Daily Archives: July 20, 2016

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Eat Your Veggies

Back in the day, talk of someone being a vegetarian conjured up visions of an emaciated, pale looking person who probably lived in or was from California, of course, and didn’t know anything about eating properly. We were all happily eating our deep fried chicken, country-fried steaks and ball-park hot dogs. Winds up that those hippies were right on. Researchers have finally gotten us to understand that veggies are filled with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants that keep us healthier in every way. And, who can say “no” to that?

In fact, trend watchers say that vegetables are emerging as “center of plate,” with celebrated chefs focusing on “veg-centric” cuisine. And this is no passing fancy. Food service operations of all kinds are creating veg-centric selections to accommodate their customers. Fine restaurants are featuring vegetable entrees that are diverse, creative and flavor-filled.

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According to Gordon Food Service, the nation’s largest foodservice distributor, chefs are calling the veg-centric cuisine “root-to-stem” cooking – “an extension of nose-to-tail movement that emphasizes using every part of an animal – reduces food waste and cuts food cost while adding eye appeal, texture and nutrition to the plate.”

“Chefs are pickling watermelon rinds and radish tops. Potato and ginger peelings, corn cobs and artichoke leaves are enhancing the flavor and complexity of broths. Roasted squash seeds, tender carrot tops and stems from fresh parsley, rainbow chard or cilantro are being used to add color, flavor and texture to salads,” says Gerry Ludwig, Gordon Food Service corporate consulting chef.

We eat vegetables cooked, chilled, frozen or raw in all kinds of creative combinations sometimes with fruit, other vegetables or a combination of both. However, keep in mind, veg-centric’s focus is flavor; being meatless is secondary. Meat proteins are still in the picture in some dishes, but they’re being used as more of a flavor enhancer such as roasted Brussels sprouts with crumbled chorizo or caramelized cauliflower with balsamic and bacon breadcrumbs. But, you can always opt-out of the “enhancing”. Of course, you don’t have to like all veggies. Remember when President George H. W. Bush proclaimed that he absolutely would not eat broccoli? Aside from all the nutrition that broccoli, and other vegetables, have to offer, they also have a great deal of protein. In fact, calorie for calorie, broccoli has more protein than a steak! What’s more, it doesn’t come with all the saturated and trans fats and cholesterol that we’re constantly warned about.

As Chef Ludwig says, “Vegetable-based dishes become stars because they are simply delicious and hold broad appeal for all diners. When the focus is on flavor, even a humble turnip can be a star.” In the end, it turns out that like your mom, who encouraged you to “eat your vegetables,” the emaciated, pale-looking Californians were on to something.

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Farm to Table in the Vail Valley

During the peak of summer, Executive Chef David Gutowski and his staff clip fresh greens twice a week from Grouse Mountain Grill’s garden plot in the EagleVail Community Garden. They fill two huge garbage bags and return to the Beaver Creek restaurant to wash and spin the mix of organic lettuces. Just a few hours later, lucky diners taste the peak of summer on their plates, experiencing one of the freshest, most local salads in town.

Gutowski represents a growing trend of chefs who are taking the quality of their product into their own hands, literally, by growing their own vegetables in restaurant gardens and on patios. Most of those chefs work in places like the Front Range or in California, where climate and a longer growing season reward a larger bounty for more months of the year. Gutowski, on the other hand, along with a handful of other Vail Valley chefs, brave the infamous high altitude gardening conditions: a short 50-day season, hot days and cold nights. Tomatoes shudder at the thought. So why are they taking the time out of an already busy chef’s life to grow their own?

“I feel like I owe it to the guest. There are a lot of restaurants who tout local this and local that, but a lot of chefs just ask their purveyor if it’s from Colorado and throw ‘local’ on the menu, but they have no idea where it came from,” Gutowski says. “At Grouse, we take a different approach. We grow our own when we can, but we also visit the actual slaughterhouses and ranches, gardens in Boulder, Palisade and in Paonia. When you meet the people that it’s their life work, you put more care into the food.”

veggie_2For Gutowski, time spent in the garden forges a stronger connection and deeper respect for the food he cooks and serves. And, it has a ripple effect on the sous chefs, line cooks and servers. Suddenly the food – and their work – has a much more interesting story, helping to retain great staff in a competitive market.

Picked today sounds a lot better than came off a truck,” Gutowski says. “The servers pick up on that and take pride in it. And from a cook’s perspective, plating something you grew from seed is pretty awesome. It’s awesome to have that connection to the food.

Chefs find that growing their own veggies has benefits beyond connection to the land. It also produces a better quality for a lesser cost, saving the restaurant money. Belgium Master
Chef Daniel Joly, uses natural and organic ingredients at Mirabelle, his restaurant just beyond the main gates of Beaver Creek.

“We have always grown our own fresh herbs,” says Joly. “And we are now in the process of building a greenhouse for the restaurant. We are going to grow everything that’s green and are exploring being able to grow root vegetables like leeks. For us to find something fresh and right outside our back door of the kitchen will make our job easier. “Right now we buy from a farm in Rifle and another in Gypsum that grows microgreens. We’ve always been focused on buying local, closer to home. There are a lot of benefits from having our own greenhouse, including being able to use the scraps of food that we don’t use to create a compost.”

These days, you can find the outstanding, fresh ingredient-driven Chef Kelly Liken in her new restaurant, Harvest by Kelly Liken, at the Sonnenalp Golf Club in Edwards that is owned by Johannes and Rosana Faessler. “The Faesslers have a long history in the area and truly understand hospitality,” says Liken who closed her Vail restaurant last year.

Liken’s menus have always reflected her reverence of Colorado’s varied seasons and has nurtured relationships with small family farmers and artisanal food producers. “If I can’t find an ingredient or product from Colorado, I won’t buy it from someplace else,” she explains. And this philosophy has her changing her menu frequently as various products come into, and go out of, season much to the delight of her loyal customers.

“My passion has always been to serve local and seasonal food,” Liken says. “At Kelly Liken in Vail,  e served people from all around the world. Now, at Harvest, we’ll be able to bring that same sensibility to the community and show how amazing farm to table can be.”

To that end, Liken is working with the Sonnenalp’s head groundskeeper to source organic plants that she’ll grow in a garden she’ll have on site. “We’re going to be able to pick our veggies and herbs right out of the garden,” she says, excitedly. “My husband, Rick, and I have a pretty extensive garden at our house. Combining gardening and the culinary world has always been a passion for us.

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Reel Women Fly Fishing in the Vail Valley

The line glides out, the fly lands on a pool of water, the fisherwoman waits patiently, tempting the fish beneath the water. If the fish refuses the fly, she reels in the line, searching, finessing the fly gently down the river.

Women have discovered what fishermen have long known: fly fishing is good for the mind, body and spirit. Working on technique and absorbing the quiet relaxation of the water, the scenery and the sunlight gently dappling through trees on the river bank requires concentration: It’s a complex sport of wits, finesse and patience, as solo or social as one wants and there’s no end to the learning.

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Cordillera resident Pam Smith started fly fishing a few years ago and speaks with pure delight about fishing, the rivers and the awe-inspiring trips she’s taken in search of the fisherman’s high.

“I’m still in the novice category, I’ve learned a lot in the last two years, I’ve really gotten into it,” Smith says. “It’s one of those sports where you can be a novice and still have a lot of fun. There are so many pieces – the right equipment, the flies, the water and the weather.

“I’m always thrilled if I catch a fish. It’s like golf in that there’s so much to learn, it could take a whole lifetime; and you would never learn it all.”

There’s so much to learn: the weight of the line to use, casting techniques, taking into account the way the wind will affect the line, and if you are casting upstream or downstream and, of course, what type of flies to use.

Don’t be a hero, Smith advises – take a lesson, go to a casting clinic, hire a guide to learn how to tie a line, which fly to use, where to go and how to untangle the inevitably tangled line.

Many women start fishing because of the man in their lives, whether father, husband or son, maybe taking the two-day clinic offered by Fly Fishing Outfitters at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera. Starting off on dry land is easier and lets you decide if you want to invest in the sport, explains John Packer, owner of Fly Fishing Outfitters in Avon. Get the basics down, and then explore the rivers.

“For novices you definitely want to go with a guide or someone who knows a lot about it. I’d say it would be bordering on dangerous to be out there by yourself, you could slip, you could lose your equipment in the water,” Smith says.

Jill Chalfant has been fly fishing since she was little and she echoes Smith. Fly fishing comes with a steep learning curve, but being on the river, lake or ocean, is reason enough to give it a try. There are no double black diamond ratings, no score keeping or trying to best your opponent. Chalfant even talks about the lifelong challenge of getting more experienced instead of getting better. “There are so many rivers in the world to explore, let alone the ocean! In each environment the surroundings are unique and so are the insects and fish… you really have to take everything into consideration,” Chalfant says enthusiastically.

She clearly remembers reeling in her first fish before she even reached her double- digit birthday. Not one for dolls and dress up, she relished the time on the river with her father.

“I grew up fly fishing with my dad and caught my first fish on my own when I was 8. It was a Rainbow trout on the Yampa and I can seriously close my eyes and recall the moment! It was truly when I was hooked,” she says with glee.

The sport wasn’t a passing fancy she turned her avocation into a vocation for five years, met her husband on the river and now the hobby is a multi-generational adventure. They have two little girls who accompany their fly fishing parents.

Similarly, local guide and photographer Katie Fiedler Anderson started fly fishing as a way to hang out with her dad – they’d stroll riverbanks and she’d suggest tracking down river, and he’d be happy to comply. Fiedler Anderson wanted to share the freedom she found on the river and accomplishes that through guiding with Gore Creek Fly Fisherman.

“Being a fly-fishing guide takes a strong will and a lot of determination to succeed. From the bugs (entomology), to the water levels, to the weather, to the client you are speaking to; there are many factors that are constantly changing,” she says. “I know men and women are on an even playing field. There is a satisfying element to taking someone fishing who had an image in their head of what a guide should look and act like; and then seeing them start to think outside the box. It makes me feel as if I accomplishing a little more than just fishing.

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Being a female guide is very rewarding.” It seems like fly fishing might just be made for women. Sure, women might first accompany their husbands as a way to while away the afternoon, but before long, the fairer sex is out fishing the brawnier one. “Fly fishing is all about patience and timing, men want to muscle it out there and women are naturally better,” Chalfant says.

“One of the things is that unlike other sports where men usually excel because of strength, fly fishing is the exact opposite. Fly fishing is not about strength, it’s more about finesse and timing,” adds Packer.

Finesse, timing and maybe, just a little, competitiveness. When Fiedler Anderson had the chance to take ski champion Lindsey Vonn out on the river, she jumped. As the group got to know each other, Vonn soon went from recreational fisher to competitive athlete. “I had never taken anyone fishing who was that focused and competitive with themselves. I have a lot of respect for an athlete who rises to the challenge every day to win and be their best, and it was very interesting to see that unfold in front of me. Not only did she want to catch a fish, but she also wanted to learn how to tie her own knots and pick her own flies. She wasn’t afraid to cross the river and get to a spot way on the other side. I can’t say I
have ever been with someone who had only fished a few times and immediately wanted to do more than just catch fish,” Fiedler Anderson remembers. It’s easy to get hooked on a sport that can bring you anywhere around the world: next to grizzlies in Alaska, bone fishing in Bahamian waters, salt-water flats or on rivers in Colorado.

“It’s so much fun, oh my gosh,” Smith reveals about a day when she out fished just about everyone while on a guided trip in Alaska. “We hit this fishing hole on the Moraine River, called nirvana. We hit it just right, my guide and I. Every time I threw my fly I caught a big fish – 26- and 30-inches long. I caught 12 fish that day. It was unbelievable! We were laughing our heads off. The second I would throw it in, I would get a fish. “You feel a connection to that fish then when you have it in the net and you can see it, get the hook out, let it back in the river. It’s such a thrill.”

That enthusiasm is contagious – and one of the reasons Matt Sprecher, owner of Minturn Anglers, loves taking women out fly fishing. “I think they have the right attitude going into it, they are happy and don’t care as much as a guy. Fly fishing is a mental thing, it takes a lot of confidence and a lot of letting things happen, if you force things [it doesn’t work],” he confides. “They are better listeners, are more patient, use more finesses than a guy. It’s not a muscle thing, you can’t force it, you have to finesse it.”

Ready to get your wader-clad feet wet? Find a local fly shop – the guides will talk eloquently and loquaciously about all things fly-fishing. Manufacturers are listening too; top brands are making women’s-specific clothing, rods, reels and waders. After all, it doesn’t hurt to look good while you’re reeling in the big one.