One of the great pleasures of being a restaurant critic and wine writer is that it affords me the opportunity to meet so many generous people. I don’t know many individuals in the food and wine industry who are overpaid or have much spare time on their hands. Restaurant folks, especially, work long hours, often for low wages. And yet I know an abundance of restaurant workers who consistently and repeatedly donate their time and their talents to important nonprofit organizations in their communities.
One of those people is Penelope Lehman-Kinsey, owner of the terrific Blind Dog Grill in Park City. When Lehman-Kinsey cornered me at a party about six months ago to tell me about the Park City Culinary Wine & Ski Classic she helped to create, I politely (I hope) asked her to remind me about it when we got closer to the date of the event. Well, now we’re close. So here’s the story.
The brainchild of Lehman-Kinsey, her husband Derrick and her dad Chappie, the Underdog Foundation was created as a way for the food and wine community of Summit County to support needy charities in the area, particularly local youth programs. But Lehman-Kinsey had more than bake sales in mind. Frankly, when I first heard about their vision of a Culinary Wine & Ski Classic, I thought they’d set their sights way too high. Silly me. Next week, Park City will host the classic and it promises to be not only classic but also spectacular.
Essentially, the classic will be an orgy (my term, not theirs) of food and drink like most Utahn’s have never seen before. From Feb. 2 to 5, local and out-of-town chefs will team up with some of the country’s best vintners and wine distributors to stage what promises to be a series of sensational food and wine events. I get giddy just reading the program.
The fun begins up at The Chateaux in Deer Valley next Thursday with the “Grape Kick-off SoirÃ©e” where guests can sample more than 100 wines from 30 different vineyards while enjoying the music of Everwood star Treat Williams (loved ya in Prince of the City) and his band. There’s also a “learn to taste” education booth and edible delicacies provided by chef David Kratky of Bistro Toujours. Among the wines represented will be those of CÃ©ago, Foppiano, Jeriko, Charles Krug, Argyle, Clos du Bois, Sanford, Rosenblum, St. Supery, Robert Sinskey and Vine Cliff, just to name a few.
But that’s only the beginning. Because on Friday the festivities range from skiing with vintners like Sean Capiaux (Capiaux Cellars), Jim Fetzer (CÃ©ago Vinegarden), Kent Fortner (Green Truck Cellars) and Jeff Virnig (Robert Sinskey Vineyards) to dinners and wine tastings with celebrated chefs, winemakers and fellow food and wine nuts. The wine dinners will be hosted by generous citizens of Park City and Deer Valley who are lending the use of their fabulous homes for these events. Some of the chefs involved include Cyril Renaud of New York City’s Fleur de Sel, Ken Oringer from Clio Restaurant in Boston, and local chefs like Greg Neville (Pine and LugÃ¤no), Robert Valaika (Shabu), James Dumas (Sai Sommet), Gabrielle McAfee (CafÃ© Madrid) and Neville King (Easy Street Brasserie). There are many more, too numerous to mention.
Are we having fun yet? Well, keep it all going by attending a black-tie masquerade ball and auction at the pristine Stein Eriksen Lodge on Saturday night. Chef Zane Holmquist will prepare a five-course dinner for guests, each course paired with wonderful wines. The evening’s festivities also include jazz from the Small House Quartet, a live auction and a King Cake Walk, featuring some of Utah’s best pastry chefs.
Then on Sunday, the Park City Culinary Wine & Ski Classic wraps up with a special Hair-of-the-Dog Brunch at the Blind Dog Restaurant & Sushi Bar. Along with morning cocktails and bubbly, brunch will feature wines from CÃ©ago, J Vineyards & Winery, Jeriko Estate and Vias Italian Imports. The dress code for the Blind Dog brunch is listed as “recuperation attire.”
Now although these events all sound like more fun than folks should be allowed to have with their clothes on, I wouldn’t be telling you about it if it weren’t for a worthy cause. Or, make that a load of worthy causes, because the beneficiaries of this year’s Culinary Wine & Ski Classic include 16 nonprofits selected by the Underdog Foundation’s board of trustees. Again there are too many to list them all, but some of the recipients of funds raised by next week’s Culinary Wine & Ski Classic include Arts Kids, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Heuga Center, Intermountain Therapy Animals, Park City School District Community Scholarship Program, Peace House, Recycle Utah and the Youth Winter Sports Alliance. Last September, the Underdog Foundation received 30 grant proposals with a total of $600,000 in grants requested. The dedication of volunteers from the Underdog Foundation, chefs, vintners and supporters like you will go a long way towards meeting those monetary requests. Tickets can be purchased via the Internet (see box above) and range from single event tickets to “whole shebang” packages.
Fantastic food and wonderful wine to raise money for righteous causes: Now that’s what I call community service.