If you haven’t visited Vail in the fall, it’s where summer and autumn collide in the most appealing way. Brightly colored flowers fill brimming flower boxes while pops of yellow appear on the mountain. Shadows of petals and bronze sculptures grow long as the town sashays towards ski season.
Accentuated by bites of lamb, sips of wine and incredible scenery, the 2021 Taste of Vail may have been small, but it packed a delicious punch. Normally the event is held at the end of ski season in April, but this year, with the issues brought about by a pandemic, it was rescheduled for fall and it was scaled back.
My Taste of Vail was exciting because I had been asked to be a judge for the American Lamb Cook-off & Tasting. While this year, there were only six restaurants participating and some years there are more than 20, it was still an honor.
As we worked our way through each plate, we judged on presentation, creativity and taste. I had my favorite, a Thai coconut curry lamb from Bistro Fourteen/Eagle Nest. The judges’ plates came with chopsticks that visually brought the dish together. I could taste each element, and yet it all worked together. It tied for second with R Farms which made a sort of lamb pita. I liked the fact that the pita was a handheld item and therefore easy to eat.
First place also went to a handheld food, the smoked lamb barbacoa empanada from Gourmet Cowboy/Back Country Wings in Minturn. Their presentation was spot on, and this empanada was tasty. They have to be ecstatic with this win seeing that they were up against Vail restaurants that set the bar high when it comes to excellent food. Minturn is about 7 miles from Vail.
The American Lamb Cook-off & Tasting is my favorite foodie event in Colorado, and therefore being a judge was pretty darn fantastic. Topped off with fabulous wine, ideal weather and mountain views, the 2021 event was definitely memorable.
We were staying in #607 at Antlers at Vail in Lionshead, a pretty walk or short bus ride away from Vail Village, the area with which people are most familiar. I love Lionshead, though, and we’ve been lucky to stay here a number of times. It has yummy restaurants like The Little Diner and yummy and affordable places like Moe’s Original BBQ.
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Having lounged at a number of pool areas in Vail, Antlers at Vail has one of, if not, the best. There are two hot tubs, a pool and lovely landscaping. What makes it really great, however, is its location above Gore Creek and the Gore Creek Trail.
Taste of Vail participants could drop in on a Friday morning yoga class taught by Sunshine of Sunshine Massage Studio The class was held outside in the Betty Ford Gardens. Despite the fall-like, chilly evenings, the days were the perfect temperature for yoga.
This class was ridiculously fun. It wasn’t just great because it was outdoors near a waterfall, but Sunshine is a wonderfully funny instructor. We were making lion faces and bird noises. There was a lot of laughter, which is good for the soul.
I had signed up for one seminar, Willamette Valley Sparkling Wine Seminar & Tasting. Full disclosure: I am a fangirl when it comes to Oregon wines. Born in Oregon, we try to hit a new winery each time we visited my parents, and we do. They have tons of wineries across the state.
I saved my tasting sheet with notes and then proceeded to accidentally throw them away while still in Vail, so I can’t tell you the names of the sparkling wines we tasted. However, I can tell you that Suzanne Larson, founder of Left Coast Estates, is super easy to like, and I can’t wait to visit this family-run winery one day.
After our seminar, we spent some time at Vail Oktoberfest, which happened to be taking place the same weekend as Taste of Vail. I have to admit to getting a little teary. I love hearing the polka and seeing people do the chicken dance with complete strangers. It’s been a while since that has happened.
That evening, Taste of Vail finished with a lovely Harvest Dinner outside in the grass at Gondola One. The setting was magnificent—tables were gorgeously adorned with flowers and chairs covered in white faux fur. We drank wine, made new friends, met old friends, and ate amazing food. Our entree of braised beef short rib from Executive Chef Tim McCaw from The Tenth was delicious, but the raspberry tart from Michel’s Bakery was the icing on a very sweet Taste of Vail.
If you can make it to Vail before the snow flies, be patient because it will be worth it. Despite staffing shortages that result in longer waits at restaurants and bus stops, the pure joy of autumn can be experienced on the patio at a fabulous bistro or the patio of your own condo.
Pack a jacket and grab your sweetheart, fall is the time to go to Vail.
Please note that Taste of Vail 2022, is scheduled for March 30-April 2. I will see you there!
A big thank you to Taste of Vail for hosting us on this lovely fall visit.