Yeah, pretty much the whole shebang (or at least the bits of it I attended), wrapped up in one big shiny bow (click on image to see schedule).
The 1st workweek of my 40th year on earth was a stinky bitch. Monday I had one of my semiannual bouts of food poisoning, mostly in the parking lot of the Greenwood Village Shops at the Landmark (sorry, whoever pulled in after me). Tuesday I worked for 16 hours straight (sorry, Director, who had to put up with me). Wednesday 1 of our cats developed severe conjunctivitis & I had to help the vet tech hold him still while she took his temperature from the wrong end (really sorry, Jasper). Thursday—I don't even know where to begin. It started with insomnia & went from there. And Friday, I woke up at 5am to pack & get to the airport by 7:30, where I picked up my mom, drove her to Estes Park for her annual Buddhist retreat at the Y, & proceeded to make every conceivable wrong turn en route from there to Beaver Creek, finally arriving just in time to miss what was by all accounts a debauched lunch at Grouse Mountain Grill.
But from there on out was the smoothest of pleasure cruises through demos & dinners &
In full disclosure, this was a press trip; I didn't pay for jack. That said, rest assured the richies who did wouldn't stand for anything less than royal treatment. Being in their midst, without a badge to indicate I myself am just a poor (& I mean poor) freelancing slob, I'm pretty sure they experienced what I experienced.
And so without further ado, a few highlights, starting with the "The Perfect Steak," part of the Wine Spectator Demo Series with Beaver Creek Chophouse's Jay McCarthy & Chateau St. Michelle's Tim Clark.
Here's a fancy aerial view via mirror of the stovetop,
which wasn't in use—technically this was a seminar about cuts, not a cooking demo, & the discussion focused on food & wine matching above all. Our lovely little portion, in a bourguignonne-esque sauce of red wine & mushrooms with a side of mashed potatoes dotted with carrots, peas & green chiles,
was paired with 6 Merlots, mostly from the Chateau St. Michelle family (which includes Stag's Leap)—which I must say impressed me far more than any of the CSM whites I've ever tried, my favorite being the 2006 Canoe Ridge, not nearly so fruit-forward as the Merlots that got hammered a few years back by dear old Miles (it seems more than a few winemakers may have actually learned something after getting their asses handed to them by a fictional character), showing rather a nose dusted with dried herbs & barbecue smoke, chocolate & licorice on the palate.
An all-around impressive dinner at contemporary Italian Toscanini started with the terrific heirloom tomato “martini,” less like a bloody mary than gazpacho-infused Cap Rock vodka, complete with basil & an S&P rim.
Two pancake-sized slices of fine bresaola—air-dried beef from Lombardy—topped a tradition-minded salad of arugula, pine nuts, shaved parm & balsamic-marinated onion.
Though the classic appetizer as it’s served in northern Italy is even simpler—drizzled not with vinaigrette but just olive oil & lemon juice—this was certainly a lovely, deeply earthy variation thereon.
And my rigatoni was a midsummer night’s dream,
at once hearty & harvest-fresh, sauteed with fresh artichoke hearts, strips of bell pepper, onion & salami, & shards of pecorino romano, then finished with rosemary & olive oil. I left, I think, 2 or 3 pasta tubes so as not to totally humiliate myself in front of my less gluttonous companions.
But I don’t think they were fooled, since I went on to polish off a float made with root beer vodka (desserts being the only excuse for artificially flavored spirits) & smartly subtle, vanilla-tinged root beer gelato.
Good as it was, the banana-panettone pudding with white chocolate & hazelnuts ordered by Jen Heigl of Daily Blender was even better, evoking a molten fruitcake—which, come to think of it, is a brilliant idea. Copyright Denveater
After that was yet another cocktail I don’t want to talk about, thanks anyway, & then I think I ate all the truffles sent up by the 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill to my hotel room at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa—I actually vaguely remember the coconut & Irish cream—
& then I found myself on a hiking trail at the crack of dawn surrounded by the knock-knock-knock of woodpeckers & signs that said something like: YOU MAY ENCOUNTER A BLACK BEAR. DO NOT APPROACH THE WILDLIFE. Having approached the wildlife the night before, I was all set with that.
And then, 2 hours later, I was drinking a mimosa in the presence of great American hero Anthony Dias Blue
& standing in the kitchen of Splendido at the Chateau watching renowned Dallas-based chef Stephan Pyles (center), with the assistance of Splendido chef David Wolford (left), cook me & maybe 20 other people
a 3-course lunch of red snapper tamales with red curry masa, Veracruzana sauce & caramelized bananas,
coriander-cured lamb loin with cascabel aioli & a salad of pintos, navy beans & black turtle beans (marinated in ham hock stock), arugula & pickled onions,
& a chocolate-filled samosa with pistachio, rose & gum mastic ice cream.
We would’ve had 2 wines, but since De Tierra Vineyards didn’t send enough for more than a taste each of the 2008 Pinot Gris & the 2007 Pinot Noir, the GM of Splendido stepped up to & beyond the plate by pouring us 2 wines from his own cellar as well. That, friends, is what a) polished hospitality & b) $$$ get you. (Again, not my $$$, but rather the $$$ of the socialites around me, including 1 tall, willowy creature entirely in white who was such a ringer for Linda Gray I thought I might actually have been transported to Dallas.)
Honestly, I was such a sucker for Pyles’ flourishes that the fundamentals didn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong, they were great; but if I’d been served nothing but the masa (a little undercooked but delicious anyway), bean salad & ice cream—based on a 200-year old recipe Pyles sampled in Damascus—I’d have been ecstatic.
From there we headed to Vail, which didn’t suck. Details to come.