Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bon Appetit Culinary and Wine Focus—Beaver Creek, CO Jan 29-31, 2009

Greetings and Happy New Year, everybody!

My business partner at aka wine geek, Andy Seymour, and I just returned from Colorado where we had a great weekend at the Bon Appetit Culinary and Wine Focus. As many of you know, one of my roles is as Wine and Spirits Consultant for Bon Appetit Magazine, and with that, we have become very involved in their events. This weekend is a collection of some of the greatest chefs from around the country, and around the world, putting on a display in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Andy and I kept very busy, making sure there were plenty of delicious libations for all those in attendance.

Here is a little breakdown about how the weekend went:

Thursday Night:
As a way to kick off the weekend, former Supreme, Mary Wilson was on hand to belt out some of their hits. The concert was the official kick off for the weekend’s events, and since Brazil was one of the themes of the event, we blasted out Caipirinhas for 400 of our closest friends. It was quite an experience muddling and mixing for this great group. The biggest problem most of the crowd had was learning how to say “Cachaca” and “Caipirinha”. Most of them just said thanks for the cocktail and moved on then came back later to ask, “What did you say this was called?”

It was a great start to the weekend, always good to get the blood pumping in the mountains with a serious round of muddling!


8:30 AM—Plum-TV
Andy and I took a ride to the Plum-TV studios in nearby Vail to do a spot about the weekend’s activities. In two separate segments with the host Eric, we covered Argentine wine and Brazilian cocktails, which just happened to be the topics of my two seminars during the weekend. Andy jumped in and the three of us shook Caipirinhas, which the crew proceeded to make good use of after we wrapped up the piece. It was a good spot, and a lot of fun for all of us.

12 NOON—Luncheon at the Kelley’s house
One experience that makes this event so unique is that it provides an opportunity for someone to have a world class chef come into their home and make dinner for a small group. On this day, Alex Atala, the amazing Brazilian Chef of NaMesa and D.O.M. came into the home of Tim and Barbara Kelley to cook for a small group of 12. I had the pleasure of helping them all host the lunch and picked the wines we served. We couldn’t do a lunch with this great Brazilian Chef without serving the national drink of Brazil, so Andy whipped up fresh cherry Caipirinas for the guests as they arrived. The meal was a masterpiece, truly displaying Chef Atala’s brilliance.
The menu consisted of:
Welcome Drink
Fresh Cherry Caipirinha

Young Zucchini and Langoustine Salad with Aromatic Pepper Vinaigrette
paired with
Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2008, Salta, Argentina

Oysters in Brioche Crust with Marinated Tapioca
paired with
Miolo Chardonnay 2007, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brasil

Liquid Coconut Risotto with Dendê Oil, Mint and Nori
paired with
Quinta do Seival 2004, Castas Portuguesas, Campanha, Brasil

Brasilian Baby Pork Ribs
paired with
Mendel Malbec 2006, Mendoza, Argentina


Priprioca-Scented Flan with Lime Ravioli and Banana Ouro
paired with
Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Solera Especial, 15 Year Old Oloroso, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, Spain

3:30 PM—Brazilian Cocktail Seminar
Continuing this busy day, I slipped out of the lunch to meet Andy at The Golden Eagle Inn where we were preparing for our Brazilian Cocktail Seminar. The session was our opportunity to highlight some of our favorite cocktails with the indigenous spirits of Brazil. We mixed up three different drinks: a classic Caipirinha with Leblon Cachaca, a fresh mango Caipirinha with Cabana Cachaca, and the Paulistano, which features Oronoco Brazilian Rum shaken with pineapple, lime, Grand Marnier and fresh mint. The guests on hand all enjoyed the drinks and sampled Chef Marshall Blanchard’s food as each cocktail was accompanied by a course of food. You know I could never serve cocktails without food! The seminar was a lot of fun for Andy and me as the crowd got into the Brazilian spirit of things—that is they ate and drank with abandon, and of course, left with their own muddler to share the joy.

6:00 PM—Master Chef Challenge
As the chefs gathered in the Vilar center, preparing to compete for the Master Chef Challenge, we poured a selection of Trapiche’s wine—their Extra Brut Sparkling, along with a Torrontes and a Malbec—for the audience who were gathering for the big chef showdown. We plied the group with some great Argentine wine then slipped inside to watch some of the best in the business compete for the title of Master Chef. The competition took place in an ‘Iron Chef’ format with the breakdown of the rounds as follows:

Round One: Marc Murphy (The Landmarc, New York) and Steven Topple (Beano’s Cabin, Beaver Creek) vs. Richard Sandoval (Zengo, Denver) and Marshall Blanchard (Golden Eagle Inn, Beaver Creek)

Round Two: Joey Campanaro (Little Owl, New York) and Daniel Joly (Mirabelle, Beaver Creek) vs. Richard Chamberlain (Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House, Texas) and Jay McCarthy (Beaver Creek Chop House, Beaver Creek)

Round Three: Cookoff

Judges: Barbara Fairchild, Kyle MacLachlan and Donatella Arpaia

Congratulations to Joey Campanaro for representing New York so well as he and Beaver Creek’s Daniel Joly teamed up to take the top prize. I have to say that, when pressed on live TV that morning, I had predicted that they were going to win this one before the competition even started. I wish I’d had them in the Master Chef pool…


11 AM—Celebrity Ski Race
One of the highlights of the weekend for many is this event, where all the chefs and the gang from Bon Appetit—including Andy and me—hit the slopes for a little friendly competition down the Beaver Creek downhill race course. Everybody took two runs down the course and the fastest time for each group of four took the prizes. I was all geared up for the backcountry, with my fat skis and AT bindings, which is kind like trying to drag race in a Jeep Wrangler, but I still managed to help my team take 2nd place. It was a lot of fun, especially for people like Andy who have never raced, and the mood was great, continuing on into lunch at the nearby Chophouse.

3 PM—Argentine Wine Seminar
My last big event of the weekend was conducting a session about one of my favorite topics, Argentine Wine. We did the event at Spago at The Ritz Carlton and I was joined by their great young sommelier, Sean Razee, MS. Sean and I forced our guests to suffer through some of the best wines coming out of Argentina today, and the room (which we oversold twice and had to add 15 additional seats at the last minute) was full of thirsty attendees anxious to drink in all they could about one of the world’s great countries for wine. Anyone who knows me, knows I have been a champion of these wines for sometime, so it was a pleasure to share my passion for Argentina with a great group. Here is what we poured:

Trapiche Sparkling, Extra Brut NV, Mendoza
Michel Torino Torrontes Don David 2007, Cafayate, Salta
BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Mendoza
Luca Syrah 2006, Mendoza
Mapema Primera Zona 2002, Mendoza
Tikal Patriota 2006, Mendoza
Susana Balbo Malbec 2007, Mendoza
Mendel Malbec 2006, Mendoza
Trapiche Single Vineyard Malbec Viña Fausto Orellana 2005, Mendoza

I had the pleasure of working with Sean last year at the Telluride Wine Festival, and already knew what a great sommelier he is, so it came as no surprise when his crew there at Spago did an amazing job of running things start to finish—including adding fifteen seats with eight glasses each, twenty minutes before we were set to begin! It was a fantastic seminar to be a part of, and I was happy to hear that many in the room had caught the fever for these great wines.

That was the extent of my ‘work’ for the weekend, and you really must use the term loosely in a setting like this. That night, my wife Melissa joined me at the Grand Tasting, which featured food from all the weekend’s chefs, plus a great selection of wines and beer and spirits---a tremendous way to wind up a very successful weekend!

Of course, the weekend cocktail theme had to continue into the next day, which just happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, where I whipped up a few more Caipirinhas…this time for my party, as we watched the big game with a little Brazilian flavor.

Next stop is the South Beach Food and Wine Fest…until then—Sante!