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Maya’s menu reads like a love letter to Mexico

If you want a little panache with your pico de gallo, then just enter the world of Chef Richard Sandoval. Considered to be the “Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine,” Sandoval’s creations are a highlight of Maya Restaurant at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. In fact, The Michelin Guide said of the restaurant, “Maya’s menu reads like a love letter to Mexico.”

Sandoval’s philosophy was to create an “interactive” dining experience.  “Before, people had an appetizer, entrée and dessert and dinner was over,” he told USA Today. “I like to take people on a journey that’s more ambitious. I recommend two to three plates per person and sharing an entrée.

“Now the experience becomes an interactive tasting. You’re passing the plates around, talking about the ingredients and the tastes.”

And so it is at Maya. The food is spectacular across the board. It’s rooted in tradition and, it must be said, intriguing. Nothing tastes as you might expect: It’s better than that.

And it begins with an assortment of more than 100 tequila drinks, inspired by local tequileirias in Mexico. They are refreshingly laced with an assortment of flavors that keep you guessing. One favorite is the Perfect Patrón Skinny Margarita, with Patrón silver, pineapple citronge lime and agave nectar. Another — the Canela Anejo, with Roca Patrón añejo tequila, blood orange and cinnamon. Both drinks make the perfect beginning to an exciting evening of flavors.

And that evening should begin with Maya’s Classic Guacamole. However, adding raw tuna to this dish will leave you wanting more — even after you, perhaps, ordered the Adobo Crusted Shrimp and Calmari with citrus cabbage slaw, as well. It’s a toss up between these two starters. Totally different tastes — both wonderful.

“Chef Sandoval created a standard of how the plates should look,” says Executive Chef Angel Munoz who works closely with Chef Veronica Morales. “From there we can play with ingredients and method of cooking and that’s what engages us. Like adding tuna to the guacamole.”

Morales and Munoz have a very warm working relationship. “This is how we work,” says Munoz, with a laugh. “I’ll say, ‘We need to use this ingredient.’ And she’ll say, ‘Okay, we can do this and this.’ She puts techniques in practice and I’m the one who says ‘We have to use this, I want this.’ Veronica gives soul to our menu”.

And that “soul” shows up in every dish. Take the tacos and enchiladas, for instance. Like everything on the menu, they’re authentic, freshly made and outrageously delicious. Favorites include the Adobo Brisket Tacos and the Tex Mex Chicken Enchiladas; however, the Blue Crab and Shrimp Enchiladas, with salsa verde and spinach, is a must. The array of flavors will leave you quiet, intent upon eating every last bite.

Feel free to wander beyond the tacos and enchiladas, though, to the menu’s appealing Chef’s Table choices. Carne Asada, with fire-grilled vegetables, is served within a fanned circle of black been purée and Coriander Tuna, is seared rare. It’s really hard to choose only one.

An evening at Maya is incredibly delicious and always intriguing. What’s more, you’ll leave wanting more.

Chef Munoz says that this summer’s FAC (Friday Afternoon Club) will be filled with an array of new dishes that he and Chef Morales are busily creating.

Eke out every sip of sunshine at Sauce on the Creek

Summer is fleeting and the opportunities for al fresco dining are limited: Eke out every sip of sunshine at Sauce on the Creek in Avon. A truly family-friendly establishment, Sauce on the Creek has an expansive patio with spectacular views of Beaver Creek mountain that welcomes active children and can arrange tables to fit your 22-person family. And the food? Family style: Hearty enough to satiate your bottomless-pit nephew and diverse enough to accommodate your allergic-to-everything aunt.

Featuring “New England Style Italian” food, the menu is diverse with a wide variety of appetizers (the Brussels sprouts are perhaps the most popular); soups and salads; from-scratch pizza that is also available on gluten-free crust; hearty pasta (with gluten-free and veggie options, too) and elegant entrées. However, it’s not enough to just look at the menu — you have to hear the specials.

“The thing that sets up apart from the other restaurants in the valley is that our chef, Mike Irwin, is creating great specials nightly that are constantly changing,” explains General Manager Ross Cohen. “We always have some kind of meat special, some kind of fish special every evening; sometimes we have a salad special. That’s really what sets us apart.”

These daily specials allow Chef Irwin to be creative with his cuisine, focusing on certain in-season ingredients or utilizing styles and flavors that might depart from Sauce’s roots. It’s a thrill simply to see what he’s created on that particular day.

Though Sauce on the Creek certainly has an affinity for its various edible sauces, there’s another sauce that is front and center at the eye-catching and beguiling bar.

Sauce is known for its extensive wine list and its owners’ affinity for whiskey: It’s home to one of the most expansive whiskey selections in the valley. Though guests are encouraged to whet their whistle on any day of the week, the advent of Whiskey Wednesdays will bring a new level of cheer to hump day. Every Wednesday, everything whiskey is discounted 25%, which gives patrons the opportunity to sample some of the pricier options — like the normally $100 pour of Pappy Van Winkle.

But Sauce has another attractive option for sampling: half pours. At .75 ounces, half pours are perfect for creating your own whiskey flight.

“The whole point of the half pours is to give people the opportunity to try something they might not normally try at a more affordable rate,” Cohen says. Combining half pours and Whiskey Wednesdays sounds like a reason to celebrate mid-week.

For those living for the weekend, Sauce is hosting three special “Saucy Sundays” focusing on brunch, bourbon and beats. On June 23, July 4 and Aug. 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., a DJ will be spinning tunes, a special brunch menu will make its debut and the patio will be the place to soak up the sun and have fun with the family.

So grab friends, family or that coworker you’ve been meaning to connect with and head to Sauce on the Creek. The patio is waiting — and so is the whiskey. 

Rocky Mountain Taco serving two locations all summer

This summer, you can get “the world’s most best taco” in two locations: the original Rocky Mountain Taco truck parked in EagleVail outside Vail Brewing Co. or a second food trailer in Avon sandwiched between the Westin Riverfront and Wyndham resorts.

Food service begins in Avon at 10:30 a.m. each day, an hour earlier than the EagleVail location, with the option to add eggs to any of the menu items for a quick grab-and-go breakfast. Or lounge at one of the outdoor tables and soak up some Colorado sunshine.

“This last winter we had an amazing season and it really blew up,” says co-owner Dan Purtell of the Avon location. “We just put out a couple of tables and chairs in the last week, and it’s been super popular so far.”

Both locations sling tacos, burritos, quesadillas and torta sandwiches, with options including the Alambre, with grilled steak, bacon, chorizo, bell peppers, onion and avocado, or the White Chick, with grilled chicken, poblano and Anaheim peppers and a creamy, alfredo-esque sauce.

Everything at Rocky Mountain Taco is made from scratch with no preservatives, from the marinade for the carne asada to the signature red and green salsas and habanero, chipotle and jalapeño cremas, and it’s served fresh each day until it runs out.

Customers dig the food and the vibe, awarding Rocky Mountain Taco with a half-dozen Best of Vail honors last year, from best burrito to best worker’s lunch.

“The love we’ve been shown is insane,” Purtell says. “People are down for us, and it’s so cool; we never saw that coming.”

Fine wining and dining at Vin 48 in Avon

Editor’s note: this story originally ran as a paid feature in EAT Magazine, featuring the best restaurants in the Vail Valley. EAT is available on magazine racks and in hotel lobbies for free.

When Collin Baugh, Greg Eynon and Charles Hays rolled the dice, forged out on their own and opened Vin48, we weren’t sure if Avon was ready for it. A wine bar with shared plates, chic-contemporary décor and a stunning bar set into the curved bow of what is locally known as the Boat Building — it was a brazen move. Eleven years later, Vin 48 is such an essential part of the landscape it’s difficult to imagine a world without Vin.

“We’ve been able to balance appealing to our local community and also getting people to come down the hill from Beaver Creek or even over in Vail,” admits Eynon. “But our main focus is to be a neighborhood restaurant, and that’s why it’s worked.”

With a generous and delicious Happy Hour that attracts a standing-room-only crowd early in the evening, and a lively dining room that encourages mixing, matching and the occasional adventurous play, it’s easy to visit a couple times a week without feeling limited or in a rut. Plus, the menu changes monthly with major overhauls four or five times a year.

Mainstays include the smoked salmon atop fried potato cakes, three demure goat tacos with a bright pasado salsa and the mussels with house-made chorizo and sop-worthy wine broth, among others. But new dishes deserve attention too, such as the Koji-dusted scallops with green harissa, and Vail Valley Creamery beef tartare with pine nuts, egg yolk and Champagne ricotta.

“Chef puts a lot of flavor in the dishes,” says Eynon.

He also puts a lot of love in them — and plain old-fashioned effort. Sometimes he sources beef from a ranch six miles down the road, and veggies from several small farms in Eagle County. And every week a whole heritage hog arrives at his kitchen door from Salida, Colorado, to be broken down into prime cuts and ground meat for various specials, smoked sausages and, say, ravioli filling.

“I don’t think we’re fancy, we just cook correctly,” says Chef Hays. “Everything’s made in house, and we don’t overdo the product. Like the Deep Sea Red Crab — just let the red crab shine. When you get good food, you don’t have to manipulate it too much.”

Sustainable seafood is a consideration, too. The seared Hawaiian yellowfin tuna crowning a smoky tomato broth is a stand out. The semolina linguine and baby bok choy are a perfect one-two punch of fitting backdrop and fresh-tender crunch.

And though unheard-of wines have always been part of restaurant’s wine program, they’ve found a renewed focus in looking at wineries that epitomize what Vin48 is: a little corner of a bigger community committed to doing things well, passionately and sustainably.

“People say it’s eclectic, and don’t recognize a lot of the wines,” Eynon says about the list. “I see that as a positive. We are trying to work with producers who are small, who do it like we do it here. We have everything — classic producers and great vintages. But you can also come in and give us a price point, say $50 to $70, and try something different and interesting that you’ve never had before.”

And though Vin48 is the sort of slam-dunk choice for a special occasion, it’s also a spot that remains vibrant and in flux, perfect for a dinner that is here and now.

Sauce on the Creek is a welcoming, family-style atmosphere with contemporary Italian cuisine…plus some surprises

Editor’s note: This story first ran as a paid feature in EAT magazine.

Finding a dinner option that makes you feel like family while feeding you like the same (hello, thirds), can be challenging. But at Sauce on the Creek, located at Traer Creek Plaza in Avon, you’ll find a welcoming, family-style atmosphere with contemporary Italian cuisine…plus some surprises.

Situated in an ideal location with views of Beaver Creek Mountain (and plenty of parking), Sauce on the Creek is a bright, cheery space that is both classic and modern: black and white tiles greet you at the entry before accents of corrugated metal draw the eye to the open kitchen; cheery yellow leather booths and chairs provide pops of color throughout the restaurant. Light pours through the windows after an epic ski day while you enjoy a glass of wine with friends or sample the extensive selection of whiskeys and bourbons.

For while the wine list is impressive, the whiskey might be more so. “If it’s not the best, it’s one of the best (whiskey) selections in Eagle county,” says Ross Cohen, General Manager of Sauce on the Creek. “There’s not many places where you can get the variety of high-end, hard-to-get-our-hands-on whiskeys.” From well-known (but rare) options like Pappy Van Winkle to E.H. Taylor or up-and-coming Japanese whiskeys, the list at Sauce on the Creek is impressive. The best part? No need to order a full pour. Sauce on the Creek offers both one-and two-ounce pours. “You have the ability to try something you can’t try anywhere else,” Cohen says. “Pappy (Van Winkle) is not necessarily the best whiskey out there, but it has a lot of allure. You can taste it here at a more affordable price rather than paying for a (full) 2-ounce pour.”

But if the ability to sample high-end whiskey a sip at a time isn’t enough, be sure to take a look at the menu. Yes, there are generous portions in either “single” or “family” sizes for classic Italian dishes like chicken marsala, eggplant parmesan and an expansive pizza menu. But there are also options for those with dietary restrictions; many dishes are available gluten-free, including requesting zucchini ribbons in lieu of traditional pasta or gluten-free pizza crust. Choosing just one thing to try is difficult, which is why sharing is such an appealing option. Pasta dishes range from light and fresh spaghetti Margherita, which can be topped with chicken, shrimp or scallops, to the spicy linguine fra diavolo to the ravioli of the day.

And here’s where the menu gets interesting. In addition to the daily ravioli special, Chef Mike Irwin plays around with new ingredients and flavors that roam afield from classic Italian options in his daily special menu. “The specials list doesn’t just focus on Italian food,” Cohen explains. “Yes, Italian food is the starting point here, but because of Chef Mike’s talent, we can do things outside of the box.” Dishes like a duck with French influence or new takes on fresh red snapper (delivered daily), set Sauce on the Creek apart, allowing Chef Irwin to stretch imagination. The beneficiaries? The guests who return every week or every few days to see “what’s special.“ And perhaps that’s what has solidified Sauce on the Creek in the minds and memories of guests: Classic recipes, lovingly executed by Irwin, along with the opportunity to try something new and interesting (with a supremely tasty cocktail to boot). So no matter if you’re just stopping in for a drink, or want a comforting, (possibly surprising) meal, Sauce on the Creek might be your new favorite go-to in the Vail Valley.

Rocky Mountain Tacos is a hotspot for juicy tacos, steaming burritos and tasty salsas

Editor’s note: This story first ran as a paid feature in EAT magazine.

There are few places in the Vail Valley where you can score a meal for less than $10, much less one that features made-from-scratch, fresh ingredients. It’s no mystery why Rocky Mountain Taco, a food truck located next to the Vail Brewing Company in EagleVail, has become a hotspot for juicy tacos, steaming burritos and tasty salsas.

Three years after opening its windows, Rocky Mountain Taco has been named Best Burrito, Best Mexican, Best Takeout, Best Worker’s Lunch and Best Festival or Event Food in the Vail Daily’s Best of Vail polls. Owners Dan Purtell, Chris McGinnis and Jose Reza met in the kitchen of another local restaurant, where they had long dreamed of opening a food truck. Purtell is particularly proud of the truck’s popularity among the local Hispanic community. That mark of legitimacy is partly thanks to Reza’s wife, Noemi, who shared home recipes from Chihuahua, Mexico, for everything from the marinade for the carne asada to salsas for the truck’s menu.

Don’t miss the Alambre, featuring a trifecta of grilled steak, crispy bacon and chorizo, or the pork carnitas, which are slow cooked for a full day before being paired with avocado and tangy pico de gallo. Vegetarians aren’t left out, either, with the shockingly satisfying Hippie Crack, a nod to Purtell and McGinnis’ southern California skate park roots, featuring potatoes, a medley of grilled peppers and spicy crema sauce. Besides their brewery digs, check out their second location at the Westin Riverfront bus stop, the perfect place to grab a breakfast burrito before hopping onto the gondola.

Foods of Vail offers grab-and-go, stay and eat options

Editor’s note: This story first ran as a paid feature in EAT magazine.

It was a summer spent in France that inspired Tracey Van Curan to learn as much as she possibly could about the world of fine foods. The owner of Foods Of Vail has put in the hard work and dedication to establish herself and her business within the world she loves, and the Vail Valley thanks her for it.

Foods Of Vail, located in Avon, has been in business since 1981.

The chef-driven establishment never cuts corners, ensuring every ingredient is fresh and from the best possible source. Three words describe what Van Curan has maintained over the years: homemade, convenient and creative.

“Even our stocks are made from scratch,” shares Van Curan.

Drop by and eat on site, choosing from a rotating menu of daily specials. Or pick up a quick lunch, dinner for two or order for a family of 20. Try staple items like the Thai Curry Soup or Van Curan’s Lasagna — made from the original family recipe derived from her New Jersey roots.

In addition to the soups, casseroles and salads readily available every day in this gourmet delicatessen, Foods Of Vail delivers and also has a catering division to service weddings, rehearsal dinners, at-home entertaining and more.

Nozawa offers sushi, sake and (now) Hibachi

Editor’s note: This story first ran as a paid feature in EAT magazine.

You may know Nozawa for its awesome happy hour and superb off-season deals, and now there’s something else to bring you to this Avon restaurant for sushi and more. Nozawa has started offering Hibachi to give the whole group a cooking show and delicious meal.

Choose from a number of different menu options to be seared and flavored right in front of the group, from tofu and veggies to scallops and twin lobster tails, ribeye steaks, Kobe beef or special combinations like salmon, lobster and filet mignon.

Hibachi orders come with a small salad, miso soup and mixed veggies, along with a choice of fried or steamed rice. Also, feel free to order anything else on the menu, including sushi, sashimi, Asian and Thai entrées while sitting around the Hibachi.
And that happy hour previously mentioned … it’s from 3 to 5 p.m. daily and gets you 20 percent off the entire bill. That calls for another round of sushi and sake!

 

Pazzo’s dishes up pizza — and love — in the Vail Valley

For 28 years, Pazzo’s has been dishing up pizza — and love — in the Vail Valley. Three friends, Mike O’Meara, “Grateful Mike;” Tom Clinton “Powder Tom;” and Bryan Hutchinson “Hutch,” met in the mountains of Vail in the early 1980s. The three enjoyed the quintessential snow bum lifestyle for several years before deciding to open their own pizza parlor in 1990.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” explains Hutch. “A space became available (in Vail Village) and we opened up Pazzo’s.”

Loosely translated as “crazy boys” in Italian, Pazzo’s quickly became a popular place with both locals and visitors. The open kitchen allowed friends and guests to watch the “crazy boys cooking” and the skeleton décor, which started as a gift from Hutch’s sister (the original two adorn the restrooms), quickly became iconic. The family vibe has been baked into Pazzo’s from the beginning and the tradition continues. Hutch’s son and daughter work at Pazzo’s in Vail, as does his wife, sometimes. And the number of marriages that have been forged here? There are at least five — and counting.

In 1997, the trio took on a new partner, Mark Caldwell, and opened Pazzo’s in Avon, continuing the tradition of “great staff, fun environment and great food,” Hutch says. In 2008, Pazzo’s once again moved westward, opening a third location in Eagle.
Pazzo’s is proof that when you do something well, the rest is easy. There’s excellent pizza (of course), but the options also include hearty pasta dishes, sandwiches and “pazzones,” Pazzo’s version of a calzone. It’s a place where you can run in for a slice on your way home from the slopes or gather with friends and family. But no matter which location you visit, you’ll leave feeling like you’re a part of the crew — one of the pazzos.

Pho 20 keeps it fresh and simple

It’s been five years since Pho 20 opened in Avon and the restaurant has become a favorite for dine-in or take-out among locals and visitors.

Owners Cong and Chloe Hoang have maintained a consistent ethos: Keep it fresh and keep it simple.

Whether you’re a meat lover or prefer vegetarian or vegan food, Pho 20 has a variety of healthy and savory options from spring rolls to soups and noodle bowls. Many selections are gluten-free as well. Cong says the restaurant can work around allergies.
“We use really quality products,” he shares. “I’ve been in the pho restaurant industry for close to 15 years and I have knowledge about it all, like what types of noodles are good, the best quality and the best texture.”

Happy Hour at Pho 20 is pretty standout, too, with $2 draft beer and $3 house wine from 3 to 6 p.m.

The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. for lunch and serves throughout the day until 9 p.m.