Fresh herb-marinated chicken skewers with Downslope Distilling Vodka citrus butter sauce. Dry-spice rubbed pork tenderloin with JP Krause Rum brown sugar glaze. Peach Street Brandy-infused peach and cherry tartlets with Breckenridge Bourbon caramel and Chantilly cream.
Some artists work in paint or clay. Others channel their creativity into sound. For food artists, it’s about the ingredients, and how they come together to make a dish.
“Chefs are always looking for new creative ingredients to add into their repertoire,” said Ian Buchanan, who teaches the annual Spirited Cooking class at Colorado Mountain College, offered as part of the Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival. The two-hour class is a hands-on culinary experience where participants work in teams to prepare a three-course luncheon that incorporates craft spirits donated by participating distilleries. Afterwards, participants sample both the food and libations.
Previous years’ menus have used craft spirits in marinades, vinaigrettes, dessert sauces and main recipes. To develop the menu, Buchanan starts by studying the flavor profiles of the spirits—what ingredients went into them and how they have been used in past recipes by the distillers. “From there it’s really a lot of my own experience in the industry,” said Buchanan, who’s been a chef for 20 years. He looks at how to integrate the flavors so they complement one another in a lunch menu that will interest students while offering lessons on how to cook with spirits.
Buchanan directs the Recreational Culinary Institute, which offers one-session, non-credit cooking classes from baking to world cuisine in the commercial teaching kitchen at Colorado Mountain College’s Breckenridge campus. The college also offers an Associate of Arts degree and three-year internship program through its Professional Culinary Institute.
The Spirited Cooking class accommodates a maximum of 15 students and usually sells out, but there’s an entire menu of interesting culinary classes to choose from in CMC’s program.
“The culinary movement is increasingly locavore,” said Buchanan. “‘I want to know the guy that’s making that’—that’s the trend. We support it because it’s cutting down on our carbon footprint by keeping things local, and it supports local businesses.”
The culinary and craft spirits movements mesh well in that regard. Makers of craft spirits, too, are “moving away from big corporate distillers and looking to create small-batch, niche craft spirits that have unique flavor profiles and local ingredients that go into them,” Buchanan said. “As a community college, we like to support community, state, and local efforts, and integrate those concepts into the culinary world.”
Colorado Mountain College Culinary Arts // coloradomtn.edu/programs/culinary_arts