A small-town taste

ISAIAH BRANCH-BOYLE/Durango Herald

Event organizers and volunteers set up tables late Saturday afternoon for the 12th annual Taste of Silverton, an evening reunion of locals, tourists and foodies curious about restaurant offerings for 2013.

By Karen Brucoli Anesi
Special to the Herald

Some might say that Saturday night’s 12th annual Taste of Silverton fundraiser was more about the folks than the food.

Longtime summer resident Mary Beaber, who also has a home in Durango, gave a thumbs-up to the ribs from Grumpy’s.

But Beaber was more interested in bragging about the 40 volunteers who had just put in a couple hours of work clearing brush at the cemetery, cutting aspens and leveling tombstones.

“Three thousand are buried in the Silverton cemetery, you know. Two thirds in unmarked graves. We did 13 tombstones today. Everyone’s up there – babies to prostitutes. One guy died of a heart attack right there in the privy,” she said.

This is Silverton. Nothing is off limits.

“How’s the food?” I asked festival-goer Lisa Adair.

“Can’t say. I’ve been a vegetarian. Now I’m gluten-free, too, so I ate before I came,” she said.

This is Silverton. Might as well tell the truth. Everyone here knows when you’re lying.

Besides, it’s a small town. They even know what you’re thinking before you do.

Eating early didn’t keep Adair, an 11-year Silverton resident, and her 2½-year-old daughter, Marie Melcher, from having the requisite fun.

“Yes, all the locals are here,” Adair said.

“Hurray for the belly-dancers,” pint-size Melcher cheered.

The locals included strumming musicians from Chumffoe, doing “funk-rock-alternative” and American tribal-style belly dancers. Caldera, Silverton’s own dance troupe, wowed the crowd, swaying on the sidelines to create “art in the moment,” said troupe director Lisa Banner.

Dogs on leashes, geezers in ball caps, plus the young and the restless all kicked up dust on Blair Street, despite an evening wind-chill that made it feel more like January than June.

Cups of soup told the tale: creamy potato from Mattie and Maud’s Cafe, plus white bean chili and Hungarian paprika mushroom from Avalanche Brewing Co., “to meet the vegetarian demand,” Avalanche’s Theresa Lashley said.

All four of the Lashleys – Theresa, Doug, Zach and the restaurant’s owner, Austin – were on hand to dip soup ladles and dole out servings of corn bread, macaroons and ginger doodles. Also on the menu from Avalanche were berries and cream with trays of key lime pie, German chocolate cheesecake and brownies.

As if on cue, the band played its final song right as Avalanche poured the last of its 240 pints of beer.

“We’re the only restaurant in town that doesn’t own a fryer,” Theresa Lashley said, complimenting the affordable menu selection offered by the nine other restaurants that participated in the event.

That was OK. Avalanche still walked away with the first-place nod for the third year in a row.

Street food ruled with saucy chicken, chili relleños, enchiladas, quesadillas, funnel cakes and pizza crowding most plates. Sangria, chai tea, beer and margaritas flowed. Cupcakes, brownies and chocolate treats pleased those craving sweets.

Most of the food cost a buck or two, with nothing more than $4.

Mattie and Maud’s “all things on fry bread” sold samples of cinnamon fry bread.

Owner Lori Bond said she called on inspiration from her maternal great-grandmothers, who celebrated fellowship through cooking, to come up with the comfort food menu for her 3-week-old Silverton restaurant. Every item, including hot dogs, sits on or is wrapped in a blanket of fry bread.

About half the eateries in Silverton participated in the event, said Chamber of Commerce Director Rose Raab. She estimated that about 300 to 350 folks attended, despite threatening skies and late afternoon showers.

But Taste of Silverton is more than just food, Raab said. It’s about community coming together and meeting and greeting neighbors, tourists and old friends.

“We get a taste of our local talent, too,” Raab said of the music and dancing.

Avalanche earned top honors by getting the most votes in the four-hour, eat-drink-and-be-merry celebration.

“Natalia’s and Grumpy’s at the Grand Imperial tied for second place,” Raab said.

The event generated $2,000 before expenses, she said. Proceeds will be used by the Chamber of Commerce to promote tourism and special events in the mountain community.

kbrucolianesi@durangoherald.com

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