Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. AnnaThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Last summer, one of the surprise great events was the weekend of the Snowmass Culinary & Arts Festival. Not only was the art more than worthy, the food and spirits were exceptional. And thanks to the efforts of Josh Behrman, event organizer extraordinaire, what was especially impressive was the accessibility of the participating chefs and the warm, welcoming vibe of the local event.This weekend the Snowmass Culinary & Arts Festival gets back into gear with another batch of great chefs and some killer spirits. Let’s start with the chefs. Venga Venga, the slopeside Mexican restaurant where the Cirque used to be, is a special addition to the Snowmass community. It is helmed by Richard Sandoval, a chef and restaurateur with world-class credentials. His empire spans the globe and he has created some of the best Latin restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City and even Dubai. Snowmass is fortunate not only to have one of his restaurants, but also to have him attend this event. Tonight he will be hosting a “Tapas and Tequilas” party at Venga Venga at 4 p.m., and if you can get a ticket it will no doubt be off the hook. Saturday will see a series of seminars hosted by chefs like Alex Seidel, named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” for his work at Denver’s acclaimed Fruition restaurant. Alex will be making ricotta cheese from the milk of sheep that he raises on his own farm. Mark Fischer, who has changed the paradigm in downvalley dining – first with SIX89 and Phat Thai in Carbondale, and now with his hugely popular Pullman in Glenwood Springs – will continue the farm-to-table theme with his cooking demonstration as well. Fischer will be prepping some fresh porcini mushrooms and pancetta bacon with roasted North Fork goat. Other chefs include: Hosea Rosenberg, the winner of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” competition in 2009; Frank Bonanno, who has created an empire in Denver with five restaurants, all of which are hits; and Christy Rost, a PBS celebrity chef. Even if you can’t attend the seminars, you can participate in the “Palette of Pairings,” which serves as the signature tasting event at the Snowmass Culinary & Arts Festival. Scheduled from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, this is where you can buy a ticket (provided you are over 21 years of age), grab a plate and a glass and tour the mall tasting food and drink from top chefs, wineries and distilleries. Tickets are $45 for the “Palette of Pairings.” For more information and to purchase tickets to all of these events, go to http://www.snowmassculinaryandarts.com, or you can pick them at the front of the mall. A good time will be had by all.