One of my favorite things about farmers’ markets (besides the hyper-fresh produce and invitation to taste test as you go) is when the farmer/growers introduce me to new ingredients and cooking ideas. Last year at the Union Station Farmers’ Market, for instance, I learned to save my carrot tops to make pesto—an easy and delicious way to avoid contributing to the staggering amount of food wasted each year.
The 17-year-old Vail Farmers’ Market and Art Show takes things one step further with its Farm-to-Table Dinner series. Now in its third year, the series invites local chefs to cook an elegant meal using only ingredients picked up at the market or available at participating farms. “We really want to have people talk about what’s there and what’s available,” says Angela Mueller, executive director of the Vail Farmers’ Market. “We have produce, oils, cheeses—everything that you would need to feed yourself for a week.”
The dinners are held three times throughout the summer (from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on June 30, July 14, and August 14, this year). Tables are set al fresco, tent included, on West Meadow Drive in Vail Village. Wine and beer flow as freely as the conversation: These meals are served family-style, so expect to make some new friends.
At the final dinner of the season last year, I dug into perfectly grilled halibut cheeks, a hearty Colorado vegetable succotash, and an apricot and hazelnut tart with peach ice cream and plum-infused caramel—one of the loveliest desserts I’ve ever encountered.
The June 30 event will feature a roster of Vail chefs: Marcus Stewart (Four Seasons Resort Vail), Kenneth Butler (The Fitz Bar & Restaurant), Tim McCaw (The Tenth), and Jake Burkhardt (Pendulum). Each toque will oversee one course. As the chefs serve and explain the ingredients and inspiration behind their courses, guests are almost certain to be motivated to turn their next load of farmers’ market bounty into a home-cooked feast.
Tickets are $95 plus a service charge. (There is a discounted price for children 12 and under; call Mueller at 970-401-3320 for details.) Be sure to buy yours soon—there are only 100 seats per dinner, and they always sell out.
The Vail farmers’ market kicks off June 18, and will run every Sunday through October 1.