Friday, June 12, 2009

Valley chefs to strut their stuff

Vintner dinners a highlight of Sun Valley Food & Wine Festival

Express Staff Writer

In this photo by Kirsten Shultz, Cristina Ceccatelli Cook, owner of Cristina’s restaurant, shares a bottle of wine with diner James Cimino. Cristina’s will serve a variety of wines from Piero Antinori Tuscan Estates, a renowned wine group from Italy, at its vintner dinner on Friday night. Photo by

As some of the nation's top chefs descend on the Wood River Valley to demonstrate their skills this weekend, local restaurants and chefs will also be flexing their culinary muscles by hosting a series of vintner dinners.

The vintner dinners have been a part of the three-day Sun Valley Food & Wine Festival since its inception three years ago. They feature a wide variety of cuisine carefully matched with quality wines. Often, valley chefs will team up with outside vintners to pair a specific wine with each course.

This year, seven Ketchum restaurants and chefs will host vintner dinners. On Friday, dinners will take place at the Knob Hill Inn, the Roosevelt Tavern & Grill, il Naso and Cristina's Restaurant & Bakery. On Saturday, Ketchum Grill, Baci Italian Café and Wine Bar and Ciro Restaurant & Wine Bar will open their doors to vintners and diners.

While the types of food will vary, the offerings promise to be superb, if not unique. Try buffalo carpaccio at il Naso. Taste escargot in Champagne sauce at the Knob Hill Inn. Feast on Italian specialties such as "ravioli gnudi"—or naked ravioli, as it is the filling without the noodle—at Cristina's. Enjoy "Double Black Diamond" chocolate ganache with berries at the Roosevelt. Eat cuisine hand prepared by John Tesar, former head chef of the famed Mansion on Turtle Creek restaurant in Dallas, at Ciro.

In addition, several restaurants are opening their cellars to share an incredible collection of wines and others have brought in vintners from various wineries. Ketchum Grill will host vintner Melanie Krause of Idaho's up-and-coming Cinder winery.

Surprising as it may sound, the vintner dinners are about more than just food and wine. They are also about the experience of sharing good tastes with good company.

"The idea behind these dinners is to create a kind of friendly gathering with good food and good wine," said Cristina Ceccatelli Cook, owner of Cristina's. "It's about friendship and life and enjoying the little things. It feels more like a dinner at someone's house than at a restaurant."

Menus and prices are fixed.

For more information or to make a reservation, call one of the restaurants or the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau at (866) 305-9798. For more information on the festival, go to www.sunvalleyfoodandwine

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