Sweet Basil served an heirloom melon and tomato gazpacho. This was garnished with compressed melon, olive oil powder and a spiced pepper shrimp (specifically an espelette pepper, which is a variety of chili pepper). The heirloom melon took the bite and acidity out of the tomato, resulting in a very smooth gazpacho. And, with the large pepper flakes on the shrimp, I was prepared for an overwhelming punch of heat, but the mildly spicy undertone had me happily surprised.
Not wanting to stop there, I continued my culinary tastes. One of my utmost favorite restaurants in Vail and the location at which I spent my birthday a month ago: Campo de Fiori served 2 incredibly flavorful and comforting dishes. The burrata e focaccia, burrata cheese served on crisp focaccia bread then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, was creamy and decadent with that earthy finish of olive oil on a crisp crouton. But, the Ravioli all’ Odore di Funghi was probably the dish that I was impressed with the most at the entire event. The house made ravioli was filled with wild mushrooms and was served with a gorgeous, rich, velvety champagne cream sauce and white truffle oil. I bashfully admit that I used the last bite of the ravioli to sop up the oh-so-miniscule remains of the delightful sauce.
From Up the Creek, I was served a braised beef short rib over smoked gouda mac and cheese with a veal demi glace. Larkspur, also featured in the Ski Town Soups cookbook with a Celery and Leek Potage, served some delicious crispy tacos, which seemed to be the craze, this year. The taco shell was a crunchy, perfect housing for the yummy taco and spicy dressing (pictured above). And from La Tour, I sampled the Asian BBQ beef sliders, which were perfectly salted and paired with a yeasty roll. The crunch and freshness of the pickled daikon, carrot, jalapeño and crisp cilantro created a perfect balance for this sensational taste (pictured below).
After a number of meaty dishes, I was thrilled to cleanse my palette with a Palisade Peach and Arugula salad by Flame of Four Seasons in Vail. Already a winner with arugula as my favorite green leaf, this salad was dressed with a local honey vinaigrette and adorned with a very unexpected goat cheese flan. The light, airy taste of flan with a goat cheese undertone was a very sophisticated spin on a seemingly simple salad. Kudos, Chef Harrison!
Larkburger triumphed at the 2012 Denver Burger Battle with their Truffle Burger, which they served at this year’s Gourmet on Gore. The delicious, juicy medium-rare burger was accompanied with bright lettuce, tomato, pickles and red onion. The truffle aioli brought a warm, earthiness to the burger while the Tillamook cheddar offered a sharpness and richness that offset the lusciousness of the burger.
The Marriott 7One5 actually holds a special place in my heart! Before I moved to the Vail Valley and realized that it may be the epicenter of culinary delights, I stayed at the Marriott in Lionshead and enjoyed many-a-meal at 7One5. The dish they served at Gourmet on Gore left nothing to be desired! A perfectly, flamed-to-order medium-rare skirt steak was served with an heirloom tomato and arugula salad over the most luscious Gruyere gratin and drizzled with a Southwestern taste of charred garlic chimichurri. This amazing dish continues to make my mouth water in anticipation of the next perfect bite.
Taste 5 Catering came out blazing with a Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare Taco, which was drizzled with a soy wasabi aioli. My palette was quite happy with the flavors melting in my mouth - the tender and fresh Ahi tuna with the bright zing of fresh-cut ginger. One of the most creative dishes that I sampled was Chef Richard Bailey’s Quail and Waffles dish. An upscale spin on chicken and waffles, this deliciously crispy quail was served atop a warm waffle with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey syrup and orange butter. Definitely a notch above any chicken and waffle dish I’ve ever tasted! My icing on the cake, from Taste 5 Catering, was their signature caramel pecan cookie, which I had also test-tasted the night before … I had to do it again, to make sure the dream was, in fact, reality.
With a overwhelmingly satisfactory feeling with myself for the sampling extravaganza, I concluded with Elway’s Restaurant 60% dark chocolate rum mousse with reduced Colorado cherries, whipped mascarpone cream, and crisp chocolate cookie crumbles. Quite an elegant dish with which to finish!