Bon Appetit Culinary & Wine Focus – Beaver Creek, CO

Posted on 18 February 2009

Life doesn’t get much better than this. To be at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch for a weekend of skiing, eating and spirits makes me wonder why anyone would choose any other culinary festival to treat themselves to.  This is the 11th year that Bon Appetit magazine has paired with Beaver Creek Resort to bring us world renowned food, wine and fun. It is a weekend meant to spoil you. There are cooking classes and dinners hosted by celebrity chefs. There are wine seminars, cocktail seminars, and wine pairing luncheons. Why not snowshoe to a restaurant and have celebrity chef Kerry Simon prepare your lunch? You can enjoy the mountain by day and indulge your senses by night. You can watch the chef’s show off their ski/ snowboard skills, or lack there of, in the celebrity Chef Ski race followed by and awards luncheon with the chefs. There are concerts where they still manage to squeeze exquisite little bites in your hand. You will not starve here! Culminate your weekend at the Grand Tasting. That is what I did. Just as it sounds, it is the big finale where you may sample dishes prepared by 34 chefs and various wines and spirits to wash them down. It sure is Grand.
The Ritz-Carlton definitely put on a show for us this weekend. Right as we enter, what do we see? The Chocolate Lounge. Is this for real? There is chocolate for days. There are white chocolate crepe purses, chocolate cocktails. There is even roast pork in a chocolate sauce served over manchego polenta. I must come back to this after I sample the savory. On my way into the ballroom I spot The Spago table. Ah yes, it Chef Mark Ferguson serving up Spicy Tuna Tartare in a Sesame Miso cone. This is one of my favorites on this night. I went back for more later even after I knew my body couldn’t handle anymore of this gluttony. But, it was that good. The flavors were tremendous and perfectly balanced. Makes me want to eat at Spago tomorrow.

So I finally make my way into the ballroom and I have this sense of urgency. I must battle this crowd like a salmon swimming upstream to taste it all! I cannot shove the food in my face fast enough. Am I in heaven? It turns out that most of my favorite dishes are only feet from each other. It is as if there was a flashing neon sign with my name. First stop, Shawn McClain, chef at Spring, Green Zebra and Custom House, all located in Chicago. I see sausage. Not just any sausage, a venison sausage served over winter legumes, quince and curried spices. There are lentils too. I think this is the perfect winter dish in this perfect winter wonderland. 

But wait; do I see Chef Marc Murphy from New York’s Ditch Plains and Landmarc restaurants across the aisle? I do. He is serving up ‘Orrechiette all Norcina’ which turns out to be his Thursday night pasta special at Landmarc. These ‘little ears’ are stuffed with a sweet, fennel sausage and served in a rich, heavy cream sauce. Yummy. So I turn around again and I see green. I could use some greenery in my life right about now. And who better to lighten things up for me than Little Owl and Market Place chef, Joey Campanaro? He is serving up a Sangria-marinated Skirt steak in a Romaine lettuce leaf with toasted bread crumbs. The warm, well seasoned steak is perfectly complimented by the crisp, cool romaine. It tastes like pure freshness to me. Everywhere I turn there is something that I want. Although I am full at this point, how can I not taste Kerry Simon’s Citrus-braised short ribs with steamed Bao dough? The citrus really came through on these ribs. They were yummy melt in your mouth short ribs. Then I see a tray of meatballs. These are not just any meatballs; these are Toasted sesame-crusted lamb meatballs with sweet harissa yogurt sauce prepared by Kat Cora. Yes please. I am trying to make my way out by now. But of course I have to stop for one of Jacques Torres’ famous hot chocolates. Why do I do this to myself? But what better way to end my night than with a cup of spiced, hot liquid chocolate? So I leave in search of some grappa, hoping for a digestive miracle. I already can’t wait for next years Festival!

By Gayle Hendrix
Photography by Matt Hendrix

Categorized | Eat & Drink