Eating My Way Through Vail, CO
One of the reasons I kept waking up early in the mornings to go hiking while at Vail, CO was not only because of how incredibly inspiring and beautiful those walks were, but also because of all the food I was eating during my visit.
Thing is that this mountain town isn’t just serving up burgers and soups – as some people envision mountains to be doing. Vail has been attracting some pretty creative chefs and culinary visionaries that have been helping to not only solidify the area as a place worthy of foodie accolades, but also as a leader in the farm-to-table movement for similar destinations.
Because of this, some of the choices you may have during the winter months will not be available during the summer, however it still promises to be a fresh and delicious experience.
One of the fun things about visiting Vail in the summer is that this is when most of the chefs and eateries are slower, meaning that you might have the chance to actually meet some of the people who make the magic happen in the kitchen – something I personally always get a kick out of.
Such was the case when I followed Chef Shawn Cubberley of Elway’s around as he walked through the Vail’s Farmer’s Market in search of ingredients for the special meal he was going to prepare for us all. A treat indeed!
Elway’s opened its doors at The Lodge at Vail, A RockResort, on November 21, 2011. Chef Cubberley started his career at his family’s Italian restaurant in NY at the age of 17, and it is with the ease of someone who grew up in this world that he approaches how he picks his food to how he prepares it. His dishes were delicious and accessible, presented in a way that translated to comfort and family, warmth and friends – to call it “comfort” would be too simplistic of a word, as this is, after all, a more upscale steak house, but the flavors definitely delivered the emotion and to enjoy it all with friends brought that even more so to surface.
To compliment the meal we were served spirits and wines, as well as humor and charisma, by Sommelier Jay Lay. Mr. Lay’s personality and smiling demeanor makes you want to become his best friend and have him over for all your dinner parties (or even better, be invited to one of his). Doesn’t hurt that he is an expert in all things wine and mixology related.
Elway’s is a little off the beaten path secluded in a cozy area off of one of Vail’s walkway, but I encourage to make sure not to miss it when you visit, no matter what season. I enjoyed my time here, in this gorgeous space and friendly ambiance. It’s no wonder Elway’s, with less than a year since it’s grand opening, has become one of those places foodies note as a favorite.
One of the reasons I highly recommend experiencing Vail Chophouse during the warmer months is the views of the mountain while sitting outside sipping on one of their cocktails. For our small group, the Vail Chophouse became a favorite girlfriend hangout after individually venturing about on any one of the many activities Vail has to offer.
I delighted in the Chophouse Bloody (their tri-pepper infused Finlandia Vodka, Signature House Bloody Mary Mix and all the Fixings – you must ask that they include their famous Jalapeno – cured bacon wrapped shrimp to top it off). Another lighter favorite was their blueberry spritz.
Of course you will want to eat there as well. The Vail Chophouse is taking part in Vail’s Restaurant Month, and they are making it fun for everyone, with or without kids in tow.
I for one thought it magical when we were served the Chophouse Cold Seafood Tower with 4 whole langoustines, 1/2 lb of green lip mussels, 1/2 lb of snow crab legs, 4 jumbo shrimp, 1/2 cold Maine lobster and avocado and blue crab cocktail – I know, right?
One of Vail’s most popular restaurants because of it’s location and food, Sweet Basil’s kitchen is lead by Executive Chef Paul Anders, who brings a brilliance to the American cuisine for which the restaurant is known. Overlooking one of Vail’s most family friendly spots, it is a favorite for families but also for wine lovers looking to enjoy from their selection of over 500 wines from all over the world.
Personally, I enjoyed my deliciously rich lunch with their refreshing cocktail options. A favorite of mine at Sweet Basil that you should try is their Whipped Truffle Ricotta Toast with Shiitake Mushroom and Sesame Heirloom Kale. O.M.G.ness.
When I went to visit Larkspur they were prepping for one of the things that Larkspur does best: weddings. They not only have the perfect set up, with an open, airy space by their in-house garden with majestic views of the mountain and ski lift, but they also have the talent of New Yorker and Executive Pastry Chef Mark Metzger, who has mastered the challenges of adjusting to baking at 8,000 feet and is known for creating some beautiful sweets, many of which our group got to enjoy upon our visit.
Executive Chef Richard Hinojosa runs the kitchen. He has the warm smile of a San Antonian (Texas), where he is originally from. He proudly showed us the grounds, the garden, and all the prep going on for the festivities to come. You just knew that it was going to be something special, so much attention to detail and pride going into it all – even when it come to serving our group, despite our having arrived in the midst of it all.
Check them out as well during Vail’s Restaurant Month, and when at the Vail’s Farmers Market make sure to look out for them and taste some of their many special bites.
Located at the Four Seasons Vail, where I enjoyed my stay while at the area, Flame has a lot to offer diners any time of the day. But dinner is when all the goodies come out, from their 35 Day Dry Aged Bison Ribeye – which Sous Chef Justin Kalaluhi, so graciously cut up and served to us – to the Maple Bacon Doughnuts with Palisade Cherry And Bourbon Jam. It’s not really something you think or hesitate about. You have to go to Flame and enjoy, guilt free, what they have to offer. It’s that kind of place – you know, where you go to live a little.
Many have heard of Kelly Liken for her appearances in both Top Chef (season 7) as well Iron Chef America. But those who know her at Vail, know her for both her philanthropic endeavors as one of the founder of the Sowing Seeds Program and her commitment to American cuisine using locally sourced organic ingredients, all of which got the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama who has dined there.
Intimate and cozy, the restaurant is best for couples on a romantic date night – and maybe a group of girlfriends not as rowdy as mine. Nevertheless, the food was spectacular, demonstrative of her dedication to making your experience there one you would want to repeat whenever in Vail.
For a complete Twitter update of my adventure, check out Girls Gone Vail: Taste of Vail Summer on my Storify!
Many thanks to Malen Yantis Public Relations and their partners in Vail, Colorado for their hospitality and service in order to make this experience possible.
So bummed I couldn't make it to Vail this summer. Glad you made a stop at Restaurant Kelly Liken! The food is just fantastic, no?
@Jennifer: Sooo fantastic. As fun as it was eating in Vail, I know it would've been a blast had you been there. I think we should plan it ; )