It was a disappointingly small crowd when Music in the Mountains held its new tradition of a gourmet repast at the Sow's Ear.I say disappointing because there were empty seats at a meal that was one of the finest I have had in my nine years as your Neighbors columnist, not to mention a lifetime of travel and dining. And equally disappointing is that Music in the Mountains, like all nonprofits in these uncertain economic times, needs all the support it can get.
Owner and chef George Mahaffie and his sous chef Dan Harshburger pulled out all the stops for a meal that had diners raving from beginning to end. The sublime food was accompanied by a series of perfectly paired wines from all the wine-producing areas in California, donated by Republic National Wines Distributing Co.
The fun began with the cocktail reception. On the menu were champagne and oysters in a multitude of ways, including oysters Rockefeller, oysters fried in cornmeal with spicy jalapeÃ±o relish and a raw oyster bar including garnishes such as citrus, toasted coriander, cocktail sauce, horseradish and Tabasco aioli.
The cocktail hour included accompaniment by Music in the Mountains and San Juan Symphony harpist Rosalind Simpson, which beautifully set the mood and tone. (The group also had a treat when Joel Jones announced it was Simpson's husband's, Ken, birthday Monday, and that he had just become a grandfather for the first time. Richard Adams, the Sow's Ear's front-of-house manager got down on bended knee to sing "Happy Birthday to You" in great voice.)The salad course featured Belgium endive, D'Anjou pear, shaved Manchego cheese and crispy shallots with tarragon buttermilk dressing. A fumé blanc by Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma County, Calif., was paired with the salad.
The next course was a work of art, seared diver scallops en croÃ»te, served with lobster-sherry cream and American-sturgeon caviar. A Benzinger chardonnay from Carneros County, Calif., perfectly complemented the delicate flavors.
A cleanse of the palate with an exquisite orange-basil sorbet and it was on to an absolutely perfect roasted quail with black mission fig cornbread stuffing, red-onion marmalade, seared greens and glace de viande. A Kenwood noir from Russian River Valley ended up as an ideal partner. Both the sorbet and the quail get five yums from yours truly, the highest ranking in my amateur food-critic world.
Everyone was pretty happy at this point, and then the grilled petit filet mignon, with truffled-mushroom duxelle, pancetta, rosemary-whipped potatoes and smoked-tomato jus arrived. More yums ensued for the tender beef and the delightful Beringer cabernet from Knights Valley, Calif.
Fortunately, dessert came in a compact but scrumptious port-sabayon berry éclair and milk-chocolate truffle paired with a delightful Valley of the Moon late bottled vintage port from Sonoma, Calif. Replete and smiling from ear to ear, Music in the Mountains supporters and food lovers had enjoyed an evening well worth remembering.
Thanks also go to servers Chrissy Deerian and Ileah Farrington, who, along with Adams, made that part of the evening go as smoothly as silk. And mega-congratulations go to Michelle Oppenheimer, who organized the event.
You may have missed the meal, but as you plan your end-of-the-year giving, please put Music in the Mountains on your list. Call 385-6820 to see how you can help.
---Enjoying a lovely Indian summer for their birthdays are Luke Jernigan, Kyler Reimers, Mitchell Carter, Jordan Junkermann, Jill Wright, Chris Calwell and Nett Stidham.
---I hope many of you have joined me in watching, learning from and enjoying Ken Burns' most recent documentary, "National Parks: America's Best Idea," which is running on Rocky Mountain PBS through Friday.
Of course, living just 30 miles from a national park makes us a little more connected to the topic than many Americans, but even so, it is a fascinating look at the history of one of our most democratic institutions.
Monday night's edition focused on President Theodore Roosevelt's impact on the creation of 11 national parks and creation of the concept of national monuments, which saved areas such as the Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon and the Petrified Forest in our neck of the woods.
My colleagues in the newsroom and I were speculating on what, if any, coverage there would be about Mesa Verde National Park, because we hadn't heard anything about Burns and his crew filming in Southwest Colorado.
Lo and behold, there's Durango's very own historian Duane Smith on the screen Monday, talking about Richard Wetherill and his family along with Gustaf NordenskiÃ¶ld. His points were illustrated with sepia-toned photos and drawings, including an image of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Depot in Durango and the Strater Hotel.
There was even a brief shot of the front page of The Durango Herald noting NordenskiÃ¶ld's arrest because locals were upset about "furriners" stealing our heritage - an outrage that led to the move to protect the park.
I have one tiny complaint. There was no interview with Judith Reynolds, who wrote a biography about NordenskiÃ¶ld's life and contributions with her late husband, David. And to Smith, the scurrilous press thinks you did us proud.
---In my item about the Adaptive Sports Association's Harvest Gala, I left out one thing that will interest anyone who loves either skiing and/or art. One of the iconic images of the ASA has been Scott "Griz" Kelley's photograph called "Gone Skiing." It features a group of empty wheelchairs at the base of Lift No. 7 at Purgatory Mountain at Durango Mountain Resort.
The photograph inspired artist Susan Tait to paint the image. While the original painting is in a private collection, the ASA is selling a limited edition number of giclée prints - 125 to be exact - for $125 each. Call the ASA office at 259-0374 to learn more and order yours.
---The fall colors are giving their last gasp for the anniversaries of Greg and Virginia Miller Cavanagh and Chris and Patty Isensee.
---For information on upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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