Food Festival Preview

Beaver Creek Food and Wine Festival, a taste of what Austin has in store

Beaver Creek Food and Wine Festival, a taste of what Austin has in store

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Chefs John Besh and Tim Love were on deck in Beaver Creek to represent the Lone Star State. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
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Chef Tim Love's "Dirty Love" burger with smoked bacon, a quail egg and cheddar cheese. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
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One of the many chef variations on an afternoon slider. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
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Chef Tim Love learns to pour his own Stella Artois. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
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Chef Tim Love flipping burgers at the Apres-Ski Burgers and Beer event. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
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Chef Richard Sandoval's tortilla-wrapped sliders. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
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Cookie time chefs handing hot fresh-baked cookies at Beaver Creek. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
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Chef John Besh serving up New Orleans style shrimp and cheesy grits. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
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The bright and shiny slopes of Beaver Creek, perhaps Colorado's most exclusive boutique ski resort, were ablaze this last weekend with the added glimmer of gastronomic revelry from the inaugural Beaver Creek Food and Wine Festival.

Hosted by Beaver Creek Resort in partnership with Food & Wine magazine, the three day event showcased notable chefs from across the country including New York’s Marc Murphy of Landmarc in Tribeca, Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat in Chicago and Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson of Frasca in Boulder as well as contributions from renowned wine expert Anthony Giglio for Beaver Creek visitors and residents to enjoy — oh, and the eight inches of fresh powder that dusted the slopes Thursday night didn't hurt either.

 I was most interested to check in on how the couple of Texas-connected chefs would represent the Lone Star State. 

And while I enjoyed seeing the whole stable of chefs had to offer for events like the Après-Ski Burgers and Beer patio afternoon — complete with an entire Stella Artois ice sculpture bar — and the Saturday evening Grand Tasting, I was most interested to check in on how the couple of Texas-connected chefs would represent the Lone Star State.

On hand were John Besh, the Louisiana celeb chef/owner of August, La Provence, Besh Steak, Domenica and The American Sector who Texas can now claim since he opened French and German-inspired gastropub, Lüke, in San Antonio, and Fort Worth celeb chef Tim Love, chef/owner of The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, The Love Shack and the soon-to-open Woodshed in Fort Worth. He also happens to be one of the major chef partners for the Austin Food and Wine Festival in April. 

Many of the weekend’s events took place at host hotel the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa with a smattering of specialty seminars and wine-paired lunches and dinners hosted at exclusive Beaver Creek locales such as the Osprey, Grouse Mountain Grill, Mirabelle restaurant and Splendido at the Chateau.

The relatively small size of this festival made it completely possible to mix and mingle with some of the country’s top chefs, whose laid back and friendly personalities quickly evaporated the intimidating “celebrity chef” moniker.

“We’re just regular people like anyone else,” says Tim Love, who sported jeans and a ski vest for most of the weekend and made ample time for his wife and three kids who were also along for skiing and snowboarding. “We put our pants on one leg at a time just like the next guy.”

Speaking of Chef Love, how did the southern chefs fare? Did they represent the region, and more specifically Texas in a way we can be proud? Proud enough to host our very own nationally-spotlighted festival in April? I’d say so.

Besh was at his Southern gentlemen best from the get-go, greeting media and guests alike at the festival kick off party on Thursday evening. His was a hospitable quality that extended into Friday evening with a special dinner at private event space, Allie's Cabin. Located halfway up the main ski mountain and only accessible by a snow-cat drawn sled,  Allie's is the historic 19th Century home of George and Allie Townsend — the first settlers of Beaver Creek — that is now used for weddings and exclusive special events.

 From fresh Gulf oysters to silky lump crab bisque, the evening was a more intimate way to get to know Chef Besh as he circulated the room throughout the evening getting to know his guests.

Besh's dinner was no exception as a quaint attendance of 50 guests — including actress Susan Sarandon, Anthony Giglio and Tim Love — gathered for a celebration of the flavorful bounty from the chef's home of New Orleans.

From fresh Gulf oysters to silky lump crab bisque, the evening was a more intimate way to get to know Chef Besh as he circulated the room throughout the evening getting to know his guests. 

But while it was a treat to spend an evening in such a unique setting, I was eager to see what chef Tim Love had up his sleeve. After all, he'll be a main headliner for the Austin Food and Wine Festival and is scheduled to host a live cooking demonstration where 200 guests will stand in front of individual grills and learn from the famed Texas grill king how to start a fire, prepare and cook their own steak and enjoy it all with a few glasses of wine.

Judging from his ease in flipping burgers for more than 100 people (with a tall glass of Stella Artois in hand) for the Après-Ski Burgers and Beer event and his cooking demonstration skills at the more intimate 25-person lunch at the Chateau Splendido Saturday afternoon, I'd say Love has both the finesse and laid back personality to pull off the 200-grill endeavor.  

As the festivities ran one into the next each day, it was easy to get ahead on indulgent dining and copious wine-ing. At this altitude (8,000+ feet), the common rule of thumb is that one drink equals two, so it's wise to chase each one with a glass of water or, believe me, your head will have you spinning in the morning. (Not so great if you were signed up for the 7:30 a.m. First Tracks Ski Breakfast with chef Richard Sandoval of Beaver Creek's Cima restaurant, or the 9:30 a.m. Snowshoe and Gourmet Lunch with chef Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson of Boulder's Frasca.) 

In between wining and dining, festival-goers took to the slopes for a little recreation stopping to enjoy the resort's famed 3 p.m. cookie breaks from Cookie Time Chefs. Watching a hungry crowd of skiers and riders swarm the fleet of bakers in their chef whites was like watching cattle hit the hay barn at feeding time. You’d think it was the only thing people had to eat all day, but both regular Beaver Creek guests and festival goers alike clamored around for a free fresh-baked cookie.

Well known local restaurateur Brian Nolan who owns the Beaver Creek Chophouse, Foxnut Sushi, The Flying Pig BBQ and Sandwich Shop and Blue Moose Pizza — and who also happens to be on the resort's board of directors — noted that the festival was expecting  around 600 participants, many of which would be local residents from Beaver Creek and nearby Vail. Next year, he anticipates that number will double.

At last count, the Austin Food and Wine Festival has sold about 600 tickets within its first week of sales. (250 of those are $850 VIP tix.) But there’s still a long way to go before Austin organizers C3 Presents and restaurant partners Love, Tyson Cole and Jesse Herman meet their anticipated goals. They’re hoping to sell 1500 VIP tickets alone. Will the celeb-chef heavy festival meet its mark?

There’s only about 75 days to find out, but based on the petite taste that Beaver Creek’s Food and Wine Festival was able to achieve, my bets are on Austin to make a strong showing.