By Kim Fuller Published in the Vail Daily
Anyone can stroll the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show on Sundays, eating food al fresco while meandering through the crowds. The experience is one not to miss: Bite into a perfectly ripe peach and lick the juice from your fingers, or reach into a produce stand and grab a plump heirloom tomato.
A more exclusive eating experience is served during the market’s Farm to Table Dinner Series, held on three summer Fridays in Vail Village. The final event for 2016 is Friday at 6 p.m., and diners can expect a family-style meal with bite after bite of finger-licking goodness. The dinners are designed to reveal Colorado’s best and most beautiful homegrown ingredients, presented with a mountain-casual feel and topped off with the refined details that make Vail itself feel simultaneously rustic and elegant. It doesn’t matter if you show up sporting jeans or wearing a dress, but definitely come hungry.
At the July 22 dinner, fresh flowers wrapped in birch vases were centered between long rows of water-filled mason jars. As guests filed in to claim place settings, most everyone set down jackets and sweaters and then made a quick trip to the bar for a glass of Colorado wine or beer.
Once the guests settled in, the courses started to roll out: individual salads of cucumber and heirloom tomatoes followed by large platters to share of roasted pig, sweet corn salad, “garlicky” yellow and green beans, whole-grain mustard potatoes and, for the finale, personal ramekins of Palisade peach crumble.
The dinners are under a 20-foot-by-60-foot tent on Meadow Drive in Vail. Guests get to eat outside, family-style, and meet the farmers and chefs who brought the meal from the field into a feast.
“The dinner experience uses all vendors, produce, fish and livestock from the farmers market,” said Angela Mueller, executive director for the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show. “We want to ensure that everyone knows amazing items are available at the market and the produce, fish and livestock are above standard.”
‘REAL, SEASONAL FOOD’
Barry Davis, co-owner of Yellowbelly restaurants, said he is looking forward to the farm table conversations that will be cooked up on Friday. “It’s a chance to enjoy a one-time-only menu with a small group of like-minded folks who are there to enjoy real, seasonal food,” he said.
For the dinner on Friday, private chef Chris Benson is making the appetizer course, chef Eric Berg from Vail Catering Concepts is crafting the entree, and Yellowbelly is providing the sides.
The dinner will also include produce from Harvest Farms, Clark Family Farms, Eat a Peach and Trout Creek Farms, as well as meat from Vail Meat Co. and fish from Kaleb’s Katch.
The menu for Friday’s dinner has not yet been released, but the element of surprise makes the experience special. It’s like showing up to your friend’s house as a dinner guest, and you get to witness the table fill with platters of delicious options.
“We don’t want to say too much about what we’ll be serving because we want to wait and see what the market has to offer that week,” Davis said. “We’re waiting to see what is fresh and at the peak of the season to inspire something fun.”
Davis added that the Colorado corn Yellowbelly has been serving in its West Vail location has been “absolutely amazing,” so Farm to Table guests can probably bet they’ll get to try some on Friday.
One course that isn’t a secret: dessert. Vail Resorts pastry chef Anne Armstrong will be making apricot and hazelnut tarts with peach ice cream and plum caramel.
“The dinner brings a community together,” Mueller said, “and we love that we are a part of it.”
Combined chef efforts at these dinners make for a truly unique spread, where culinary artisans can craft their best work.
“We’re stoked to have an opportunity to collaborate with some great neighbors in the Vail business community,” Davis said. “It’s pretty amazing that we can all come together, in honor of the ingredients, and make a special meal.”
Tickets for the Farm to Table Dinner are $95 per person, plus a service charge. For more information and purchase tickets, visit www.vailfarmersmarket.com and click on “Farm to Table.”