Mountain Eats: Keystone Winter Culinary Festival Grand Tasting

March 7 2012, 10:30 AM

This past Saturday in the mountains, I bypassed my usual après-ski brewery stop and headed for something a little more sophisticated: The Keystone Winter Culinary Festival’s Grand Tasting atop Keystone’s North Peak. This is the crowning event in the weekend-long celebration of all things food-and-drink at the Summit County resort—and after a rigorous day on the slopes, we were ready to indulge. Two 15-minute gondola rides landed us at the cozy Bavarian-style Der Fondue Chessel and Alpenglow Stube, where the roaring fire and live music warmed us while the snow picked up outside.

The beauty of the tasting is the variety (and, well, the expertly chosen wine and beer pairings). Each of Keystone’s eateries, which lined the perimeter of the great hall, station-style, served signature small plates for our sampling pleasure. There wasn’t a disappointment in the house, though my dining companions were split on the favorites: The Ski Tip Lodge’s house cured duck confit with baby shiitakes, white beans, and truffled pea coulis was a big hit, and Alpenglow Stube’s butter-poached halibut cheeks with braised winter cabbage and cider beurre blanc was as smooth a bite as they come. But the one dish that lured me back for seconds was Der Fondue Chessel’s decadent smoked gouda and jumbo lump crab fondue, served in a hollowed roasted tomato with shrimp, veggies, and bread for dipping.

In fact, I could have eaten this dish all night…until I saw the dessert spread, which was large enough to occupy a separate room. Three words: chocolate fondue fountain. I’m already counting the days till next year.

Keystone Winter Culinary Festival Grand Tasting, Der Fondue Chessel and Alpenglow Stube, Keystone Resort, $125.