Flavors of Yampa Valley to be featured at Wild Edible Feast | SteamboatToday.com

Flavors of Yampa Valley to be featured at Wild Edible Feast

Karen Vail, naturalist for Yampatika, shows the root area of a cattail that can be eaten that tastes similar to bamboo shoots. Vail will be going out with a group of volunteers on Monday and Tuesday to forage for Yampatika's Wild Edible Feast on Wednesday, June 8.

— Foraged roots, leaves and flowers enter the kitchen in bags and leave as an elaborate, gourmet dish.

It's a flavor of the Yampa Valley to be found only at Yampatika's Wild Edible Feast.

"I don't think there's been a feast yet where I haven't come away just amazed at what the chef can do," said Karen Vail, Yampatika naturalist. "There's nothing else like this found in the Yampa Valley."

This marks the 16th year the annual feast has served as Yampatika's signature fundraising event. Beginning at 6 p.m. June 8 at The Cabin in The Steamboat Grand, freshly harvested wild plants, local meats and exclusive silent auction items — such as a private guided hike, a private recital with local cellist John Sant'Ambrogio and a catered dinner — will be available for one night only.

But before the evening's festivities get underway, there is foraging to be done.

On Monday and Tuesday, Vail will lead a group of volunteers to areas within the Yampa Valley that have been known to produce a harvest of glacier lilies, sweet wild anise, dandelion greens, wild rhubarb and fiddlehead ferns, to name a few.

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"What really makes this event unique is that we get to educate people about how to forage in the natural world by showing them what's used and how to use it safely and ethically," Vail said. "People get an education out in the field when they join us to go forage and during the dinner, as well."

The foraging, Vail said, will take place Monday throughout Steamboat Springs, with morning and afternoon shirts, and continue Tuesday in the north part of town, with an all-day forage. Both days, she said, will begin at 9 a.m. at the U.S. Forest Service office, 925 Weiss Drive. Those interested in volunteering must call Yampatika to register.

Once the harvest is collected, Chef Ariel Robey and Vail will discuss the variety of uses and taste for each plant. From that discussion, Robey develops the carefully crafted menu highlighting the local taste within each dish.

"A lot of the inspiration for the items on the menu come from the ingredients (themselves) and to present those in a simplified way with traditional techniques that let the ingredient speak for itself," Robey said.

Proteins used for the event — such as the deer, elk and goose — are sourced from the Yampa Valley. Some of the sources include Elkhead Ranch, Maybell, Moon Hill Dairy, Jerry Fox, Sam Duerkson, Rockin' J Cattle and Gary and Chris Pon.

"It's a nice community experience that has that educational component, similar to a farm to table experience," said Leslie Steen, who is co-chair of the feast and also serves on the board of Yampatika. "But, it goes beyond that, because we have people who have gone hunting, fishing and foraging for the food on the menu."

Proceeds from the feast will benefit Yampatika's summer camp for kids. In addition, funds also contribute to the organization's free weekly programs for adults, such as the Mineral Springs Tour or the naturalist on site at Fish Creek Falls.

Tickets for Yampatika's Wild Edible Feast are $125 per person. Space is limited, and reservations are required. Visit tinyurl.com/Yampatika-WEF or call 970-871-9151. 

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

If You Go…

What: Wild Edible Feast

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 8

Where: The Cabin at the Steamboat Grand, 2300 Mount Werner Circle

Tickets: $125 per person. Space is limited, and reservations are required.

If You Go

What: Volunteer Foraging

When: Starting at 9 a.m. Monday, May 30 and Tuesday, May 31

Where: Meet at the U.S. Forest Service office, 925 Weiss Drive

Those interested in volunteering must call Yampatika at 970-871-9151 to register.