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Taste of Vail Fab for Foodies

Taste of Vail Lamb Fest.
Taste of Vail Lamb Fest.

Story & photos by Kim McHugh

I’m navigating the streets of Vail Village politely moving through the crowd of food and wine enthusiasts as I stop by tent after tent to sample delicious lamb dishes. Innovatively prepared by chefs from local Vail Valley eateries, the dishes were created in celebration of the 11th Annual American Lamb Cook-off & Après Ski Tasting, one of many culinary events the Taste of Vail has available for patrons during the three-day festival.

Buoyed by a gorgeous, sunny and warm Colorado spring afternoon, the Lamb Cook-off has attracted a crowd in the hundreds whose mission is to sample fare from the nearly 30 participating restaurants, more than 70 wineries, four distilleries and two craft breweries. Guests, who have the option to pay either $4 per taste or $75 to secure a wristband allowing unlimited tastings, are zigzagging back and forth tent to tent, noshing on appetizer-sized lamb dishes prepared every which way.

Kelly Liken serves up a Lamb Loukinaka Sausage with Coriander Carrot Sauce
Kelly Liken serves up a Lamb Loukinaka Sausage with Coriander Carrot Sauce

Restaurant Kelly Liken serves up a Lamb Loukinaka Sausage with Coriander Carrot Sauce; Two Elk Restaurant offers Rocky Mountain Lamb Chili with Black Beans, Quinoa and Lentils; bōl tempts with Colorado Peach Smoked Lamb Shawarma; Tavern on the Square at the Arrabelle at Vail Square made Malaysian Tamarind Lamb Nachos with Saffron Miso Bean Purée and Pomegranate Molasses; First Chair at the Vail Marriott served Picadillo Lamb with Romesco Sauce, and Wildwood Smokehouse does Lamb Profiteroles.

I can’t speak for other participants, but I paced myself, appreciating there were 28 potential stops for food and—truth be told—I opted not to taste any of the 70 something wines and handful of spirits options, figuring I’d get a WWD (walking while drunk) citation. I did, however, enjoy a frosty Stella Artois Brown Ale. Staged from 3 PM to 6 PM, the Lamb Cook-off allowed people to move at a leisurely pace, though some guests, perhaps caught up in the street festival atmosphere—and mesmerized by so many choices— clearly accelerated their intake of wine, which, in a mountain town whose elevation is 8,150 feet, isn’t a good idea. Alcohol tends to enter the blood stream more quickly at higher elevations, so it doesn’t take much to get you teetering back and forth like a metronome. Those choosing to exercise the “taste, spit, rinse” technique of wine tasting appeared to minimize their lightheadedness and given the audible oohs, aahs and mmms it was evident that the lamb dishes were absolutely satisfying.

Lamb Shawarma.
Lamb Shawarma.

 

Typically held in early April, the three-day event celebrates its 26th season next year and guests are treated to not only great food and wine, but also informative seminars. Highlights include the Mountaintop Picnic atop Vail Mountain, and the Grand Tasting and Silent Auction, held at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail. You needn’t be a skier or snowboarder to attend since most functions occur off-mountain—and those attending the Mountaintop Picnic can take the gondola and either walk 200 yards to or ride a snowcat to the venue.

If you have a bucket list for food and wine experiences, I suggest you add to it the Taste of Vail. Prices range from $50 – $75 for individual events and up to $385 for a Signature Pass, which gives access to four events. For details or to purchase tickets, log on to www.tasteofvail.com.

 

Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.
Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.
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