If the line out the door on Friday night was any indication, Riverwalk’s newest restaurant, The Rose, is a welcome addition to the Edwards food scene. The cozy eatery, tucked in the old Bon Jour bakery space next to Main St. Grill is the sister restaurant to The Alpenrose, a Vail institution. The restaurant has only been open a little over a month, but word spread quick.
“Since it’s opened, I’ve been down there four times,” said Jens Werner who works at the nearby Peeples Ink. “My wife, who is the biggest food critic in the world, loves it, and I’m about ready to go down there for lunch right now, actually.”
Werner’s tried the kale salad — “one of the best salads I’ve had in the valley,” he said — and he calls the pretzels on the starter menu “outstanding.”
“From an ambiance standpoint, the place is really cool,” Werner said. “I love the intimacy and exclusivity of it.”
Indeed, customers have been turned away when the place, which seats around 25 people inside and another 10 on the patio, is too full. But they seem to come back and try again.
One evening last week Redniss cleared the coconut macaroons and almond horns from the top of the baked goods-dessert case to let people use it as a standing table.
The kitchen is food-truck style tiny, which means there’s next to zero storage space and popular menu items like the avocado fries with soy aioli tend to sell out. In other words, you know it’s fresh.
“People seem excited that this a little neighborhood spot,” said Bryan Redniss, who along with his fiance Jessica Havlik, has been living and breathing this new endeavor. “We change the specials every night and keep it very seasonal, very local. People seem to love the prices, and that they’re getting delicious, high-end, plated food that’s affordable.”
Initially Havlik’s parents, the owners of The Alpenrose, wanted to open a coffee-and-pastry shop in the space, but once Havlik and Redniss got involved, they built on the concept, adding a small plate menu and a bar to the plan.
The couple spent the last year and a half designing and building the restaurant, which feels very much like walking into an Anthropologie catalogue. If it feels very eclectic and ultra DIY; that’s because it is. Two deer heads and an Ibex mount rocking hand-crotcheted coverings — or “yarn bomb animal heads,” as Redniss calls them — decorate one wall, while a migration of hand-made copper butterflies adorn the back wall. Some of the hodge podge light fixtures are old birdcages from Hobby Lobby that Redniss converted. He also built the tables himself, using every piece of scrap wood he could get his hands on. During the process, Havlik learned plenty of new skills, like how to drywall and grout, and she sanded and distressed the wood in the restaurant.
“We had a zero dollar budget, so we had to get resourceful and creative,” Redniss said.
He found a pile of the metal ceiling tiles in the bathroom in a pile at Havlik’s parents ranch. They were salvaged from a bank in Breckenridge. The wood beam shelves holding the liquor above the bar originally came from a barn in Iowa, but were most recently living at the ranch as well.
“We wanted the rustic look, so it worked out perfectly,” Havlik said.
Playing nice is overrated
Like the inside of the restaurant, the food at The Rose is creative and fun, but not overly cute. Layers of flavors and textures and even different temperatures keep your palate interested with each bite. Sweet plays with salty in the chicken and waffles dish. In executive chef Bill Fitzgerald’s riff on the Southern classic, warm, golden waffles are topped with icy scoops of maple ice cream and a four-berry compote. Two chicken drumsticks top the waffle. The chicken isn’t fried per usual — Fitzgerald opts to confit the legs in duck fat instead. But it’s still crisp and the perfect foil to the sweet components in the dish.
The beef carpaccio, offered as a special right now and soon-to-be on the next printed menu as well, is laid out like an abstract painting, making it visually appealing just as much as its palate pleasing. Construction paper-thin slices of meat are lightly seared and laid out in the center of the plate, surrounded by slices of radish, beer battered asparagus spears, dollops of blue cheese mousse and a sprinkling of herb salad — chervil, parsley, dill, tarragon and mint — brightens the dish. A hint of sweet from cherries bathed in a cherry-thyme gastrique adds the final dimension. Fitzgerald isn’t interested in having the components in the dish play nice.
“A good dish is one where the flavors battle each other,” said Fitzgerald, who is also the executive chef at The Alpenrose. “I like to blow people’s minds with all the flavors.”
A constant rotation of specials allows Fitzgerald to keep things interesting. On Monday, the special soup of the day was a kale vichyssoise, a cold soup with a creamy texture thanks to its base of potatoes and leeks. Topped with a quail egg-shaped dollop of creme fraiche and a crispy kale chip, it’s a refreshing and tasty soup that even kale haters will likely dig. If anything, more daily specials will be offered as we get farther along into the summer season and much-anticipated fruits and vegetables show up at the local farmers markets — like Olathe sweet corn and stone fruits from Palisade. Even closer to home, Fitzgerald plans to partner with Kerry Donovan over at Copper Bar Ranch in Squaw Creek for Edwards-grown produce. “As she harvests it, she’ll bring it in to us,” he said. “I love just grabbing (ingredients) and just seeing what I can create.”
Spontaneous (cocktail) combustion
That same sense of spontaneity carries over to the bar side of the restaurant equation. Bar chef Mark Summers (he most recently worked at Cima in Avon, a Richard Sandoval restaurant, which just reopened last week as Maya) puts at least two to three drink specials on the menu every night, and he’s constantly experimenting with new ideas. Right now he has six different infusions brewing, everything from bacon vodka and homemade sangria, to tarragon-citrus tequila. He makes all the mixes and syrups himself and has a collection of specialty liquors, like Italian Amaros, that would make even bartenders from much bigger establishments jealous.
“I’m always coming up with new things,” Summers said. “I’m experimenting with pineapple drinks with thyme lately. I’m always muddling and shaking. I love the creativity of it. That’s the joy of it.”
Aside from the 13 classic cocktails like Manhattens, Pimms Cups and Moscow Mules, there are nine unique cocktails on the “ours” side of the list. One of the crowd pleasers so far is the spicy “Redniss,” named after Bryan, of course. Thanks to beet-infused gin, the cocktail is a stunning fuschia color. The sweetness of lemonade balances out the kick from the chili syrup. If you’re looking to impress your friends, order a perfectly balanced “Pisco Flower,” a riff on the traditional South American pisco sour, from the “secret menu.”
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.