Words and Photos: Katie Lew
Gala Photos: Matthew Schniper
The Broadmoor resort held its first Taste and Savor culinary weekend early in March. I was excited to attend the seminars and panel discussions led by some of the top chefs in Colorado and around the country, but also curious to see if anything I learned would apply to a home cook like me. While I love to experiment and challenge myself in the kitchen, I knew that these chefs were highly trained and used to working with the best equipment and large staffs. Of course the weekend would be enjoyable and tasty, but would I leave with any new knowledge or skills that I could use at home?
The first seminar I attended was a cooking demo by Chef Kelly Liken, of Kelly Liken restaurant in Vail, called “New Ways with Vegetables”. During the hour-long demonstration she showed us how to prepare cauliflower, but the techniques she used could be applied to almost any vegetables. The focus was on preparing one vegetable in three different ways for a plate, rather than serving several different vegetables together. The finished dish, cauliflower puree with roasted cauliflower steak topped with a salsa verde cauliflower salad, was gorgeous, but more importantly, I felt like I left with ideas that I would be able to apply in my own kitchen. Not only did Liken do a great job of breaking down a complicated recipe, but she also peppered her talk with tips for the home cook. She gladly answered questions about her favorite kitchen tools (French steel pans, Japanese knives, Breville juicer) and recommended the best ways to use nut oils (not in a hot pan, as a flavor enhancer).
I wasn’t surprised that Liken was so personable and accessible in her talk. In an interview I did with Liken a few weeks before Taste and Savor, she was very encouraging in her advice to home cooks. When I asked her what about the most important tool for a home cook, she answered, “Their sense of taste of smell and their ability to trust that. I tell people this all the time. They expect me to say, you need a mandolin or a microplane. But all the time people tell me that a recipe just didn’t taste right and they didn’t love it. I tell them you need to trust yourself. You already know what you like, so don’t be afraid to play with the flavors you like.” I found the other chefs during the weekend to be as accessible and personable as Liken was.
Frank Bonnano, who owns several restaurants in the Denver area, gave a wonderful demonstration on making fresh pasta from scratch. While his recipe requires more equipment and skill than some of the others, he was also very friendly and open to answering questions. Alex Seidel of Fruition restaurant was a valuable source of information during his demonstration on making fresh Ricotta Pasta with Lamb Ragu. He talked at length about his farm, Fruition Farm, and the sheep cheeses and meats produced there. He also gave tips on smoking vegetables or meats at home and sources for different varieties of wood chips (Home Depot!).
All of the chefs during the weekend emphasized how much they liked the casual, accessible nature of the Taste and Savor weekend compared to similar events they’d been involved in. Throughout the weekend, there was a coffee lounge outside of the seminar rooms where attendees could chat with the chefs. On Saturday, several of the chefs participated in a panel discussion and Q&A session. They discussed topics ranging from the usefulness of the farm to table movement, to sourcing local ingredients, to their favorite vegetables to feature on a menu. All of these elements made the weekend feel accessible for anyone interested in eating or preparing good food, even a home cook like myself.
The crowning event of the weekend was a Gala Dinner on Saturday night where each of the participating chefs showcased one of their signature dishes. The offerings included Lamb Bacon, Burrata Ravioli, Oyster BLT Sliders, Hamachi with Pickled Fennel, Brown Rice porridge topped with Pine Nut Brittle, Elk Carpaccio, and an entire table filled with chocolate delicacies, just to name a few. Alongside the food, several sommeliers offered wine tastings and there were cocktails crafted by some of the top cocktail experts in the country. There was more food than anyone could possibly eat, and each bite was more delicious than the last. I left the weekend having tasted some of the best food of my life and looking forward to experimenting with the recipes and tips I learned.