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Lauren’s Kitchen offers a unique approach to feeding Edwards’ health-conscious

Lauren’s Kitchen offers a totally unique approach to feeding the Vail Valley’s hungry and health-conscious clientele, and that’s just the way Chef Lauren McElroy likes it.

“I enjoy coming to work,” says McElroy, who starts each morning at the Edwards Riverwalk restaurant by putting together the day’s offerings from scratch. The meals are designed for grab-n-go but customers can also choose to dine in the welcoming bistro setting.

Lauren’s Kitchen only uses fresh seasonal ingredients, which means the menu of entrées, sides, salads, and soups changes daily. Comfort food with a healthy twist, McElroy’s love of Italian, Mexican and Southwestern flavor profiles culminate in dishes like chicken parmesan, a vegan Buddha Bowl, her signature pecan crusted chicken and green chili mac n cheese. There are also daily gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free options.

“My approach is that if I wouldn’t eat it, I won’t serve it,” says McElroy, who found her passion for cooking in her grandmothers’ kitchens as a kid in Texas. Armed with a culinary degree, she launched her local catering business, New American Foods, in 2013 and still offers customizable menus and food for special gatherings to her Lauren’s Kitchen clientele.Lauren’s Kitchen only opened in November 2018, but it’s already amassed a dedicated following. “Once people get the grab-n-go concept, they keep coming back for more,” the vivacious chef says with a grin, before jumping up to guide a customer through the day’s menu. 

For 25 years, Marko’s Pizza has been keeping Edwards in pizza, pasta and good times

Established in 1994, Marko’s Pizza has been keeping Edwards — and beyond — in pizza, pasta and good times for the past 25 years. The cozy, lively space is perfect for a casual dinner with friends and family.

One of Marko’s trademark specialties is the first item you’ll encounter on the menu: house garlic knots. Made from Marko’s signature dough and kissed with garlic, they are a mouthwatering treat — and the perfect tidbit to satiate your appetite just until the main course.

Their “old school pasta” is a build-your-own adventure. You can combine your choice of pasta (from spaghetti to fettucini, ziti to tri-colored spiral pasta) with marinara, meat sauce, alfredo or the classic “fatt butt” sauce. If you’re trying to keep things easy, though, check out the Marko’s-style baked pasta dishes — that’s where you’ll find old favorites like chicken parmesan, lasagna and ravioli.

But, the star of the Marko’s Pizza menu is, naturally, their pizza. Hand tossed, garnished with fresh toppings, beautifully oven-blistered and bubbling with cheesy glory, their pizzas are something to behold. Try any number of their house specialty pizzas, like the Supreme, the Popeye Pie or their delicious Greek pizza — a spectacle of olives, artichokes and spinach piled high and generously peppered with olive oil, feta and mozzarella cheeses.

Or, build a custom pizza crafted to fit your palate like a savory slipper. Choose your sauce, choose your toppings and bueno appetito. 

Live, eat and drink like a local at Gore Range Brewery

Your first hint that you are in for something delicious is the aroma floating through the air. You know right from the start that the Gore Range Brewery is more than your typical brewery. Owner and chef Pascal Courdouy made sure of it when he bought the restaurant eight years ago. Here, the simple, fresh food is the star and the beer is a lovely supporting accompaniment.

Locals know the place well — it is, after all, the original brewery in the Vail Valley. Courdouy has a host of accolades and awards, stars and Zagat ratings, to his name. None of the pomp matters, though, when you settle in for what is sure to be a meal that completes the day. You’re happy to be one of the many who have found their way to this spacious restaurant and surprisingly sunny deck, in the company of a chef who loves to create.

Settle back and listen to the always-changing list of specials, decide on a craft brew (or go for a sampler) and let the day take its course. Pascal and brewing partner Richard Carnes craft the beers to pair with the food; and like the food, it seems every local has a favorite. The French Rose Wheat goes down easily, perhaps a little too easily: fruity and not too sweet and oh so thirst quenching. Great Sex Honey Lager. It feels naughty to order it but the laid-back flavor has earned favorite status for a reason.

Start off with the ahi tuna tacos — thin slices of rare ahi in a wonton, topped with a salty seaweed salad, a bit of brightness from the mango and barely kissed by wasabi mayo. Courdouy explains that the locals know what they like and have come to expect certain menu staples: fish-n-chips, wood-fired pizza or the brisket sandwich. It’s easy to see why one wouldn’t deviate from delicious; the brisket, on a homemade, just-salty-enough pretzel bun, a light layer of slaw and salty, smoky meat with a peppy, surprising zing. When Chef Pascal doesn’t know what to eat, he chooses the brisket.

The Seasonal Salad is — surprise — another favorite. The menu description really doesn’t do the salad justice. It’s when its delivered with bold bursts of color laid out like an artist’s palette with the deep maroon of beets juxtaposed to slender stalks of spring green asparagus, sitting along side the healthy the quinoa salad, that it becomes clear: Chef Courdouy knows how to create what we want to eat.

The specials, the answer to Pascal’s penchant for creativity. This chef who worked in fine dining much of his life melds gourmet with simple and fresh for a menu that goes well beyond typical pub fare. 

Courdouy, originally from France, came to Vail via Manhattan. Somewhere between working 18-hour days, being on TV shows with the likes of Robin Leech, of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous fame, a celebrity chef on cooking programs and running fine dining kitchens in New York, it stopped being fun. This is one of Courdouy’s tenets — stop when it stops being fun. Eagle County locals lucked out because he brought his passion, his inspiration and his creativity to us. Gore Range Brewery is a welcome respite for visitors, but it’s a second home to locals.

Celebrate sun-filled days with cool treats from Sundae

Summertime’s ice cream season, and there’s no better way to celebrate sun-filled days than with scoops, cones and cool treats from Sundae, a cheerful modern ice cream shop with locations in Vail Village and Edwards Corner. At Sundae, you’ll always find ice cream made fresh on site in small batches, and from the best ingredients. But you won’t find artificial colors or flavorings — and you won’t miss them one bit.

Open since the fall of 2016, Sundae is now into its third summer of delivering on its motto: “Sharing joy, one scoop at a time.” To that end, Sundae serves 18–24 joy-filled flavors of ice cream and sorbet, with at least one dairy-free choice, one vegan option and rotating flavors of the month like chocolate raspberry Sriracha, black licorice — or breakfast, a combination of maple ice cream, bacon pieces and waffle cone chunks.

“Our flavor of the month lets people go wild and try new things,” says Sundae General Manager Ashlyn Streetz. “And we also see a crazy amount of creativity when people build their own concoctions with our mix-ins and waffle cones.” Opportunities to improvise are infinite with Sundae’s seven varieties of dipped cones and a mix-in counter that’s bursting with nuts, candies, berries and toppings.

Espresso drinks, milkshakes, sundaes, ice cream cakes, pints to-go and catered events are also in the Sundae mix — and be on the lookout for Sundae’s new ice cream cart spreading joyful scoops at several mountain markets this summer, including the Minturn Market.  

EagleVail’s Hygge Life store just got a caffeinated upgrade

The Vail Valley’s most hygge couple opened a quaint cafe in EagleVail. Alexandra Gove and her husband, Koen van Renswoude, owner of the home goods shop Hygge Life, just expanded the store’s footprint to include a cafe. Hygge Life has a grand opening event for the cafe on Saturday, June 15. Guests can stop in to sip on a $1 cup of coffee or munch on a pastry any time of day.

Hygge Life started out of a van, the Hygge Bus, while Gove and van Renswoude traveled Europe in their early days as a couple. Almost 10 years later, they’ve since launched an extensive online store, hosted their own hygge-inspired wedding up at Tigiwon Community House, opened up a brick and mortar shop and now will offer the community a little more of the ultimate meaning behind their brand.

Hygge (pronounced HOO – gah) is the Danish word for cozy, and now there’s a perfect place to experience it without having to leave the mountains.

“Hygge is a verb in Danish,” van Renswoude, who is from Amsterdam, said. “So you can say ‘let’s hygge.’ Now you can practice it here.”

the inside of the hygge life cafe/store in eaglevail
The Hygge Life store opened in August 2017, but the couple is now expanding on their idea by adding a cafe for guests to sit and enjoy a beverage, chat with friends or just read the newspaper.
Dominique Taylor | Special to the Daily

The space has become a welcoming corner of the Hygge Life shop, and it isn’t designed for guests to hold business meetings or sit for hours on their laptop. In fact, the tables are purposely too low for working on a computer, so guests are invited to sit and chat with friends or spend some quiet time reading the newspaper.

“We were recently back in Copenhagen and Amsterdam and you just see that the culture there is so much more present around a cup of coffee,” Gove said. “They sit and chat and just enjoy the time.”

She also noticed on their recent trip overseas that the cafes use candles all day, every day, year-round.

“Even if the sun is glaring into the windows, the candles are still lit,” Gove said. “It really makes for this warm, comfortable atmosphere. And that is what we are going to do here — we are always going to have candles lit, in the summer and the winter. It’s coffee by candlelight.”

They have also created a south-facing patio to complement the cafe. Sheepskin-covered furniture sets the open-air scene, complete with a window into the cafe for ordering.

“We are sprucing up the patio this summer so that will be a really nice place to hang out and have a coffee. Even if you’re just biking though and you want to stop and get a drink, that’s perfect,” Gove said.

Van Renswoude said they will likely apply for a beer and wine license in the future and they are planning on offering events throughout the year.

Coffee drinks and tea will be served, along with fresh pastries from The Rose in Edwards, including their apple tart and shortbread. The cafe also has a kids’ specialty: the babyccino, a cup of steamed milk. Gove and van Renswoude sourced their beans from Huckleberry Roasters out of Denver, which they’ll pair with a rotating variety of some of their favorite European roasts.

“We have people who come in to the shop just to say hello and hang out for a bit. We really like that and we want people to feel like they can do that more often,” said Gove. “Our bigger dream is to have a hotel and a cafe and shop somewhere. That is the distant dream, so this is like another little stepping stone in that direction.”

If you go …

  • What: Hygge Life Cafe Grand Opening party.
  • Where: Hygge Life, EagleVail.
  • When: Saturday, June 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Cost: As little as $1 for a coffee.
  • More information: Visit hyggelife.com/pages/events.

S’mores ice cream?

Nothing says summertime like camping and you can’t have a campfire without s’mores. Sundae Homemade Ice Cream decided to take that summer staple and create a flavor around it.

“We set out to combine all of the iconic ingredients of a traditional s’more into a unique ice cream flavor, right down to the toasted marshmallow,” said Ashlyn Streetz, general manager at Sundae.  “We started by making a graham cracker ice cream, then folded in mini marshmallows we roasted ourselves and finished it with the dark chocolate chips our customers know and love.”

Sundae’s unique and creative flavors of the month inspire many of its customers to share what flavors they’d like to see next. “Sometimes it’s a customer suggestion we find intriguing or sometimes its something we’ve been dreaming up ourselves,” said Streetz, who is a pastry chef by trade. “We featured a chocolate raspberry sriracha ice cream this winter, and recently featured a cucumber melon sorbet.”

Sundae prides itself on offering quality ice cream that starts with quality ingredients. “We’re not looking to cut corners or do what’s easy, real homemade ice cream takes time and tons of effort,” Streetz said.  “We’re always looking to create the best ice cream possible for our customers and for ourselves.”

Sundae’s mission is to simply spread joy, one scoop at a time. Sundae is expanding its reach this summer and besides the Edwards Corner and Bridge Street ice cream parlors, expect to find scoops of deliciousness at other places as well.

“We’ve added an ice cream cart to our team this summer.  We’ll be spreading our wings in Garfield and Summit Counties this summer scooping up joy at farmers markets,” Streetz said.

Sundae has also honored requests to have its homemade ice cream at special events and now offers catering services for weddings, backyard parties and other gatherings.June is flying by, so stop by Sundae to try the s’mores ice cream flavor before it’s gone. To learn more about Sundae Homemade Ice Cream, visit www.sundaeicecream.com.

Find classic Italian at Vista

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.

 

In a resort area where there is always something new and shiny, an establishment that remains a locals’ favorite is truly special. Vista at Arrowhead, which has been charming guests since 2007, offers genuine warmth at every turn, from the gracious staff to the heart-warming cuisine, all enhanced with a soundtrack provided by the valley’s favorite piano man, Micky Poage.

Settle in for dinner and you’ll face the most difficult choice of the evening: what to order. Start with a handcrafted cocktail to prime your palate and jumpstart your stomach — the Litigator, Vista’s take on a Manhattan, is always a good choice. Then, gather your dining companions for a “divide and conquer” approach to ordering. By everyone choosing something different, there’s more opportunity to sample the menu.

Vista’s menu is seasonally inspired with a Colorado focus. Plates are beautifully composed, with individual elements working together in perfect harmony. A deceptively simple dish like mussels is intensified by the addition of ‘nduja, onions and confit tomatoes. The resulting dish will have you unapologetically cleaning out the last bit of garlicky white wine broth with the accompanying grilled cheese bread. Or try the fried cheese ravioli, served with marinara and artisan Italian sausage.

 

Digging In

But the real brilliance of Vista shines with the entrées. Here, diners have a choice: choose a chef-composed entrée, thoughtfully composed and considered, or create your own. The winter “Chef’s Composed” menu includes soul-warming fare like homemade chicken pot pie, pan-seared jumbo scallops and a dry-aged, bone-in pork chop. For those looking for a life-changing experience, try the Colorado braised buffalo osso bucco with sauteed spinach, roasted winter vegetables, stilton blue and pan jus — just don’t be surprised if your eyes involuntarily roll back in your head in ecstasy.

But guests who prefer to call the shots will love the customer composed entrée. Pick a protein — the winter menu includes Colorado beef, lamb and buffalo, as well as fish and seafood — before pairing it with a homemade sauce like fresh horseradish cream, lemon picatta or soy ginger butter. Accessorize with sides and the resulting plate is a completely customized culinary adventure.

Vista has been employing this mix-and-match style for several years, allowing guests to employ their creativity (and address any dietary restrictions) while streamlining the magic in the kitchen. The brainchild of co-owner Daryl DeYoung and Executive Chef David Collins, the menu epitomizes DeYoung’s approach to the guest experience.

“We still wanted to have dishes that we’ve put together, but this gives guests the opportunity to choose exactly what they want,” DeYoung explains.

And while the chef-composed entrées are set for the season, DeYoung is looking forward to shaking up the options for customization.

“We like to offer different sauces and sides,” DeYoung says. “We like to look for ingredients to have as specialty items, to add to what we have on the menu.”

Even the dessert menu allows for choice: For those who want “just a bite,” the dessert sampler is a necessity. With mini versions of classics like cheesecake and warm apple crisp, the sampler is a sweet solution for anyone with dessert FOMO (fear of missing out).

Though life is all about choices, there are few as fun — or tasty — as those awaiting you at Vista.

Village Bagel brings high quality breakfast and lunch to Edwards

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.

In 1946, the NY Times tried to explain what a bagel was. The writer described it as “a roll with a hole in the center.” Over the years, many have tried to replicate the chewy, crusty perfection of New York’s specialty — and Village Bagel has done just that! Right here in Edwards, Colorado, the only dedicated bagel shop in town, you’ll find a team of passionate people who all believe in making simple food the old fashioned way — without the use of fillers, preservatives or dough conditioners, but simply with high-quality ingredients, traditional techniques, and a lot of time (3 days to make each bagel, to be exact).

It all began in the home kitchen of owners Connie Leaf and Anthony Mazza. A few months in, they outgrew their home oven and started baking out of the kitchen of Mirabelle Restaurant in the early mornings, selling bagels to one coffee shop after the next. As word got out, people would show up for a warm bag of bagels right out of the back door of the renowned French restaurant   —  and shortly after, “Back Door Bagels” was born.

The duo bought a 25-gallon kettle in which to boil the bagels (a must for a traditional bagel) and opened up their own shop. To this day each bagel is made from scratch and hand-rolled. And unlike other bagels which are seeded on only one side, Village Bagel hand-presses seeds on both sides of the “roll” during preparation. The garlic bagel is Leaf’s favorite among such flavors as blueberry, chocolate chip, whole wheat, sesame and lots more.

The store’s tagline is “Bagels and Schmeer, Pizza and Beer,” as they also offer Sicilian-style pizza, with dough made over three days, the flavor building the old fashioned way, through time. As well, there are also Mimosas, homemade Bloody Marys and draft beer to go with it all. Village Bagel is truly a gem, lovingly bringing a taste of the East Coast to our valley.

Gore Range Brewery offers brews, daily specials and casual atmosphere

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

With an always-happening bar scene and family-friendly seating, Gore Range Brewery is the place to go for unwinding on winter evenings or for watching game-day drama unfold. This local brewery has two new artisanal beers on tap for the winter season, daily menu specials, and many old favorites that appeal to a variety of tastes while maintaining a loyal following.

The casual atmosphere at Gore Range Brewery adds to a dining scene that’s comfortable enough for hanging out with family and friends — and also just right for an unassuming first date. Pascal Coudouy, Gore Range Brewery’s owner and Executive Chef, has spent years honing a menu that matches high expectations while capturing the restaurant’s down-home feel. “I like to keep the profile of our food and beer within the profile of what people expect for that style,” says Coudouy. “You’re not going to find any strawberries in the Caesar salad here,” he adds with a smile.

The two newest additions to Gore Range’s beer list capture this sentiment by rounding out the list — but keeping it within the realm of what’s known and loved. At 8.2 percent alcohol by volume, the brown-hued Belgian Dubbel is stronger than most, lightly hopped, and has a characteristic flavor that comes from the addition of Belgian candi sugar. “And that’s just what a classic Belgian dubbel does,” says Coudouy. Likewise, the Pascal’s Pyrenees Pilsner is an easy-drinking, light, and crisp beer that can be enjoyed while watching back-to-back games.

Beyond Brewpub Fare
If you’re new to Gore Range Brewery, begin with a flight of beers to get a sense of your favorites, and order a few small menu items for sharing. Gore Range is known for its knockout nachos — a crispy mound of goodness, piled high and packed with fresh ingredients. And beyond-the-norm appetizers including the tuna roll and the crab cakes are flavorful starters that can be a light meal on their own. Follow up with a generously sized salad, a wood-oven pizza, or one of Gore Range’s best-selling sandwiches that include the smoked brisket dip or the Reuben sandwich.

Hearty winter appetites and cold-weather cravings will be fulfilled with menu selections including the roasted tomato soup, served with a cheddar and basil grilled cheese sandwich, and entrées such as the baby back ribs or the New York strip steak.

Good to know: Coudouy prides himself in ordering special ingredients to create “truly special specials” instead of reimagining overstocked items, so always take a look at the list of daily specials along with the full menu for even more exciting options.

Finally, choose a light and sweet ending to your evening at Gore Range Brewery with the Toblerone mousse, a nutty whipped chocolate dessert reminiscent of the beloved Swiss chocolate that will have you happily yodeling all the way home.

Fiestas celebrates three decades of delivering cuisine brimming with mouth-watering authenticity

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

This year will mark the 30th anniversary of Fiesta’s tenure in the Vail Valley. It is a testament to the quality and place in the community the restaurant has maintained over three decades of delivering cuisine brimming with mouth-watering authenticity, made “con cariño’(with love and affection). Susan Marquez-Ledezma and her husband, Mariano Ledezma, bring to Colorado family styles and recipes from New and Central Mexico. Susan purchases her red chiles from the same family farm that her grandmother did in New Mexico. Mariano brings a wealth of tradition and new ideas to create time-tested cuisine.

Entering the establishment one can’t help but smile at the colorful décor and piñatas swinging from the ceiling. Add a margarita and their incredible house-made salsa, queso and guacamole to start and it’s already a party. Don’t get overwhelmed by the extensive menu, rest assured that you really can’t go wrong and if you want a little bit of everything the Combo platters are the way to go. Blue corn chicken enchiladas with white jalapeño sauce are a personal favorite and the chile rellenos deliver miles of flavor — served crispy and doused in sauce, get the classic, filled with cheese, or venture to the shrimp or chicken fillings. Cold winter nights call for homemade soup like the made-from-scratch posole (think hominy, pork, red chile broth, chile pequin, onion, lime, oregano and fresh tortillas). Susan’s Tres Leches cake is many locals’ favorite way to finish the evening.

Don’t forget that you can reserve the back room for a party, have them cater a private event or stop in for take-out and perhaps even a piñata for your next impromptu…Fiesta!