driver, Mercantile Dining & Provision, Work & Class, Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen
Winner: Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen

Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Jason Patz, Sean Kenyon, Stuart Jensen, Mclain Hedges, Noah Heaney
Winner: Sean Kenyon

Stone Cold Stunner
Nominees: Stoic & Genuine, Sarto’s, Ste. Ellie, The Nickel, The Cooper Lounge
Winner: The Cooper Lounge

Iconic Colorado Distillery
Winner: Leopold Bros.

Congratulations to all.

Denver International Wine Festival This Week

DenverWinefest2014The 10th annual Denver International Wine Festival takes place this week. Three highlight events are a four-course winemaker’s, the Taste of Elegance/Pairsine competition and the Grand Tasting. The chef dinner featuring Stellenbosch wines from South Africa takes place on Wednesday, November 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Meritage Restaurant in the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, conveniently located between Denver and Boulder, where all local Wine Country Network events now take place. Click here for the menu. The cost is $69 plus tax and gratuities.

Maybe I’m partial because I’ve been a judge several times, but my favorite part of the festival is Pairsine, a competition in which 10 Denver area chefs prepare two dishes each to pair with gold meal winning wines from the earlier Denver International Wine Competition.  Officially known as The Taste of Elegance, this event takes place on Thursday November 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. also at the Omni Interlocken Resort. It is Wine Country Network’s signature event and this year, celebrity TV chef and author Sara Moulton, is honorary host and will also conduct cooking demonstrations. Tickets ($100) are still available online.

Nine of the 10 chefs have been announced:

  • Chef Jeff Bolton, Kachina Southwestern Grill
  • Chef Geoffrey Groditski, The University Club
  • Chef Joshua Hasho, The Meritage, Omni Interlocken
  • Chef Chris Teigland, Balistreri Vineyards
  • Chef Bill Miner, Relish Catering & Events
  • Chef Sean McGee, Rio Bistro
  • Chef Timothy Richardson, Custom Culinary Concepts
  • Chef Laurent Mechin, Jill’s at The St. Julien Hotel
  • Chef Cristino Greigo, The Bistro at Stapleton

The festival’s finale is the Grand Tasting on Friday November 21 from 6 to 9 p.m., with three hours of wine tasting and wine-themed exhibits. This popular ticket is $65, which can also be purchased online, organizers say is new lower price. I can’t recall what it was in the past. Because drinking and driving are a bad idea, the Omni is offering $99 rooms to festival-goers. Click here for reservations.

There are also trade and consumer seminars — the latter accessible with a now-sold-out VIP admission ticket. Click here FoMoInfo.

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.