Get Your Own "Taste of Vail"

The restaurants showcased in the annual food and wine festival are a must-try during your next visit to the Vail Valley

Taste of Vail is one of the town’s biggest parties of the year, and it should be on every self-described foodie’s bucket list. Held every April, we returned to eat and drink all the things at this epic food event after a three-year hiatus. From the Lamb Cook-Off to the Grand Tasting, every morsel was tasty and every sip of wine memorable.

Thankfully, you can taste Vail at any time of year because all of the restaurants represented at this distinguished culinary event are located in the Vail Valley, a region that’s become a Mecca for food lovers.

I took notes about the restaurants at this year’s Taste of Vail, and there were some clear winners; these restaurants should be on your must-try list during your next visit to Vail.

One of the most popular events at Taste of Vail is the Annual American Lamb Cook-Off that’s held on Thursday afternoon during the four-day affair. More than 20 restaurants participated and chefs take this event very seriously. They serve up the most astoundingly creative lamb dishes you’ve ever eaten—items such as lamb baklava and lamb bacon on a donut (the latter of which is pictured at the top of this article).

Tuscany Wine Seminar

Of course, Taste of Vail is all about wine, so among the dozens of tents set up in Vail Village for the Lamb Cook-Off are vast quantities of wine purveyors eager to pour you a taste. Sound heavenly? It is.

The winner of the 2018 Lamb Cook-off was Sweet Basil’s Chef/Owner Paul Anders and his Oaxacan Lamb Barbacoa with mezcal salsa borracha on Navajo fry bread with watercress. This was my second favorite bite of the day, just behind Four Seasons’ Flame/The Remedy’s lamb banh mi.

"We are always amazed how the Vail Valley chefs showcase leg of lamb in diverse and innovative dishes," said Megan Wortman, executive director of the Denver-based American Lamb Board. “Many of this year’s dishes highlighted global flavors and trends —from Chargrilled Lamb Rogan Josh to Roasted Lamb Banh Mi to Smoky Lamb Ramen Bowl.”

The good news? You can eat at any of these Vail eateries year-round. Sweet Basil happens to be my husband’s pick when he takes his Vail interior design clients out to lunch. Terra Bistro, the restaurant that created lamb baklava for the Lamb Cook-Off, is one of our longtime favorite Vail eateries.

Mountain Top Picnic

This year’s Mountain Top Picnic was held atop the mountain in an April snowstorm, but that didn’t stop restaurants from bringing out the good stuff. Bistro Fourteen made a delicious seafood sandwich that was fun and ironic to eat in the snow. Again, Four Seasons’ Flame/The Remedy nailed it with an elk and wagyu chili served with a mini-cornbread muffin. Bistro Fourteen is located at the top of Eagle Bahn Gondola (Lionshead) and is open for the summer starting on June 9.

The wine tent stayed warm, toasty and crowded, so I appreciated Oregonian winemaker, Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery, venturing outside the tent to pour his scrumptious Chardonnay in the swirling snow.

The Grand Tasting is a culinary extravaganza like no other. If you’re food-adventurous like me, it’s a dream. I was able to dine on elk tartar and cucumber gazpacho topped with steelhead trout. My husband, who is a huge fan of Bistro Fourteen after this trip, loved their beef bites featuring Haystack Cheese and mustard. Let’s just say he had more than one.

Elk and wagyu chili from Flame

The lamb tongue from Maya, a Richard Sandoval restaurant at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, was one of my favorite tastes during the Grand Tasting. We’ve been staying at the Westin for a number of years now and often enjoy a meal or two at Maya. Their seasonal menu, featuring items such zucchini flower masa quesadillas, always delights and my husband loves their tequila selection.

The wine vendors pull out all the stops when it comes to the Grand Tasting at Taste of Vail and they pull out all their best bottles for the event. To say it’s a luxurious evening of wine and food would be an understatement.

Taste of Vail is the perfect place to discover Vail’s restaurants and put them on your list for a future visit. For instance, this summer I’m doing a girl’s weekend at Four Seasons and you can bet we’ll be dining at Flame and having drinks at The Remedy, the hotel’s beautiful lounge. 

Categories: The Heidi Guide