The Taste of Vail, a multi-day food and wine festival that uncorks each year in Vail Village and on Vail Mountain, is still -- even after 23 years -- one of the state's most fantastic culinary spring flings. Herewith, a few observations and photos from the weekend revelry.
For the first time in a long time, the mountaintop picnic -- one of the Taste of Vail's signature events -- was bereft of a blizzard and howling winds. Instead, the near balmy weather was ideal for a pig roast, and there was plenty of pork being pimped from the various participating restaurants and pig purveyors, including Game Creek (photographed above), the restaurant responsible for making everyone snort. Unlike some food and wine festivals, the Taste of Vail brings out the best of characters, and while this is not a commentary on the two happy dudes in the snap above, the aroma of weed filled the air, especially behind the dumpsters, where those who weren't smoking, were peeing. The best thing? No one gave a damn. Every year, the Taste of Vail hosts a spirited lamb cook-off in Vail Village, and this year, 21 restaurants competed for lamb supremacy. Some of the dishes didn't quite reach those heights, but there were others, most notably the lamb dishes from Sweet Basil (pictured above), La Tour and Bowl, that did. The winning dish, according to the judges -- Andra Zeppelin and Adam Larkey (Eater Denver), Max MacKissock (Squeaky Bean), Jennifer Jasinksi (Rioja, Euclid Hall and Bistro Vendome), Pete Marczyk (Marczyk Fine Foods) and yours truly were among them -- went to Sweet Basil, whose slow-roasted lamb paired with preserved lemon labneh, pickled ramps, lamb cracklings and dried olives, made us all wish for more. Wines -- very, very good wines -- were a huge component at this year's Taste of Vail, and the winemakers and reps were pouring it liberally, which may account for the fact that by the time the bottles had run dry, I had a stomach that stored at least a bottle...or two. It may also account for the fact that my butt was wet. Then again, it could have been the result of wearing cowboy boots, which are not remotely conducive to slushy snow. Take my word on this. This woman trotted off with one of the most coveted dishes at the on-mountain picnic: a medieval-size pork chop. Tender Belly's bacon was a big hit. No word, though, if it arrived in Vail in a pigup truck, or whether there were any pigpockets on the mountain. Oh, wait...there was at least one.
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For more photos, visit our complete slide show of the Taste of Vail festivities, which also included wine seminars, a grand tasting event and silent auction and winemaker dinners.