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Meet Your Chef: Angel Munoz at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa

Editor’s Note: The Vail Daily is showcasing area chefs in a new series called “Meet Your Chef” so you can learn a bit more about those creating art in the kitchen. If you’re a local chef and would like to be a part of this series, please email Tricia Swenson (tswenson@vaildaily.com) and Sean Naylor (snaylor@vaildaily.com).

Angel Munoz started at the Westin Riverfront in 2012 and worked his way up the ranks and became the executive chef in 2018.
Westin Riverfront/Courtesy photo

Q: What is your name, where do you cook and what is your official title?

A: My name is Angel Munoz and I am the executive chef at The Westin Riverfront, which is home to Stoke & Rye, a new modern American grill, the Lookout lobby bar and the Riverfront Market. I am also in charge of all food served in the resort’s more than 7,500 square feet of mountain event space, which includes the 4,000 square foot Riverside Ballroom with floor-to-ceiling windows offering stunning views of Beaver Creek and a 2,000-square-foot outdoor banquet terrace.

Q: How long have you lived in the valley and what brought you here?

A: I was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. I started my cooking career in San Diego and moved to the Vail Valley more than 12 years ago. I came here to earn a degree in the Sustainable Cuisine program at Colorado Mountain College. I was hired as a line cook at The Westin Riverfront in 2012 and steadily worked my way up. I was named executive chef in 2018.

Munoz is the executive chef at The Westin Riverfront, which is home to Stoke & Rye, the Lookout lobby bar and the Riverfront Market.
Stoke & Rye/Courtesy photo

Q: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a chef?

A: Cooking has been a big part of my life since I was a kid. I like to eat A LOT. But I am also passionate about working every day with amazing and talented people and being a part of something that is unique and special.

Q: Who has inspired you throughout your culinary journey?

A: I can’t mention only one person specifically, when you are in this career you admire different styles of work and chefs at different levels. I admire those who can cook amazing meals and those who can do this and have a great personal life, too. But I would say, lately I look up to Ryan Hawk as a leader and mentor and Francis Mallmann on the topic of outdoor cooking.

Q: What’s your favorite spice?

A: I will say achiote and black pepper. Achiote for the variety of cooking styles that can be implemented – you can use this in marinades, in achiote tortillas and in braising proteins such as pork, chicken and fish. Black pepper because the history of it and what it represents as one of the most important spices around the world.

The pan-seared scallops at Stoke & Rye are served with pork belly, trout roe, green pea purée and lemon beurre blanc.
Stoke & Rye/Courtesy photo

Q: Favorite protein?

A: I love seafood – pan-seared scallops, Baja-style fish tacos, fresh tuna poke and our mountain trout crudo are all favorites. On the new Stoke & Rye menu, we are serving a giant 52 oz. Tomahawk steak that is flamed tableside in moonshine whiskey and served with charred lemon, roasted garlic and a black pepper sauce. It is pretty spectacular!

The showstopper at the new Stoke & Rye restaurant at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon is the 52-ounce Tomahawk steak which is prepared tableside.
Stoke and Rye/Courtesy photo

Q: Favorite fruits and veggies?

A: As a good Mexican, I would say chile, tomate and cebolla. Lately, I have really been embracing different mushrooms and heirloom carrots.

Q: Name your carb: pasta, potatoes, rice, polenta, etc.?

A: Corn – it is fantastic to cook with, from dry kernels to a delicious fresh made tortilla.

Q: What’s your favorite comfort food?

A: Popcorn!!!

Q: Is there anything else about you we should share?

A: I love hiking and cooking outside, so summer is definitely my favorite season here in the Vail Valley. This is an incredible place to be a Chef, we have the very special opportunity to cook for our friends and neighbors as well as people from all around the world. Plus we get to live and work in this amazing multi-cultural community!

New Stoke & Rye restaurant opens at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon

Stoke & Rye boasts over 160 whiskeys on the menu.
Stoke & Rye/Courtesy photo

Get stoked to try the creative menu at Stoke & Rye, a new American modern grill concept by internationally acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon.

Stoke and Rye blends the flavors of the Rockies with alpine inspired cuisine with dishes like the grilled peach salad or the wild mushroom ravioli with rainbow swiss chard, watercress, garlic confit and trumpet jus. Or, enjoy a classic like raclette that pays a nod to skiing’s alpine heritage.

Techniques like slow roasting in wood embers, braising and smoking are prevalent at Stoke & Rye. From smoked oysters with pine to the 52-ounce Tomahawk from the grill, the dishes offer familiar cuisine with an elevated twist.

The smoked oysters are a great way to start off the meal at Stoke & Rye.
Sean Naylor/Vail Daily

That twist can be found in the presentation. The American modern grill concept is a new one for The Westin Riverfront. Richard Sandoval and his team created all the recipes and came to Avon to teach the team how to make the recipes, how to plate them and oversee the quality of the food to ensure the guest experience.

Angel Muñoz, Jr., executive chef at Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, likes the challenge of a new restaurant concept. Muñoz, Jr. had been with Maya, another Richard Sandoval concept for a number of years before the switch to Stoke & Rye.

“It’s a fresh start and the opportunity to grow and I think more about the execution and how to make it a dining experience you are going to remember for years,” Muñoz, Jr. said.  

Speaking of presentations, cue the 52-ounce Tomahawk, this table-side presentation is memorable and Instagram-worthy. The server rolls out this big steak, pours moonshine whiskey over it and lights it aflame as the dinner guests gasp in amazement. The Cacio de Pepe pasta dish is also done tableside. You may start to drool as they spoon in the bacon, pecorino and black pepper.

The 52-ounce Tomahawk steak, with it’s tableside presentation is a show stopper. Have your cameras ready but don’t get to close.
Stoke & Rye/Courtesy photo

Although steaks are a big part of the menu, give the cast iron chicken a try. It’s served with creamy grits, glazed cippolini, broccolini, heirloom carrot and chili-basil vinaigrette.

Make sure to save room for dessert. Stoke & Rye has an extensive dessert list from a classic maple pecan pie served with salted caramel ice cream to a flourless carrot cake with vanilla cheesecake, carrot compote, pineapple and almond. The bread pudding is good for sharing complete with bourbon sauce, berries and vanilla ice cream.

Save room for dessert at Stoke & Rye where the sweets take center stage.
Tricia Swenson/Vail Daily

Speaking of bourbon, there are over 160 whiskeys on the menu and nearly a dozen different types of Old Fashioned cocktails.

“We designed 11 signature Old Fashioned drinks which are all very different from one another whether it’s plum or chamomile bitters or hellfire bitters with habanero or vanilla simple syrup mixes that we make, there are a lot of different varieties just for being an Old Fashioned. We even have one rum Old Fashioned that we smoke as well,” said Nicholas LoFaro, a bartender at Stoke & Rye.

In addition to the Old Fashioned drinks, there are bright-colored cocktails on the menu like the Fantasy and Escobar’s Island.

“The inspiration for the Fantasy was Mariah Carey,” LoFaro said. “It’s a summery, easy-to-drink patio slammer.”

For the Escobar’s Island drink, LoFaro imagined what Pablo Escobar would drink.

“It’s fun because it has crème de violette, which gives it that green or blueish color. You have crème de violette, but he was a violent person, so just a play on words with the ingredients,” LoFaro said.

The wine list spans from France, Italy, Austria and Germany to California, Oregon, New Zealand and Argentina.

Stoke & Rye serves breakfast and dinner daily and for more information or to get reservations, go to RiverfrontDining.com.

Eagle Town Council approves major change to Haymeadow development

Land planner Rick Pylman gives a presentation to the Eagle Town Council on a request to amend the planned unit development of the Haymeadow project during a meeting on Oct. 12.
Kelli Duncan/Vail Daily

Eagle Town Council members approved a major change to the development plan of the Haymeadow project, which aims to construct 837 homes in the area just east of the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink.

The project’s developers have been pushing to swap a 6.5-acre plot of town-owned land near the heart of their planned development in exchange for 8 acres of land they own in another area. The swap will allow them to speed up the construction of much-needed affordable, multifamily housing, developers said.

The amendment was set for a vote last month, but Town Council members tabled the matter to give developers time to implement additional requests they made to sweeten the deal for the town.

The resolution presented to the Town Council on Tuesday satisfied all of these asks, which centered around a push to accelerate the timeline of the project’s first phase and increase the number of deed-restricted housing units completed in the first phase.

“I don’t think in all my years of doing this, I’ve ever been in this position,” Mayor Scott Turnipseed said in last month’s meeting. “It’s always been the developer begging the town to go faster so they can build, and now the town is wanting you to go faster to build.”

The first phase of the Haymeadow project already promises the construction of approximately 200 units over the next five to six years, according to a presentation given by Eagle town staff last month.

A design layout created by the Haymeadow development team shows the 6.5-acre plot (outlined in red) that developers would get from the town in the proposed land swap if the amendment to their planned unit development is approved.
Haymeadow/Courtesy photo

Town Council members also asked that language be added to the amended agreement around how soon developers can build up the necessary infrastructure around the 8 acres of land they are offering to the town in the proposed swap.

The 8-acre plot currently does not have full access to utilities like water and electricity, so council members asked for guarantees that this infrastructure will be completed in a timely manner.

Finally, the Town Council asked that housing be prioritized for Eagle residents. The resolution approved Tuesday stipulates that Haymeadow will set aside 30 units as “resident occupied deed-restricted units” in addition to Eagle’s local employee residency program, which requires that 10% of units in any residential development go to local employees.

These 30 units will be completed in the very first phase of construction on the 6.5 acres acquired in the land swap. If there are no pending applications from town residents, the units will then be made available to Eagle County residents, land planner Rick Pylman said last month.

The Town Council discussed the particulars of the amendment for nearly an hour and a half Tuesday evening, with a lot of input from impassioned residents. Some residents advocated for more affordable housing by any means necessary and others advocated against what they saw as an unbalanced swap set to benefit the developers more than the town.

Finally, Town Council member David Gaboury made a motion to approve the change. The motion passed by a vote of 5 to 1 with Council member Ellen Bodenhemier as the only dissenting vote.

The Haymeadow property in spring, as seen from the nearby Soleil neighborhood.
Bud Bartnik/Special to the Daily

“I just was hesitant to give away a parcel of town-owned land that was zoned for recreational purposes,” Bodenhemier said in an interview Thursday. “There was a lot of synergy with the location of that recreational parcel with it being adjacent to the Mountain Recreation campus.”

The 8-acre plot that will be annexed by the town as part of the trade will also be zoned for recreational use, according to Tuesday’s discussion.

The loss of “synergy” in giving up that 6.5-acre parcel near the Mountain Recreation facility was also on the minds of residents and other stakeholders. Developers have said that having multifamily housing near the Mountain Rec campus and the future school planned for the area would create its own synergy, allowing families easy access to school and after-school activities.

When all was said and done, Bodenhemier said she trusts the decision made by her fellow council members and is glad that the project will be able to move along more quickly.

“I am happy that the outcome will produce available housing inventory in Eagle quicker,” she said Thursday. “I think the best possible outcome for Eagle did prevail.”

Decision again delayed for Edwards RiverPark project

The Edwards RiverPark proposal was headed toward a final decision Thursday when the development team made a last-minute request to table the file for retooling.

If this sounds familiar, it’s exactly what happened the last time the project came to a vote by the Eagle County Commissioners in March.

However, this time the anticipated changes to the file will be more limited, as will the schedule. The commissioners are scheduled to resume the Edwards RiverPark review on Oct. 26.

During a nearly 90-minute discussion, as the commissioners debated the proposal, much of it centered around a central idea: Do the public benefits offered as part of the Edwards RiverPark plan outweigh the impacts of development?

When the tone of the discussion indicated that at least two of the commissioners believed the answer was “no,” project planner Dominic Mauriello suggested an additional enticement: an offer to place a requirement on 170 of the project’s proposed 340 free-market residential units that would mandate resident-only occupancy.

The commissioners noted that offer was worth consideration, but didn’t jump to accept it.

“What we don’t want to do is negotiate from the dais,” Commissioner Matt Scherr said.

But the commissioners noted that if they tabled the file and the developer came forward with the new proposal, public comment will be reopened. That sets the scene for another round of discussion in two weeks.

First amendments

Located west of the Edwards spur road and north of U.S. Highway 6 on a 55.27-acre former gravel pit site, the revised Edwards RiverPark plan proposes a total of 440 residential units and 11,500 square feet of commercial space. That plan represents the elimination of 100 residential units and 17,500 square feet of commercial space from the original proposal, which was tabled in March. The revised plan also nixes a proposed hotel, conference space and amphitheater from the original application.

But two of the big public benefits touted by the development team remained part of the plan: a new roundabout at U.S. Highway 6 and Lake Creek Road and a workforce housing plan.

During deliberations this week, the commissioners all applauded the development housing plan, which includes 90 deed-restricted rental units, nine price-capped rental units at 80% average median income (AMI), 72 price-capped rental units at 100% AMI and 10 resident-occupied, deed-restricted units for sale with no transfer fee exemption. Edwards RiverPark also has proposed a 1% real estate transfer fee on all free-market units, with the money earmarked for the county’s workforce housing program.

But during deliberations, the commissioners also voiced reservations about the proposal.

“This has not been a slam dunk for me to say, ‘check, check, check.’ This is how this should go,” Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said. “But I do believe this is where density belongs.”

McQueeney noted that more density is a natural consequence as the county works to address its housing crisis.

“And if you want density, you are going to have traffic,” she said.

Scope and scale

The additional traffic that would result from the Edwards RiverPark development, as well as the general scope and scale of the project, are major concerns, Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said.

“The issue for me is compatibility with the surrounding area,” she said.

She noted the Edwards Area Community Plan talks about having a small-town character, but that vision is difficult to reconcile with the large buildings and residential density proposed at Edwards RiverPark.

“I think that is a lot of the tension we are feeling,” she said.

She noted the housing plan proposed for the development exceeds what the county would require. Chandler-Henry said the developers’ estimated building costs of $650 per square foot at Edwards RiverPark resulted in a high-density request.

“As a community, we need to think about how do we get affordable housing,” she said. “We can’t say on one hand we want affordable housing, and on the other hand say we only want one house every five acres.”

Scherr noted that public benefit of the housing program, roundabout and a proposed child care center are all substantial factors working in favor of the plan. He also acknowledged the reality of creating affordable housing means increased density. But Scherr questioned if the Edwards RiverPark site was the appropriate location for the scope of development proposed.

“It just runs contrary to what that community is trying to be, regardless of how good these suggestions are for public benefit. It just doesn’t feel like it is meeting that need,” he said.

Chandler-Henry was more direct in her assessment.

“I am coming down on the side that it is not compatible and it doesn’t conform,” she said.

With that reaction from the commissioners, Mauriello mentioned adding residents-only deed restrictions, asking if that would help make the proposal more palatable.

“It could be a tipping point if we knew the people in the cars were people living here and working here,” Chandler-Henry said.

After a brief executive session with the county attorney, the commissioners announced they would not negotiate as part of deliberations but would be willing to table the proposal and allow the Edwards RiverPark team time to formalize the deed-restriction offer.

The proposal will be back before the commissioners at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 26. The hearing can be viewed at Reflect-Vod-EagleCounty.Cablecast.tv.

Open for Business: Lookout Lobby Bar at The Westin

Name of business: The Lookout Lobby Bar at The Westin

Physical address: 126 Riverfront Lane

Phone number: 970-790-6600

Website: www.westinriverfront.com

What goods or services are you offering at this time? 

The Lookout is now open from noon to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and noon to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Guests can enjoy live local music Fridays through Mondays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Lookout is also hosting a special Sunday cocktail class each Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

How have you adjusted to serve your customers during these unprecedented times? 

Westin guests will be treated to a refreshed lobby experience this summer, including expanded dining and cocktail menus from The Lookout Lobby Bar. The new menu includes a variety of bites, snacks, salads and boards, including the cheese and charcuterie board and a seafood board featuring smoked trout pate, salmon rillette and tuna confit. Enjoy a cup of Red Bird Farms chicken soup or a delicious Sweet Corn or Wild Mushroom Flatbread. Sandwich choices include a bison burger, crispy Red Bird Farms chicken or a wild mushroom French dip. Large plates include grilled salmon with kale, sweet corn, roasted fingerling potatoes in aged balsamic or a grilled flatiron steak with wild mushrooms, farro spring vegetables and a bourbon demi-glace. The Lookout also serves an extensive list of wines by the glass, seasonal cocktails and Colorado craft beers.

How can the community support you?

Visit The Westin Riverfront for a delicious cocktail, snack or meal!

What’s the best source to keep up to date with your offerings? 

Our website: www.westinriverfront.com

What’s the response been?

Our employees are excited to be back at work and creating delicious meals and cocktails to share with our community.

What are your plans going forward as the “new normal” evolves? 

The Lookout has implemented extensive new safety precautions, including enhanced cleaning protocols and set social distancing guidelines. The Westin Riverfront staff is required to wear gloves and masks.

Open for Business: Cohabit Podtel

Name of business: Cohabit Podtel

Physical address: 24 Chapel Place Avon, CO 81620

Phone number: 248-79-4290

Email: carryn@cohabitpodhotel.com

Website: cohabitpodtel.com

What goods or services are you offering at this time? 

We offer affordable lodging to visitors to the Vail Valley. We have 27 custom, private sleep pods. Each pod can accommodate two people. The rest of our facilities are shared, like restrooms, shower suites, locker room, kitchenette, lounge and lobby. Cohabit merges the social elements of a hostel with the privacy of a boutique hotel. 

How have you adjusted to serve your customers during these unprecedented times? 

We are following all COVID-19 guidelines for Eagle County. Cohabit Podtel is only operating at a maximum occupancy of 50%. The hotel is cleaned and disinfected daily. 

How can the community support you?

Spread the word about our new pod hotel to family, friends, and anyone who might be visiting the valley that needs a cool, new place to stay. 

What’s the best source to keep up to date with your offerings?

Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages and our website.

What’s the response been?

We received such an overwhelmingly positive response from guests during our brief opening before the pandemic. We continue to receive great feedback about our prime location, clean hotel, affordable accommodations and friendly staff since reopening this week. 

Open for Business: The Athletic Club at The Westin Riverfront

Name of Business: The Athletic Club at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa             

Physical Address: 126 Riverfront Lane, Avon

Phone Number: 970-790-2052

Email: club@athleticclubwestin.com

Website: athleticclubwestin.com

What goods or services are you offering at this time? 

The Athletic Club at The Westin is reopening to members Friday. Daily operations will be from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Athletic Club at The Westin is a state-of-the-art fitness center offering extensive cardio and weightlifting equipment plus more than 60 group exercise classes weekly, including yoga, Pilates, cycling and movement. All-inclusive memberships and daily drop-in rates are available.

How have you adjusted to serve your customers during these unprecedented times? 

We launched a new virtual gym during Colorado’s stay-at-home order, and we will continue to offer our on-demand library of virtual fitness classes to our members.

What’s the best source to keep up to date with your offerings?

Our website, athleticclubwestin.com.

What’s the response been?

Many of our members have been enjoying our virtual classes, and we are thrilled to welcome everyone back into the Athletic Club in a safe manner because we understand that exercise is extremely important for physical and mental wellbeing.

What are your plans going forward as the “new normal” evolves? 

The health and safety of our members and associates is our top priority, and we are following the advice and guidelines of Eagle County, the Centers for Disease Control and Marriott International. To help prevent the spread of the virus, the Athletic Club is requiring all associates to wear masks, adding new gym wipe stations throughout the facility, increasing the housekeeping presence and using hospital-grade cleaning agents and electrostatic spraying.

To follow social distancing guidelines, the Athletic Club has staged all weight and cardio equipment to be at least 6 feet apart and will be limiting gym usage and fitness class sizes. The hot tubs, steam rooms, saunas and pools will remain closed in accordance with Eagle County regulations.