The Blu Cow returns to Vail |

The Blu Cow returns to Vail

VAIL — After 40 years and several name and location changes, the Blu Cow Cafe, otherwise known as Swiss Hot Dog, has returned to the village. In the '60s, a young immigrant named Ernst Larese, fresh off his travels throughout Europe and Australia, brought the Blu Cow to Vail in the location that would go on to be known as the Tyrolean building (it's now condos) near the Vail parking structure. More than 40 years later, his customers still can't get the delicious taste of veal and curry out of their heads. In the '70s, Ernst Larese relocated to a parking lot across from the Sonnenalp. "I worked there when I was like 7," his daughter, Simone Larese recalls. "I would ring people in and then walk away without taking their money." After a brief stint at Beaver Creek, where the Coyote Cafe is now located, Ernst Larese moved to Lionshead village, in the location where the Burton store is currently located, where he would keep his Swiss Hot Dog shop for the next 17 years. That building was eventually torn down, and Ernst Larese moved to Traer Creek in Avon, where he would stay for nearly a decade. In that time, he taught the business to Simone Larese, while he still worked hard into his 80s. Now at 83 years old, Ernst Larese was still in his shop serving dogs until last July. But he had a bad fall, says Simone Larese, and he's now confined to a wheelchair and unable to keep working. "We thought we were going to lose him," said Simone Larese. "But after some time in the hospital he perked back up like a plant that needed water." YEARS IN THE MAKING While Ernst Larese won't be spending much time in the new shop, he says he's happy to see his daughter carrying on the business and bringing it back to Vail. "I've been working to get it back in Vail for over two years," said Simone. Through her time spent ski racing as a young woman, Simone Larese got to know ski racer and restaurant architect Griz Dwight, who helped design the new shop. "We're really lucky to have such a renowned restaurant architect help us with the place. It turned out amazing," Simone said. With 40 cowbells adorning the walls, electric blue seating and classic artifacts from Ernst's legacy, the shop — which is located near Seibert Circle in Vail Village next to the Shakedown Bar — harkens back to the early days of Vail. But it's modern as well — a long bar and seating area, along with late-night hours, make it a social gathering ground in the village. "I used to look forward to any trip I had to make to Home Depot, because that meant I was stopping for a Swiss Hot Dog," said East Vail resident John Trippe Duke, who enjoyed a beer and a Swiss dog after a Vail Hot Summer Nights concert recently. "Now, this is going to be my new hangout place in Vail." APPLE DOESN'T FALL FAR Ernst Larese says his daughter Simone Larese is well prepared to carry his torch. "She's the smart one," he said. His wife and Simone's mother, Barbara Larese, says it's nice to see Simone showing such dedication to something her and Ernst worked so hard to create. "She's put so much time and effort into getting the business back to Vail. We're very pleased with the way it turned out." Ernst Larese is still as feisty as ever. The old man who once kicked a customer out of his shop for attempting to pay for a dog with waterlogged bills wishes he could walk back through the doors of Simone Larese's shop to thank that same customer for following his business around the valley. But most of all, says Simone Larese, Ernst wants one thing. "He wants to work here," she said from her new shop. "He just wants to come wash dishes and cook dogs and interact with the customers again. It was his livelihood for half of his life, so it's hard for him to watch it from a distance now." When you visit the Blu Cow, ask Simone to show you the old pictures of Ernst and Barbara Larese from the early days of Vail, and then look for that same smile in her. But keep in mind that Simone Larese doesn't have much tolerance for wet bills, either.

Vail pioneer Ernst Larese dies at 84

VAIL — Ernst Larese's story nearly ended when he was 9 years old. After being born in the little mountain town of Bolzano, Italy, in 1931, his family moved to Salzburg, Austria, where he was raised. When he was 9 he was pierced through the neck by a fence post while trying to forage a meal. He stuck his fingers in the hole, ran to a hospital where he was turned away, ran to another hospital and made it just in time to receive the care that would save his life. He went on to join the French Foreign Legion, fight in Africa, move to Australia, build Perisher Ski Resort's first commercial ski lodge, move to Vail and father three American children. On Thursday, he died of natural causes at a nursing home in Glenwood Springs. He was 84. "He lived a big life," said his daughter, Simone Larese. "Many people here know him as the founder of the Swiss Hot Dog, but by the time he moved to Vail in the '60s, he had already lived on four continents and accomplished a lot." MARRIED IN A SNOWSTORM After fighting in the Algerian War, Ernst Larese moved to Australia for a fresh start. It was 1956. He grew up in Salzburg, so he knew skiing well, but he also grew up during World War II, so he knew what it was like to wonder from where your next meal would come. It gave him a fascination with the food business which he would take, along with his knowledge of skiing, to Australia after serving his time with the French Foreign Legion in Algeria. In Australia he was showing the sport of skiing to the locals, maybe showing off a little, when he crashed and broke his femur. While in the hospital, he encountered the woman he called the most beautiful girl on the Australian continent. Barbara was a nurse at the hospital and fell for Ernst. They were wed in July of 1961 in the town of Jindabyne, near Perisher. "It was the middle of winter, during a very big snowstorm," said Barbara Larese. "We had to go by snowmobile to the reception." THE BLU COW After 10 years in Australia, Ernst decided it was once again time for a change. Barbara and he packed up their things and moved to Colorado, landing in Vail. Not long after arriving, he started the Blu Cow restaurant in the location where the Tyrolean is located today. It was 1967. A few years later, they had their first child. Two more would follow. Over the next few decades, Ernst would start the Swiss Hot Dog shop and move it to several locations between Vail and Beaver Creek. The half pork, half veal, double wiener with curry, sprouts and onions and parsley would go on to become a signature meal in the Vail Valley. Ernst worked in the shop until a few years ago, when he became too sick to work and moved to a nursing home. Simone Larese carries on the tradition today with her restaurant, also named the Blu Cow, in Vail Village's Slifer Square near The Red Lion. On Friday, Nov. 6 there will be a celebration of Ernst's life at the Blu Cow at 6 p.m. Anyone who knew him is welcome to join the celebration and tell stories of their experiences with him. "I'm sure there's a lot of people who have some pretty entertaining memories of Ernst," Simone said. "We're welcoming anyone to come and share those memories." He was preceded in death by his son Alexander and is survived by wife Barbara; children Simone and Anthony; and two grandchildren, 15-year-old Mikella and 8-year-old Zoe.

Dogs 4 Dogs at Vail Valley’s Swiss Hot Dog

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Daughter father duo and co-owners of Swiss Hot Dog Simone Larese, left, and Ernst Larese, are hosting a Dogs 4 Dogs event at Swiss Hot Dog Friday beginning at 11 a.m. “People pay whatever they like to The Love Box, and get a Swiss Hot Dog,” Simone said. “Fifty percent of the proceeds go to the Eagle Valley Humane Society. It’s a double charity event – for both people and the humane society.”

Alexander Larese, former local, died Feb. 1

Alexander Larese, a Battle Mountain High School graduate and former Ski Club Vail racer, died suddenly Feb. 1 in Las Vegas, where he had lived for the past 15 years. He was 35. Larese is survived by his 6-year-old daughter, Mikella; Mikella’s mother, Jennifer Lynn of Las Vegas; his parents, Ernst and Barbara of Vail; brother Anthony of Vail; and sister Simone of Vail. A fund has been established for Mikella Larese at FirstBank of Avon.

Eagle County residents: Eat Swiss Hot Dogs for life

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” There’s comfort in the predictable. Even though Swiss Hot Dog Company has been around for more than 30 years ” first in its Lionshead spot for years and now in Traer Creek Plaza near Wal-Mart in Avon ” not much has changed. The menu is quite simple, with two main offerings, both owner Ernst Larese’s creation. There’s the “regular”: two pork-and-veal dogs nestled in a chewy French roll and topped with imported Austrian curry powder, onion, parsley, sprouts and brown mustard. For the homemade chicken noodle soup, Ernst chops up more than 30 homemade vegetables and throws them into the pot. He doles out the simmering concoction with love, topping each helping with cilantro and a slice of lime ” the perfect elixir for what ails you. The dogs are quite popular with tourists as well as locals, which is why Ernst created a side business years ago where he ships boxes of the hot dogs around the country. “He’s really let that fall by the wayside and people have been calling even my cell phone number asking for him, asking for the hot dogs,” said Simone, Ernst’s daughter and fellow owner. Now that Ernst is nearly 80 and considering retiring, Simone is thinking about the future of Swiss Hot Dog, or SHD for short. “I’m taking it over and we’re trying to make it into a chain,” she said. “I have some interest in L.A. and Vegas. I’m trying to make it younger and marketable … I want to create a brand. I’m going to hopefully have my own chain, that’s the idea anyway ” I might be 50 by the time it happens.” For the past year she’s been working on a Web site for the company with the idea of running the side business wholly online, but she hasn’t gotten very far, she said. She did, however, create a Facebook page for Swiss Hot Dog. “There’s really a cult following for Swiss Hot Dog,” Simone said. “People were fighting (on the Facebook postings) about who is the biggest fan.” Fed up with how long the site is taking her to create, she sent out a Facebook message last week: “Hi everyone! As you may know, I’ve been working on the Web site for a LOOONG time ” but let’s face it, I suck. I NEED help! So, I’m running a little contest; if you or anyone you know can come up with a web site you’ll win a FREE HOT DOG EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! Seriously! If you aren’t into the dawgs, I’m going to be including kick-ass salads and chocolate fondue (in the nearest future) …” A free meal a day for the rest of your life? The concept struck a chord with people and the response has been overwhelming, she said. “People have been writing back to me like crazy. I got about 50 e-mails,” Simone said. She has a few potential designers “who definitely know what they’re doing,” she said, and she’s now trying to get back to everyone who’s written to her. The barter system, which has always thrived in Vail, might be even more popular now because of the recent economic downturn. But even so, this isn’t the first time people have offered their services in exchange for a good meal. “I’ve had people do things all the time for hot dogs, even paint the place,” she said. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

Best Darn Hot Dog

Swiss Hot Dog Geno’s Coyote Cafe We can’t even talk about this hot dog it’s so good. You have to taste it for yourself. “I’m very happy about being named Best Hot Dog in the Vail Valley,” said Ernst Larese, owner and operator of Lionshead’s Swiss Hot Dog. When asked, “what makes Swiss hot dogs the best?” it became clear why Larese has been in business in Vail for so many years. “Unique spices and special sausages from Denver,” Larese admitted, are the foundation of his restaurant’s success. “I’ve got customers from Kuwait, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia” who have been “been coming back for 20 years because of the taste.” Vail Colorado

Nibbles: Restaurant happenings in the Vail Valley

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –Who knew the power of Facebook in the Vail Valley? A few months back Simone Larese, co-owner of the Swiss Hot Dog in Avon, used Facebook to promote a contest for the company she runs with her father and founder, Ernst. The contest asked people to design a functional Web site for the longtime eatery for a chance to win a free dog every day for life. She wrote to all of Swiss Hot Dog’s Facebook friends. The Vail Daily heard about the contest and wrote a story about it as well. Well, it worked. Simone e-mailed an update to the Vail Daily last week. Nearly 50 people were interested in making the site, she said, but ultimately local resident Harald Fricker got the job. “When Harald contacted me I thought ‘Voila, this is the guy,’” Simone said via e-mail. “Ironically I’ve known this guy my entire life but didn’t know he built Web sites for a living. Plus, both our families hail from Europe – his Germany, mine Austria – and so they always hung out together and shared stories of Europe and how weird it was to have ‘American kids.’” And since Fricker is the son of the “famous Helmut Fricker, it would be rude not to have chosen him,” she wrote. Fricker had the site up and running within days, all for a dog a day. The site is live and, beginning this month, customers can buy boxes of the popular veal-and-pork dogs through the site and have them shipped overnight anywhere in the U.S. Visit to see the finished product. Now Simone is busy trying to “expand the business into a global franchise like Starbucks,” she said, and recently traveled to Tokyo, Paris and Beijing to explore the possibility. Her latest Facebook post offers up the idea that the company would make for a good reality TV show. “Working with my father is fairly insane, if not down right hilarious, to those who have the right sense of humor,” Simone wrote, signing the post “Simone Larese, part-time owner though fired often.” According to Simone, a few people are already interested in making it a show, “given that it is already a comedy,” she said. “It would be very funny – Austrian cantankerous father, disciplinarian and ex-French Foreign Legionnaire – he was a kid in Austria at the end of WWII as well – who hates change versus American daughter, and heir apparent to the Swiss Hot Dog business, who only wants change and plans to expand the business.” Now that sounds like a good drama. Officially Restaurant Kelly Liken turned five on May 29, but Liken and her staff are celebrating all summer long. “It’s exciting,” Liken said over the phone. “Some days it feels like its been a lot longer than five years but most days it feels like we just opened yesterday. I feel like we’ve come so far in five years and it’s a nice milestone.” The restaurant is celebrating by offering a five-course menu for $55 per person. The menu highlights some of Liken’s most popular dishes over the last five years, including green tomato gazpacho, elk carpaccio with bulgur tabbouleh and mustard aioli, housemade mascarpone tortellini with summer vegetables and crispy artichoke, and potato-crusted trout filets with haricots verts, pea shoots and lemon beurre blanc. Add wine pairings to the dinner for an extra $25. The specials are good through Labor Day. Last September, Liken, a Culinary Institute of America grad, was featured in Bon Appetit magazine. The piece highlighted six women chefs in the country who are “breaking ground and taking charge.” In the piece, Liken was quoted as saying “I would publicly like to thank every person who made me work harder, who pushed me – unfairly, I thought at the time – who made me cry, who put too much stuff on my station, who took bets on whether I was going to burn the nuts. Because today, I am so much better off. I can look at myself and see that I am a markedly better technician than the people I was standing next to 10 years ago.” Have a restaurant Nibble you’d like to share with Vail Daily readers? E-mail High LIfe editor Caramie Schnell at

Thanksgiving brings visitors to Vail

VAIL — Both blue skies and snowfall Thursday greeted families from near and far for the Thanksgiving holiday on Vail Mountain. With Chair 14, Sourdough Express, opening Wednesday, the resort lifted its terrain total to 1,360, the most of any resort on the Interstate 70 corridor and more than some combined. The conditions this opening season are considered good even by those who have seen them all, like Lex Pinson, of Eagle, who has been skiing Vail since 1964. Pinson was enjoying the holiday with his brother, Wright Pinson, of Nashville, and niece and nephews Justin Johnson and Ciara Johnson, of Washington, D.C. "It's a perfect day," Justin Johnson said. "We have a lot to be thankful for." For many, the vacation to Vail will be a nice escape. Brookfield, Wisconsin, resident Brian Colburn's gas station convenience store was burglarized in dramatic fashion on Wednesday, when two masked assailants used a stolen van to tow the ATM out of his shop with a harness. "It was on the news, because there's just no crime out there," he said. "Nothing like this has ever happened before." Now in Vail with his wife and children, they're enjoying Thanksgiving on the slopes. "We're seeing my brother and his family," Ann Colburn said. "We try to get out here for Thanksgiving as much as we can." LOCAL TRADITION Many Vail residents enjoyed a day off work on the slopes. Terry Dinkin, of Terry's Hair Studio in West Vail, skied with her sister's family, the Sandbergs, also Eagle County residents. "Every year we do the Turkey Trot in Eagle-Vail, then we go skiing and then we have Thanksgiving dinner at our cousins in Minturn," Alan Sandberg said. "This year the skiing is awesome." Tom Higgins, of American Ski Exchange, got a few runs in. Joe Joyce, of Joe's Famous Deli, was also out and about. Still recovering from a knee injury, former ski racer Simone LaRese, of the Blu Cow, said she is spending Thanksgiving the same way she has spent most Thanksgivings —with her family in their Vail Valley Swiss hot dog shop. "My dad used to make me work with him in the shop on Thanksgiving," she said. Blu Cow founder Ernst LaRese died of natural causes Oct. 22. He was 84. "We would argue here in the shop and drink vino in the back," she said. "I'll miss those days." NEXT STORM CYCLE Vail Mountain representative Sally Gunter said the resort will continue to open more terrain as conditions permit. "In terms of what terrain opens next and when, it will depend on what happens during this storm cycle and the next one," she said. Colorado meteorologist Joel Gratz was also in Vail for Thanksgiving. He posted his daily blog entry as a band of light to moderate snow was moving over Vail Mountain from the west. "We should see chances for snow continue from Thursday through next Monday as a storm wobbles and stalls to the west of Colorado," he wrote. "I am keeping my forecasted snow accumulations light during this time, with the best chance for 1-3 inches to fall Friday night through midday Saturday and again from Sunday night through Monday."

Grass-roofed mall opens, but no grass

AVON – Brent Merten’s kids are wondering if there will be goats atop the new Traer Creek Plaza in Avon.”It’s a joke,” said Merten, of Eagle. “There’s grass on the roof. We’re from Wisconsin and there is a famous restaurant there with a grass roof. And they actually have goats on the roof to keep it trim.”There will be no goats; nor will there be any lawn maintenance workers pacing the roof of the new horse-shoe shaped edifice across from Wal-Mart and Home Depot in Avon. The sod is actually made of sedum, an easy-to-maintain bean sprout-like material. It’s meant to be the crowning jewel of the certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building. While its had some trouble taking root, the roof ought to be growing by this spring, said Mike Paquette, a spokesperson for Traer Creek.”I think it could be a good draw for Avon,” said Paisley Frischholz of Eagle-Vail. “It’s definitely an interesting building and I think people might be curious and go in to check it out.”As people have “checked out” the building over the last month, they would have seen it slowly transforming. Four retailers have opened up shop there – Swiss Hot Dog, which relocated from Lionshead in Vail; Village Warehouse Wines; Game Stop and Challenge Outfitters.Ernst Larese, who lives in Eagle-Vail and owns Swiss Hot Dog, said he expects that his big move from Vail to Avon will prove profitable.”The off-season is too long,” Larese said of Vail. “You go broke. This will go all year round.”Larese’s Swiss Hot Dog was something of an institution in Vail, where it was in business nearly 14 years. Larese has an order book filled with addresses from around the world and comments like, “Swiss Hot Dog is why we come to Vail.””It’s the spice,” Larese said. “It’s addictive.” Larese has lived in the valley 39 years. He’s Italian, but grew up in Germany. So why is his shop called the Swiss Hot Dog?”Because it kind of rhymes,” Larese said, smirking a little.Just then, a man walked into the new store and spotted Larese.”You finally got open, huh?” said Rich Seth of Vail. “It’s about time.” Larese was forced out of his Lionshead location more than a year ago and was out of business for 18 months while he waited for Traer Creek Plaza to be deemed inhabitable.”Eighteen months with no income,” Larese said. “But I know a round building is hard to build.”Construction hold-ups delayed the opening of the building nearly a year.”The sign in the window there kept changing,” said Pete Cuccia of Edwards. He’s a part-owner of Village Warehouse Wines. “‘Opening Fall, 2005.’ ‘Opening Spring, 2006.’ We finally opened Oct. 6. We’re just now going into our first holiday season and we could have been going into our second. That would have helped a lot.”Beyond the sod roof and the round shape of the building, architects had to contend with a cable-supported roof that shifts with the weight of winter snow. That, in turn, impacted the way the all glass walls were engineered, according to a press release from Traer Creek.Now that some of the shops are opening up, people are discovering them. “Today is going to be twice better than last Monday,” Larese said early Monday afternoon. “I can already tell.”Cuccia said he’s seen steady business in the liquor store and he expects its proximity to Wal-Mart and Home Depot to make Traer Creek Plaza a high-traffic shopping area.”More and more people are coming in every day,” Cuccia said.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO

Best Hot Dog

Swiss Hot Dog Popcorn Wagon Movies For a place that sells two items ” hot dogs and soup ” Swiss Hot Dog in Avon’s Traer Creek sure is busy. Taste either of those and you’ll find out why. The hot dogs are long and skinny. Made with a blend of veal and pork (veal alone is too dry, says owner Ernst Larese), they’re cooked twice before they’re served on a freshly toasted baguette lathered with spicy mustard, a special curry blend and sunflower sprouts. The Regular comes with two links, and the triple with three. Though there are plenty of drinks in the reach-in case, the best accompaniment is the chicken noodle soup, loaded with fresh veggies and topped with herbs and lime. So hot it’ll burn your tongue, but you won’t even mind. The Popcorn Wagon – an offshoot of Joe’s Deli in Vail ” sells hot dogs right in the middle of the walkway. That might be what makes the beef dogs good, or it might be the load of tomatoes, onions, relish, mustard and ketchup on top. Either way, they’re fast and tasty. For those who want to hunker down and watch a story unfold, the beef dogs at the movie theaters are popular bets. Though Riverwalk Theater staff members were unable to project which type of moviegoer ate the most hot dogs (action adventure? romantic comedy? animated?) they did figure out what time slot was most hot dog-friendly: Sunday matinees.