Keystone Winter Culinary Festival :: OMG! Could Life Be Any Sweeter?

We went to the mountains with an old friend this weekend.  He was in town surprising his new significant other with a ski trip to Colorado.  It's always fun to spend time with people you've known for years and see new aspects of their personality emerge when they're loving life with a new partner.  Our friend was happy and centered and positively glowing (if it's possible for a guy to glow)!

Saturday was spent at Keystone reintroducing our friends to skiing after many years off of the sticks.  That night, we met up with some new friends and headed up the mountain to the Keystone Winter Culinary Festival.  The event was truly a first-class experience all the way around.  We received our Grand Tasting passes and boarded the gondola just as the sky was turning to pink and the sun settling in behind the peaks in the distance.  It was a cozy ride up and fun to revisit runs that we'd skiied down earlier in the day from high up in the air.

The second gondola dropped us off in front of The Outpost Lodge.  It had been transformed from the everyday cafeteria-style eating place to an old world alpine chalet.  The night started with complimentary etched wine glasses and a yummy champagne toast.  Then we strolled from table to table sampling foods made by the staff from Keystone Ranch, Ski Tip Lodge, Alpenglow Stube and Bighorn restaurants. My favorites were the scallops that were perfectly cooked and sat atop some sort of mushroom reduction and a mushroom terrine shaped like a flower. I also loved the duck dumpling that was accompanied by a spinach salad dressed with ruby-red pomegranate seeds.  I've never thought of salting my spinach salad.  The salty touch from the seasalt combined with the bitter spinach and arugula and the sweet little pops of pomegranate seeds was an amazing combination.

So the food sounds great, right? Let me introduce you to the evening's main event - at least for our group - the desserts.  Take a look at these pictures.
Chocolate-mint cannoli "ice cream cones" and chocolate cups filled with Cappucino mousse

See that stick on the left? Rice Krispie Treats, fresh strawberries and miniature fudgy brownies doused in a chocolate fountain. Truffles and berry cups with silky creme fraiche lining the bottom.

A cheeseburger, you say? Wrong.  That Big Mac-like creation was actually the sweetest cupcake you've ever tasted.  Amazing isn't it?

Here's a glimpse of just a few of the platters in the dessert room.  Sorry for the blurry photo.  My hands were actually shaking due to a sugar-induced food coma at this point.  Right before I was greeted by this Bacchanalian-display of chocolatey glory, I got a text message from our friend.  We were still sampling wines and licking our plates clean of the cheesy fondue with crab meat and asparagus.  The text delivered one very simple command: YOU NEED TO COME TO DESSERT!!!

You can see why.  By the way, I just googled "Bacchanalian" to make sure I was spelling that chubby little devil's name correctly.  Right next to the spelling was a definition - "orgiastic festivities."  This couldn't be more accurate - at least gastronomically.  I was greeted with another glass of champagne, ushered over to a counter where one of the chefs was assembling caviar and crab meat atop a creme fraiche-slathered blini.  As I took the last bite of that pre-dessert morsel, I was swept past a small polka duo, complete with lederhosen and the requisite accordian.  One of our party said, "I actually felt like they were singing to me.  I wanted to say, 'Aw...you shouldn't go to all that trouble, singing just for me.'"

Beyond the musicians were these platters of yumminess...

And to top it all off, a cup of coffee.  Not really - actually a striped-chocolate teacup filled with some Bailey's Irish Creme concoction and topped with a chocolate coffee bean. 

Towards the end of the evening, we found out that the pastry chef responsible for this unbelievable spread was named Ned.  If I hadn't been so distracted by the next culinary surprise, I would have found out which restaurant he works at.  All I can say is that women the world over - at least in the general vicinity of Keystone - were saying Ned's name in their dreams on Saturday night.

We bundled up and headed off into the crisp Colorado night.  Boarding the gondola, we were given thick fleece blankets to keep us warm for the ride back down the mountain.  Looking out, we could see a million stars above us and the snowcats grooming for the next day's runs below. Beneath the din of our laughter and animated chatter, I could hear one very quiet word in the mind of each of us - at least the women.  Ned, ned, ned...is what drifted off into the night.

**Update: I've since done some googling, and I'm 99% sure that the aforementioned Ned is Executive Pastry Chef Ned Archibald who runs Ned’s Bake Shop in the Keystone Conference Center.  Run - don't walk and do not pass go - to this Bake Shop and savor all of the tastiness!!

1 comment:

Susan W said...

Sara, if you aren't looking into it already, I would encourage you to get associated with BlogHer. A great group of women bloggers - great networking, great writers and lots of women doing this full time. You are in their league my friend! Miss you like crazy.