Category Archives: Food and Wine

WESTERN COLORADO FESTIVALS YOU CAN SINK YOUR TEETH INTO

Hungry for summer? Salivating over plans for road trips and meetups and culinary celebrations? Marking your calendar with repeat favorites and wondering about new adventures inspired by Western Colorado’s crops?

From summer solstice on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 10:24 pm MDT to the autumnal equinox on Friday, September 22, 2017 at 2:02 pm MDT, mountain and Western Slope communities are serving up food and drink festivals that honor this season’s bounty.  There is a smorgasbord of choices, so here is a little map to get you started on your gastronomic journey.

(FYI: I’m not including the Aspen’s 2017 FOOD & WINE Classic for three reasons. One, it’s before summer officially starts. Two, “Wines for Zillionaires” leaves out a lot of us. Three, they’re sold out.)

JUNE

First up is the TELLURIDE FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL June 22-25.  The event’s prestigious gathering is somewhat distilled from Aspen’s celebrity jamboree. The experts, however, are not chopped liver. World-renowned chefs with a sheaf of James Beard Award honors are a common theme. The event has imported California winemakers from Sonoma and Napa Valley AVAs. And sommeliers will be on hand to guide the palate through the tastings.  Participation prices range from free, yes free (“Seminar: Introduction to Wine Tasting”), to $1600 for the whole four day shebang, aka “patron pass.”

JUNE/JULY

PAONIA CHERRY DAYS FESTIVAL June 30 through July 4 has put cherry red in red, white, and blue for seventy-one years. This is a true community event that opens its arms to those beyond the North Fork Valley. The Paonia Lion’s Club began the festival in 1947 as a celebration of the cherry harvest in order to raise funds for the football field. Today it continues through the efforts of local service clubs and community members. Cherry Days is a true taste of life in Paonia. This festival expands its humble roots to current day status as a Colorado Creative Community through its unpretentious culture of arts, music, and agriculture. Will there be music? A symphonic yes (literally—Aspen Music Festival talent among the featured musicians). Will there be a three-legged-race, belly dancers, and a flag ceremony? Of course. Will there be cherry pie? Move over apple, there’s nothing more American on the 4th.

JULY

Do you see it? Can you smell it? Lavender farms are filling Western Colorado with the scent of Provence. The 2017 COLORADO LAVENDER FESTIVAL begins July 7 with two half-day motor coach tours of farms in Grand and North Fork Valleys. Visitors to growers like Lamborn Mountain Farmstead are treated to lavender cultivation expertise and culinary treats. Saturday vendors of all things purple sell their wares and lead workshops on wreath making, food preparation, and more in Palisade’s Memorial Park. Talon Wine Brands crafts a special lavender wine for the occasion under their St. Kathyrn’s Cellars label. Sunday farms are open for self-guided tours for those who want more of this beneficial plant.

CRESTED BUTTE WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL in the Upper East River Valley gets into the spirit of summer, adding, well “spirits” from distillers like Woody Creek (vodka, whiskey, gin) and  Montanya (rum) to the venue’s offerings. Since this is Crested Butte after all, bring your canvases, hiking boots, and swimsuit. This schedule features painting, hiking wine picnics, and a stand up paddleboard lunch in addition to the eating, drinking, and educational seminars and suppers. The festival covers five days of summer, July 26-30, so pace yourself and save your pennies.

 

AUGUST

Map out your own route for the WEST ELKS WINE TRAIL August 4-6. An actual map is available at each of the West Elk wineries where your hosts also offer wine and food pairings. Cheers to the bonus events on the 7th at Azura Cellars and Black Bridge Winery where you can partake in remote control yacht racing or a barrel tasting (wine, not wood). Reserved wine trail dinners are already sold out, but Delicious Orchards keeps their doors open on August 6th with a BBQ and music and hard cider tastings. You are in for a treat if you have never explored this trail. So pack your camera and steer toward the North Fork Valley’s section of the West Elk Scenic Byway Loop if food, wine, music, and fun are your thing.

PALISADE PEACH FESTIVAL is the granddaddy of the Grand Valley’s festivals.  The star of the show is the world famous fruit that built an industry and founded Colorado’s fruit farming heritage, one nourished by the Colorado River and preserved by the Palisade Historical Society. The fruit-forward activities begin on Thursday, August 17, with an old-fashioned ice cream social. Spend the next day touring orchards then head to historic Riverbend Park after 3:00 pm for music, chef demonstrations, and peach eating contests (no hands!).  Saturday’s full day schedule is family fun under the sun with everything peaches.

SEPTEMBER

“Que” up you grills for the PORK AND HOPS CHALLENGE September 8-9. Las Colonias Park and Amphitheater in Grand Junction will be smoking hot with professional, amateur, and kid BBQ competitions. This is a family event, to just beyond the event grounds—for twenty-one and older—an annual Beer Tasting quenches the thirst brought on by the BBQ winner tastings and food vendor fare.  Whatever your personal preference in BBQ, sweet and tangy or spicy and savory, the winner from the People’s Choice tasting is the community, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting United Way of Mesa County.

COLORADO MOUNTAIN WINEFEST celebrates right at the source: The Grand Valley, Colorado’s largest grape-growing region. What began in 1987 as a grassroots collaboration with five wineries has blossomed into a destination celebration orchestrated by state supported trade non-profit CAVE (Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology. Thousands come from across the U.S. to stomp grapes, savor chocolate pairings, tour the wine country, and learn why Colorado wines are winning national awards. Thirty years later, this year’s libation participants number over fifty—with hard cider and mead joining the party. The events begin on Thursday, September 14 with “Wine, Dine, and Paint,” and wine pairings at participating Grand Valley restaurants. Bus tours and a “Chocolate & Wine Tasting” at Palisade’s Wine Country Inn fill up Friday. Tour de Vineyards kicks off Saturday with a twenty-three or fifty-eight mile road ride past orchards and vineyards. Festival in the Park on Saturday is the main course for Colorado Mountain Winefest, with seminars and souvenirs, song and sommeliers.

Paonia’s MOUNTAIN HARVEST FESTIVAL  straddles the solstice and equinox, but with one foot (tapping to the music) still in summer they just made the list … and what away to end the journey. The non-profit four-day festival September 21-24 is led by locals: local food, volunteers, winemakers, and Slow Food Western Slope.  Saturday’s activities are in Paonia’s town park, with the full schedule of events still in the works. Based on 2016, merrymakers can anticipate a cornucopia of choices, including farm and winery tours, farm to table dinners, as well as music, music, and more music.  Mountain Harvest Festival is a small celebration with a big heart. With Teens on Farms and collaborations with the Blue Sage Gallery, they “serve” the North Fork Valley by providing art and agriculture education that fosters the creative juices.

 

By no means is a complete compilation of Colorado’s gastronomic celebrations. (click here for Colorado Tourism’s list) The Front Range has a long list separate from the Western Slope. And in between, mountain communities know how to highlight the best of the state. Should you have a tendency to detour off the beaten path, here are two more Colorado mountain town food and wine festivals:

Breckenridge: Two is better than one in Breck. Take a “small bite” out of summer and wash it down with “unique” wines at the Breckenridge Wine Festival  July 28-30 then go all out September 14-17 at the Breckenridge Wine Classic (details yet to come).

Steamboat: Does life taste better in the ‘Boat? Discover for yourself August 9-13 at the Steamboat Wine Festival. Here’s what they say you can expect: “Enjoy hundreds of food artisans, wineries, breweries, distilleries, epicurean purveyors and local producers at the ultimate food and wine experience.” I say: The town and the mountain are two locations so bring a designated driver – there is still plenty for non-drinkers to enjoy.

 

 

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Eat Your Wine!

 cake

Wine Soaked Grape Cake is from Sharon O’Connor’s Wine Tasting recipe box, “Small Plates for Wine.”

I made a couple of changes that I will note in the recipe. How did it taste? Good. I think the Marsala from California I had on hand was a little strong—a sweeter dessert wine with lower alcohol content might be a better choice next time. Maybe a fruit wine from Palisade’s Carlson Vineyards or a mead (honey wine) from Meadery of the Rockies.

Carlson Vineyards

 

 

Meadery of the Rockies

 

This cake would be a great choice for a wine tasting party, perhaps paired with the same dessert wine used in the recipe. Hot coffee or tea for a brunch is another good option.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour (I used 1 ½ cup + 1 tbsp. of sifted high altitude flour and sifted dry ingredients again)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter (softened)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. grated orange zest (Not a fan of such a strong orange flavor so I used 1 tsp. each orange and lemon zest)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dessert wine
  • 1 ½ cup seedless red grapes (I increased to 2 cups)
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 400˚F.  Lightly coat a 10” springform pan with olive oil (line outside with foil).dry ingredients

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt.

Combine wet ingredients in a second bowl: beaten eggs, zest, vanilla, wine.

wet batterAdd wet to dry to create a smooth batter. Transfer into pan and insert grapes into the top. Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar (opp.) and bake  additional 10 minutes. 30 minutes total, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool. Remove sides. Serve warm.

DSC_1401_7085_01

LAVENDER INFUSED CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

(Follow-up post to “Eat, Drink, Plant Lavender” & “Cooking with Culinary Lavender” event at Glenwood’s Downtown Market)

 

LAVENDER INFUSED CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

lavender infused chocolate truffles

Ingredients:

1 c heavy cream

10 oz. chocolate – 8 oz. good quality, high coca content bittersweet like Ghirardelli; 2 oz. semi sweet (okay to use chips in this quantity).

  • Option: 5 oz. each high quality bittersweet/semi-sweetingredients

3 tbsp. butter – softened

2 tsp. culinary lavender – Miss Katherine cultivar or other sweet/mild cultivar. Reduce to 1 tsp. if using stronger, more aromatic lavender.

 

Prep:

Crush lavender with a mortar and pestle.

Break chocolate into small pieces (pound or shave).

(If coating—recommended—put into small ramekins or bowls. Coatings: crushed, toasted nuts like almonds, walnuts, or pecans; cocoa powder, ground espresso)

 

 

lavender 1lavender 2

 

Prepare:

Heat cream to simmer. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate. Stir slowly. When partially melted add butter. Whisk until glossy. (You are making a chocolate ganache).Add lavender and whisk until incorporated.

Chill:

Option 1 – Pour into a bowl and chill completely (approx. 4 hours). Best for larger truffles.

Option 2 – Line a shallow square with non-stick foil and pour into a 1” layer. Chill completely. Best for small truffles.

Form:

Option 1 – Working next to the sink with a bowl of ice water, scoop out chocolate with melon baller or small spoon. Form into ball quickly with palm of hands. If coating, toss/roll. Put on parchment lined tray or storage container and chill minimum 1 hour before serving.

Option 2 – Cut into small squares with a chilled knife. Lift off square and roll. This technique is faster and a little less messy, but you must be careful foil is not stuck into chocolate. Coat/toss/store/chill as above.

NOTE – If using multiple coatings, toss in nuts last to avoid allergen contamination.

 

Carol Schott of Lamborn Mountain Farmstead harvesting lavender.

Carol Schott of Lamborn Mountain Farmstead harvesting lavender.

 

 

 

 

What Are Book Signings Like?

West Elks Wine Trail signing poster image

My first signing for “Western Colorado Fruit & Wine: A Bountiful Heritage” is less than a week away. The calendar is filling in with more. People say to me, “How exciting.” Well, sort of. I love to write. I love to learn things. I love to Eat, Drink, Cook—my version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey that does not require vaccinations or a passport.

Here is what Mary Janice Davidson says about book signings: “A book signing can be (is!) terrifying. It’s like throwing a party and being certain no one will come …  pens clenched in sweaty hands, smiling brightly (baring [my] teeth, anyway) at every would-be buyer who strolled past …  and not look like a depressed vulture waiting for something to die at my feet.”

 Photo courtesy Z's Orchard.

Photo courtesy Z’s Orchard.

Davidson and Eric Gelb, author of “Book Promotion Made Easy” (whose book signing audiences have numbered zero to 200), both say the same thing, though. Have fun with it. Enjoy the ride.

For me, even more than signing jitters, is the idea that my book is a vehicle—with a word count—for the stories of other people and places. I kept that notion with me in the hours, days, and months of research, fact-checking, writing, and revisions while the peach trees and vines lay dormant under the snow. I was reminded that I was a voice for old and new pioneers, for fruit and wine, for profit and nonprofits deeply rooted in the North Fork and Grand Valley’s fruit story when I listened back to the recorded interviews.

Now, with the fruit ripening in the valleys and the wine pouring in the Grand Valley and West Elks AVAs, it is nearly time to talk to the people for whom I wrote the book—the people who every time they taste a peach, or tour an orchard, or sip a Cabernet they become part of the story. It is time to embrace the words of the kitchen magnet: Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone. Yikes.Back cover

 

Harvesting Spring in Palisade, Colorado

Colorado Cellars Winery

Colorado Cellars Winery

May days on East Orchard Mesa above Palisade are lush with post blossom greenery. Verdant grapes on the vines are forming miniature clusters among the broad leaves. Even cherries—the first fruit of the growing season—are green.

Along the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway, growers are nurturing peach saplings. Z’s Orchard is planting 500 strawberry and 800 raspberry plants to add to their established u-pick patch. Early kale, lettuce, arugula, radish, and rhubarb are ready to harvest for the spring table. Click here to Z’s Orchard on Facebook to see what else is happening. (Click here.)

Gardeners are loading up their cars and trucks with greenhouse bounty at Sage Creations Organic Farm. Lavender-lovers wanting to start their own farm can learn from the owner and propagating pioneer, Paola Legarre, at Sage’s “Plant to Market” class on May 22nd. Sign-up is limited to ensure personalized instruction. Topics covered:

  • Preparing beds
  • Irrigation
  • Planting
  • Pruning
  • Harvesting (for optimum use)
  • Post-harvest handling
  • Cultivars and their marketability
  • Introduction to lavender propagation

(Click here to get to Paola’s blog for more information)

For those who would rather create in the kitchen, Sage Creations Organic Farm has a variety of lavender recipes on their website from various chefs and magazines.  One I plan on trying is Bon Appétit Magazine’s Chocolate Lavender Honey Tart.

Chocolate Lavender Honey Tart

Author: (Bon Appetit Magazine, April 2008)

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 9 whole chocolate graham crackers (about 5 oz.)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temp, divided
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender blossoms
  • 12 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 9 inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom with nonstick spray. Grind graham crackers with 3 tablespoons butter and honey in processor until fine crumbs form. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom (not up sides) of prepared tart pan. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Cool.
  2. Bring cream and lavender just to boil in small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, remove from heat. Place chocolate in medium saucepan. Strain hot cream mixture into saucepan with chocolate. Stir over medium-low heat just until melted and smooth. Add cocoa powder and remaining 1 tablespoon butter; stir until melted and smooth. Pour chocolate mixture over crust in tart pan. Chill at least 45 minutes (chocolate will be slightly soft after 45 minutes and firm after 2 hours). Cut into wedges and serve. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Click here to learn more about cooking with lavender from Sage Creations Organic Farm.

Share photos of your culinary creations here at A Bountiful History’s virtual #farmtocommunitytable.

Sage Creations Organic Farm cherry trees.

Sage Creations Organic Farm cherry trees.

2014 Colorado Mountain Winefest

 

wine grapes along the byway

wine grapes along the byway

Cheers! Today marks the first day of the four day 2014 Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade, Colorado.

Viticulturists,  epicures, and designated drivers come from all over Colorado, her neighboring states (especially Utah), and even as far away as Australia and China to sip, stomp, and dine among the vines. Tourists who drive along the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway visiting the wineries and farm stands are treated to a sight of lush foliage contrasted by a dry western horizon of the rocky Book Cliffs and the Colorado National Monument—fruit forward with a dry finish.

Fruit orchard with Bookcliffs

Fruit orchard with Book Cliffs

There are several events within the Winefest, including Festival in the Park, Wine, Dine, & Paint!, Winemakers Dinner, and Chocolate & Wine Tasting. Saturday morning kicks off early with the annual Tour de Vineyards bicycle ride for those who want to begin the day detoxing.  Additionally, restaurants from Grand Junction and Palisade are offering special food and wine pairings.

Winefest is sponsored by the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology (CAVE), a statewide nonprofit that supports research and education of the Colorado wine industry. The event began with a grassroots effort in the late eighties, a few volunteers, and limited interest. CAVE Executive Director Cassidee Shull says organizers begged vendors to participate. The original vision has since grown from five winery participants to fifty in 2013, with upwards of 5,800 attendees for the festival.

Photographer Casey Hess and I will be among the press covering year’s Winefest. We’ll be along the Tour de Vineyards route, at the Chocolate & Wine Tasting, and in the park with our cameras. Some of the photos will be featured in A Bountiful Heritage (coming out June 2015, published by the History Press) and on social media. So if you see us, wave, raise your glass, and say Salute!