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Pearl scholar, harvester and jewelry designer Koji Kawamoto visits Vail

Koji Kawamoto will be at Karats Vail on Dec. 20-24, showcasing his newest work.
Art Magazine/Courtesy photo

Pearl lovers will not want to miss Koji Kawamoto and his vast collection of extraordinary creations. He will be at Karats Vail on Dec. 20-24, showcasing his newest work.

The jewelry artist lectures throughout the world about the origins and different types of pearls and how they are cultivated. Harvesting, however, is what Kawamoto enjoys most.

“It’s the birth of a baby,” Kawamoto explained. “Just one out of 100 pearls comes out beautiful.”

Kawamoto’s designs may include Tahitian, South Sea, Golden or, perhaps, natural pearls.

It almost a given that Koji Kawamoto would work in the pearl industry. He grew up in Mie Prefecture, a small village in Japan where the process of culturing pearls was first discovered in 1893. What set Koji apart from others in the village, who would go on to work in the industry, was his innate, creative talent and the love of the magnificent gems found near his home. Today, he is considered, not only a pearl expert, but also a noted jewelry designer whose knowledge of the gems is coveted by clients and jewelers worldwide.

The artificial cultivation technique of pearls, which was established in the 20th century, developed in the Shima Peninsula at the southern part of Mie Prefecture, a place with an intricately indented coastline. The area provided an ideal environment for pearl culture because of the calm waters of sheltered inlets, gently warmed by offshore currents — an ideal environment for pearl culture.

Ago Bay, in particular, from ancient times has been a home for pearl oysters, which in Japan are called akoyagai.

“We believe that pearls are amulets, which protect you and your family,” Kawamoto said. “I feel responsible for introducing the beauty of nature all over the world, and am very happy to do that. You just cherish them and your family will be protected.”

Pearl farming is a fascinating two-step process. The first is the cultivation of pearl oysters such as akoyagai. Then, to produce a cultured pearl, a tiny bead is inserted in each oyster, when it is 2 or 3 years old, on which lustrous nacre is formed around the bead. The oysters are then left suspended in the sea from rafts for a year and checked twice a month for seaweed and other types of mollusk. In winter, the shells are opened and the pearls removed.

From earrings, pendants, rings or necklaces, Koji is very specific about making sure a client gets the pearl that “talks” to her.

“When I make jewelry pieces, I always think about the buyer’s eye color, hair color and skin tone, even her personality.” And, he will do just that — lead you to a piece that’s “you” from a selection that he’s already created and is showcasing. That is his specialty.

Kawamoto uses a plethora of pearls with various tones, shapes and color. For instance, the South Sea cultured pearl, produced by an unusually large saltwater oyster, is known as the queen of pearls and is endeared for its subtle, feminine hues and luster.

The Tahitian cultured pearl, frequently dubbed the black pearl, actually runs the gamut of grays — from light flannel to dark charcoal with overtones of purple, green and blue — more alluringly called “peacock,” eggplant, sea foam and pistachio.

The golden pearl, known for its depth of color, is very expensive and very rare. It is for those who are seeking a pearl that is rare, refined and enduring.

But it is the Akoya pearl, considered the “cream of the (cultured world) crop” and naturally exhibits the most intense luster of any white, round saltwater pearl, that is Kawamoto’s favorite.

“If you don’t have any pearls, Akoya is the first one to get,” he said. “It is the most classic white pearl with pinkish overtones.”

Kawamoto’s knowledge and enthusiasm about pearls and his work is apparent in his eclectic designs.

And what is the best way to take care of pearls?

“The best way, is to cherish them,” Kawamoto said.


Letter: Vail needs to live up to its promise to Children’s Garden

A promise made should be a promise kept. A promise made many years ago demonstrated the commitment made by the town of Vail to its children. In 1978, the Town Council recognized the value of “high quality early childhood education” and included this in the first of many contracts the nonprofits (Learning Tree and ABC School) entered into to care and educate the valley’s children.

I was a founder, teacher and director of Learning Tree from 1978 to 2002. The two schools financed and constructed their first buildings on the Mt. Bell site which they rented for $1 per year. They operated and maintained their facilities for over 20 years. The two original schools merged as Children’s Garden in 2002, and the town of Vail built a beautiful facility on that site which met the needs of working parents and their children as they moved into the new millennium.

In the year 2000, parents, teachers and yes, the town of Vail, began to imagine and put into words what its youngest citizens couldn’t. Children deserve beautiful places to learn and grow, and because this was Vail, it had to include a place to explore nature.

Children’s Garden still exists, and parents and teachers have kept their promise to the children. But, what has happened to the town of Vail and its leadership’s commitment? Has the space for additional affordable housing become more important than the type of environment the children have a right to? Children in Vail deserve more than a facility in a commercial zone with only a patch of green grass to explore. They deserve a space where parents are welcome to drop children off and linger, a place that is safe , away from the crowds often found in a resort community.

You gave your promise four decades ago. Now I hope the town of Vail will continue its support and work with parents by providing a top-notch child care facility to match the world-class resort in which it will reside.

Moe Mulrooney

Former Vail resident of over 25 years

Gore Range Brewery in Edwards serving up casual and delicious pub fare

House-made pretzel with mustard and cheese sauce at Gore Range Brewery.
Special to the Daily

Should you find yourself craving the quintessential “brewpub with a warm vibe, locally sourced American grub and handcrafted microbrews,” look no further than Gore Range Brewery in Edwards. Its bar seats and tables are full most nights — as evidenced by both the sound of laughter and cheers from those who’ve come to watch a game on television and those who just crave the comfort of a delicious down home meal.

“Our goal was to make something local, simple, affordable and always consistent,” said Pascal Coudouy, chef-owner of the restaurant. “And I think that’s what we’ve done and we’re very happy about that.”


Signature GRB burger with half a pound of Black Angus beef and pepper jack cheese.
Barry Eckhaus, Special to the Daily

Coudouy, who is from France, began working in the food business with his parents when he was just 14 years old. Two years later, he entered culinary school, graduating four years later. After a stint with the French Army, Coudouy worked at a restaurant in France before moving to New York and, eventually, to Vail in 2000.

The chef’s plan was to have a fun menu and a simple concept — a brewery with good beer and good food.

“I don’t change the menu because every time I put something new on the menu a regular customer will ask, ‘What did you do with the other dish and this and that.’ So I only change soups and salads between winter and summer, and do a new special most every day,“ Coudouy said.

Coudouy’s simple concept is pub fare with a twist that includes finger-lickin’ apps like fried pickles in buttermilk batter, mini corn dogs, shishito peppers and hand-made pretzels. Then the menu takes you on to lists of tasty soups, fresh salads, wood oven pizza, burgers and sandwiches and specialties like the grilled salmon served over asparagus risotto with balsamic reduction or the baby-back ribs, slow-cooked in apple cider and honey, finished with barbecue sauce and served with veggies and truffle potatoes. Simple? Maybe. Scrumptious? Yes!

Sautéed shishito peppers with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
Barry Eckhaus, Special to the Daily

And then there’s Coudouy’s passion project: brewing beer.

“I started brewing two years ago, with my friend Richard Carnes,” he said. “At the time, it was just for ourselves. It was very challenging at the beginning, but I’m very happy with the results.”

Probably their most popular brew is the Great Sex Honey Lager, brewed with a delightful mix of 100% pure Colorado honey, highlighted by traditional Cascade as well as experimental citrus grapefruit hops. Then there’s the Happy Valley IPA with bitterness from the Chinook, Cascade and El Dorado hops. With a moderate body, it washes over the palate with a citrus character supported by a well-balanced malt backbone.

Or how about the Belgian Dubbel with East Kent Goldings and Hallertauer Mittlfrueh hops? Made with Chateau Special B grains and topped off with pure Belgian dark candy sugar straight into the boil. This, the brewmeisters say, is the perfect winter pleasure.

Ultimately, between brewing beer and simply cooking, Coudouy is doing what he loves.

“I believe in simple flavors. Not too many ingredients in a dish,” he said. “The meat I use is terrific, so my hamburgers just have salt and pepper. That’s all you need. That’s when it tastes good. Very simple.”

And simply wonderful.

More information

Thinking of summer: Strawberry jalapeo margarita, Kentucky mule and a flight of microbrews from Gore Range Brewery in Edwards. | Special to the Daily

Gore Range Brewery

0105 Edwards Village Blvd.

Edwards, CO



Eat This Week: A hill of beans

In addition to being easy and delicious as well, growing beans is good for the environment. Beans are also cheap, store beautifully and are native to the Americas. They’re packed full of fiber, which has a multi-tiered list of health benefits. (Getty
Special to the Daily)

Eat This Week — Mondays in the Vail Daily

Tired of new year’s resolution stories yet? Me too. Be better, work on yourself, focus on gratitude — yes, we know the drill. All worthy endeavors, by the way. But 2021 didn’t wipe 2020 clean, and here we are, mid-climb and tired, with a fair bit of trail still in front of us. And so instead of creating a list of virtues and avoidances — exercise daily, stop spending so much money, no screen time on school nights — I’ve decided to choose a couple of things and put them on a Yes List. The concept being, instead of saying no to something, you figure out what you want to say yes to.

And one of the things I’m saying yes to is eating beans — frequently. They’re cheap. They store beautifully. They’re native to the Americas. They’re packed full of fiber, which has a multi-tiered list of health benefits. And growing them is good for the environment, as opposed to something like beef, which stresses it. And the kicker for a working mom? They’re easy and delicious.

I’m a believer in the value of nutrition, or real food, versus popping a supplement. There are apothecaries throughout China where you go in and speak to the pharmacist and get a “prescription” for yin or yang foods, for ginger, garlic, cilantro — all in response to whatever ails you, to be eaten as part of a meal, not in a capsule. And beans respond beautifully to herbs and spices, amping up their powerhouse capacity. Black pepper, rosemary, turmeric, ginger and more are natural compadres for beans, whether you’re opting for an Indian dish, as in dal, or a South American one with simple “pot beans.” As with all things, it’s the habit, not a one-off meal, which provides healthy benefits.

And so here are three workhorse recipes, ready to be customized to taste, in order to get more legumes in your diet.


Originating in southeastern France/northeastern Italy, socca (called farinata in Italy) is based on chickpea flour. After adding water, olive oil, pepper and salt, the transformation is somewhat stunning. To think a little package of bean flour can create such a delicious dish, and with so little effort, too. Bob’s Red Mill has a good product, and is available in local grocery stores. But when possible, I like to get the chickpea flour from an Indian grocer — usually called gram flour or besan — because of the nutty, sweet flavor. Socca is great as a cocktail appetizer, alongside a mixed green salad with vinaigrette, alongside soups and stews or even cooked blini-style as little crepes for crème fraiche and smoked salmon or caviar, in which case you’d omit the onion and rosemary.

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (less if using fine table salt)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • ½ cup thinly sliced onion
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving

Step 1: Whisk together chickpea flour, water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, pepper and salt. Let sit for a few minutes, or up to half a day, to meld.

Step 2: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add remaining 2 tablespoons to oven-safe skillet — a 10-inch glazed cast iron skillet works beautifully, as does a nonstick skillet, as long as it’s oven safe.

Step 3: Add in rosemary and onion to batter, then pour into prepared pan.

Step 4: Bake 15-20 minutes, until the pancake is set and starting to brown on top. Don’t undercook it, or it won’t be as tasty.

Step 5: Cut into wedges and serve with parmesan cheese, if desired, or flaky salt and more fresh pepper.

Red Lentil Dal with Tadka

In India, dal is often a daily meal or side. At its most basic it is simply water, salt and lentils, but can be gussied up with vegetables, aromatics or, as shown here, with a tadka or tempered oil. (Getty
Special to the Daily)

There is no easier legume to prepare than the lentil. No soaking, no prepping; it also keeps wonderfully in the fridge for several days after cooking. At its simplest, Indian-style dal is some form of lentil — and there are many options — water and salt. I like to cook my dal with turmeric, an antioxidant that helps combat inflammation and is a natural foil for lentils. But to give it an extra boost, the sort that has you eating spoonful after spoonful, chasing flavors, try adding a tadka, or tempered oil, after cooking. All you do is heat oil or ghee, add in spices and/or aromatics, and then pull it off the heat. Swirl into the dal, and boom: pure deliciousness.

This dal is excellent as part of an Indian meal, but makes a wonderful simple lunch, especially with a side of rice or store-bought flat bread, warmed in the toaster, and some plain yogurt and sliced cucumbers.

  • 1 cup split red lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Tadka: The most important flavors in this tadka are the mustard seeds and curry leaves. That said, anything can be left out and it will still be delicious. You really just want to amp up the flavor a bit, so don’t let a specialty ingredient or trip to the grocery store stand between you and this dish.

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, olive oil or ghee
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 whole dried red chiles
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Step 1: Rinse lentils, then put in a saucepan with turmeric, salt and water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer, covered, until they are soft. This could take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the size and freshness of your lentils. If you like a thick dal, cook it down more. If you prefer a thinner one, maybe add a bit more water — it’s a very forgiving and easily customized dish.

Step 2: For the tadka, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium to medium-high heat and add the mustard seeds, cooking for 15 seconds. They will pop, so be careful; you can use a lid for the pan to keep the oil from spattering overmuch. Add the cumin seeds and cook for another 30 seconds, swirling occasionally. Finally, add the chiles (dried and fresh), garlic and curry leaves, cook for a few moments and then pull off the heat. Note that the curry leaves will also cause the oil to sputter rambunctiously, so be careful.

Step 3: Add the tadka to the dal, and serve.

Pot of Beans

Canned or frozen beans are all well and good, but nothing can compare to a pot of freshly cooked beans. I use the pressure cooker if I’m going to puree them for a dip or refried beans — especially if I’ve forgotten to soak them ahead — but honestly the best way to cook beans is soaked ahead of time and then slowly simmered on the stove. Not only do you get tasty beans, but also a bean broth that can be used in a variety of ways — served with the beans in a bowl, as an enchilada-style sauce or as you would consommé, perhaps in little espresso cups.

There are many wonderful ways to embellish beans, and the classic way has you adding beans and water to a mirepoix, a dice of onion, celery and carrot. But for the best bang for your buck, just go for diced onions and a couple bay leaves during the initial cooking. Then add extra flavors with a sofrito afterwards.

Conventional wisdom says salt or acid inhibits the cooking process, but according to Steve Sando, who grows and distributes heirloom produce, salt doesn’t seem to affect the cooking or texture. Therefore, I like to pre-salt my beans when soaking.

Serve these in a bowl during taco night, or simply with some warmed tortillas as a light supper.


  • 1 pound beans such as pintos, yellow eye, Rio Zape or any other meaty bean
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bay leaves


  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Half a bunch of cilantro, sliced, tender stems plus leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 serranos or jalapeños, minced

Step 1: Pick over and then rinse the beans. Add to bowl with 2 tablespoons salt and 8 cups water. Soak beans for 12 to 24 hours. If you don’t have time to soak the beans, they will need to cook longer, and might not hold their shape as well — but it is not a big deal.

Step 2: Drain the beans. Heat oil in large pot, and sauté onions until it starts to brown. Add in beans, 6 cups water and last teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer, covered, about an hour, until the beans are tender. Peek in on them occasionally, to make sure they have enough liquid.

Step 3: Meanwhile, make the sofrito. Heat oil in sauté pan, then add onion and sauté until it deepens in color. After about 5 minutes, stir in garlic and cilantro and stir for about 30 seconds. Then add the tomatoes and chiles and cook until the tomatoes are quite soft and burnished in color, and the juice has evaporated. Take off the heat.

Step 4: When beans are done cooking, add the sofrito and meld the flavors. This is good the day it’s made, but is even better the following day.

Kirby Cosmo’s celebrates 15 years as Minturn’s “Cheers”

Kirby Cosmo’s in Minturn is more than a restaurant. It’s a gathering spot, social center and neighborhood bar. (Chris Dillmann

Who opens a business on New Year’s Day? Mark Tamberino, that’s who — because when the winds blow in your favor, you set sail. The owner-operator of the much-loved Kirby Cosmo’s BBQ in Minturn bought what was originally JB’s BBQ, which came with the recipe for the best barbecue sauce he’d ever tasted. And after a short period of time that included a remodel, a green light from the health department and the happy news that he and his wife, Emily, were going to be parents, he opened his doors for what would be a 15-years-and-counting foray into restaurant ownership. He changed the name to Kirby Cosmo’s, in honor of a beloved German Shorthaired Pointer, and the rest is history — with some blood, sweat and tears for good measure.

Minturn’s ‘Cheers’

Kirby Cosmo’s is more than a restaurant. It’s a gathering spot, social center and neighborhood bar. During an average non-pandemic day, there might be tables full of EMTs or ski patrollers, families with kids, a packed bar, locals who don’t need a menu and visitors stopping in for the first time or a once/year visit to their favorite “best kept secret spot.” Everyone gets the same service — warm and friendly — and nobody leaves hungry.

“It’s such a compliment to have people eat here time and again,” Mark said. “My dad always said, if you feed the UPS or FedEx guy, then you’re doing pretty well because those guys go into every place, every day; they can eat whatever they want.”

What most people want to eat when they come through Kirby’s door is barbecue — Carolina-style with smoked meats, a balanced sauce and classic sides. As for the age-old question: what’s more important, the sauce or the rub, Mark has his own opinion.

“I really think it’s a matter of the type of smoke that you put into the meat and the sauce that complements it,” he said. “We source peach wood from the Clark Family Orchard in Palisade, just a couple hours down the road. Our sauce is an Eastern Carolina vinegar-style sauce. It’s really smooth. It’s got just enough tang, just enough sweet, just enough smoky flavor in it to be really well-balanced.”

Fan favorites include the pulled pork, chicken wings, pig wings and the St. Louie short ribs.

“They’re awesome, meaty, fall-off-the-bone tender,” Mark enthused.

Devin Schow, Minturn resident and Kirby Cosmo’s regular for a decade, opts for the Cowboy Cup: baked beans, pulled pork, cole slaw, jalapeño mac and cheese and barbecue sauce layered into one hedonistic cup. His wife, Krista Driscoll, is a sucker for the pig wings, and the wintertime-only turkey chili.

“When we get really busy, Kirby’s is 90% of our diet,” Driscoll joked. “Every time you go in there you know at least one person, so you’re never drinking alone.

“It’s kind of like Minturn’s Cheers,” she added.

“It’s a super popular place in summer,” Schow said. “It’s the first bar if you’re coming down from Two Elk, or walking back from the concert series. Mark loves the locals, but he also loves random families from wherever. It makes it a homey kind of restaurant. And there’s never a feeling of being rushed out the door.”

Fan favorites at Kirby Cosmo’s in Minturn include the pulled pork, chicken wings, pig wings and the St. Louie short ribs. (Kirby Cosmo’s
Special to the Daily)

Early years

Mark grew up in the Baltimore area, as did Emily. They met in high school, “dated each other’s best friends,” and then went off to college. They re-met after graduation, fell in love, got engaged and decided to move to Southern California. She worked at the Windward School, teaching celebrity’s kids among others, and he pursued a career in environmental science, which had been his major. But they longed for Colorado. Emily’s family had a home in Vail, so it was a special place they visited often throughout her childhood. Emily introduced Mark to Vail, and it became just as special to him. In fact, they got married at Piney River Ranch, which Emily described to Mark as “the most magical place in the world.”

“We knew we wanted kids, and our hearts kept getting drawn back to Vail,” Mark explained. “It seemed like the perfect place to raise a family.”

And so they plotted another move. He flew out and couch surfed while perusing the Vail Daily classifieds, looking for a job and a place to live. Emily took a job at Vail Mountain School before heading to Vail Health, where she still works. Mark ended up at Minturn-based Arrigoni Woods, as a project manager, where he worked for a year. It was a fortuitous landing spot, as Balz Arrigoni helped him remodel the interior with his European wide-plank natural wood when he bought JB’s BBQ.

In fact, much of his life helped prepare him for owning a barbecue joint. His father was a meat man, heading down to the railroad tracks to walk through the cattle cars and hand select the cows that would be sent for butchering and processing. After working for Oscar Meyer for a couple of years, Mark’s dad opened his own shop, selling meat to restaurants and the public. He had the business for 47 years, and Mark worked his way up, learning about quality meat, primal cuts and other butchery lore. He also worked in restaurants since his high school days, starting as a busboy.

“By the time I was a junior in college, I was tending bar,” he said. “Did it all my life, I was always in the F&B industry in some fashion.”

Experience can only get you so far though. Mark’s love of service has gotten him the rest of the way.

“We learned as we went along,” Mark said. “It was trial and error, but I think the consistency is now what shines through.”

For the first couple of years, he and Emily lived nearby in Minturn.

“I figured the only way I’d have a successful marriage and family life was if I didn’t live next door to my restaurant,” he said, laughing.

And so they moved first to Wildridge and then to Gypsum.

The Kirby family

Everyone at Kirby Cosmo’s gets the same service — warm and friendly — and nobody leaves hungry. (Chris Dillmann

Part of that consistency is long-time employee Ingrid Marroquin, who’s been with Kirby Cosmo’s for almost 13 years.

“She’s our kitchen manager, so she makes sure that the kitchen runs on a day-to-day basis,” Mark said. “She takes a certain pride in the food that goes off the line. She keeps the consistency here on point. And that’s a testament to our 15 years. We’re very proud of her, and very happy that she’s part of our team.”

And while Emily does all the marketing for the business, the couple’s daughters — they now have two — also get involved at times.

“They’re pretty good at it,” Mark said with pride. “Lucy loves to work in the kitchen, doing things like making our scratch sauces and the banana pudding. Hannah really likes to ham it up with our customers, she’s really good out front with the customers. They’re both such hard workers.”

And as for Emily, in addition to doing the marketing, she also is supportive by doing all the family sort of things like taking kids to lacrosse games that so often are impossible for restaurant owners to do.

“That is a lovely woman right there — can’t say enough about her,” Mark said.

This past year has been a challenge for the restaurant — harder even than the economic downturn of 2008. But Kirby Cosmo’s has managed to ride the pandemic wave, thanks in part to the easy portability of its menu as well as the diversity of its offerings.

“Kirby’s has so many different angles of a business: we’re a farmers’ market business, catering, bar and restaurant, we’re to-go, we’re stewards in the community,” Mark said, listing the different aspects of the business. “Kirby’s is a pretty well-rounded business. I never dreamed it would be so well-rounded and versatile.”

And it’s also intrinsically part of the vibrant Minturn scene — it certainly wouldn’t be what it is in another corner of the world.

“The town of Minturn has shown such incredible support for Kirby Cosmo’s,” Mark said. “Without this community, we never would have made it. Minturn rocks.”

For more information, visit www.kirbycosmos.com or call 970-827-9027.

If you go …

Kirby Cosmo’s BBQ

474 Main Street, Minturn, CO 81645



Current hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; take out or dine in

The Left Bank celebrates 50 years in Vail

Jean Michel Chelain, who grew up in the French Alps in Grenoble, France, started his 35-year culinary career in his teens and came to the states at age 26. He found Vail in late 1998 after being in Florida, California and the Midwest. He took over the Left Bank in 2006. (The Left Bank
Special to the Daily)

Five decades in a mountain ski town is a long time for a business, especially for a restaurant.

The Left Bank celebrates its 50th anniversary this season. The French eatery opened up on Nov. 24, 1970 to then-owners Luc and Liz Meyer. The Meyer’s were not only new to Vail, but new to America. Liz had grown up in Europe and Africa and Luc was raised in France. They met in the Bahamas of all places, got married in the Virgin Islands and came to Colorado on the recommendation of a friend they met there.

“We came to Colorado and visited Steamboat, Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte and nothing felt as right as Vail did to start a French restaurant,” Luc said.

Things moved fast for the Meyer’s once they got to Vail in September of 1970. The birth of their first son came a few weeks after their arrival and they signed a deal to open a new restaurant just weeks after that. Although Luc had a friend working with him as a chef at the beginning, that chef’s wife did not like it in Vail and they moved shortly after he started.

“Claude quit and I came home and told Liz, ‘Today, you start. You are in charge,’ and we had 107 dinners that night,” Luc said.

Luc and Liz Meyer came to Vail in September of 1970 and opened up the Left Bank on Nov. 24, 1970. Luc was the executive chef and Liz ran the front of the house, hand writing the dinner menus each night. (Liz Meyer
Special to the Daily)

The Left Bank’s name is a nod to the Left Bank of the Seine River that flows through Paris and is known for its restaurants, boutiques, Musée d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower. The menu back then featured classic French dishes like onion soup, escargot and coq au vin.

The couple worked hard and their efforts were recognized, especially once President Gerald R. Ford started coming to Vail for vacations in the 1970s.

“He always came to the Left Bank for his birthday on July 14. He liked the liver and the trout and he loved dessert, especially my homemade ice cream,” Luc said.

Not only would the president dine at the Left Bank but so would American politicians and foreign dignitaries like Henry Kissinger, Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Thatcher. Celebrities and world-class athletes came in as well. Robert Redford, Natalie Wood, Andy Warhol, John Denver, Bob Hope and the cast from “Charlie’s Angels” all have signed the guest book.

There were decades of success for the Meyer’s at the Left Bank, but eventually they knew they would want to pass it along to someone who could continue the legacy of this French restaurant in Vail. Jean Michel Chelain eventually became the perfect person to carry the torch.

Chelain, who grew up in the French Alps in Grenoble, France, started his 35-year culinary career in his teens and came to the states at age 26. He found Vail in late 1998 after being in Florida, California and the Midwest.

“I literally picked this place on a map,” Chelain said about coming to Vail. “I found out about the Left Bank two days before I was driving here.” The two Frenchmen bonded and Chelain landed his dream job.

“It was almost like an apprenticeship, working underneath Luc and Liz and learning the business and all the nuances that go with a restaurant, it was so valuable,” Chelain said.

“The restaurant was like Liz and Luc’s ’baby’ and they’d built it up to the point that it was not just about cooking food, it was also about being a good interpreter and to keep that legacy going for them,” Chelain said.

In order to maintain the tradition, Chelain also had to make it his own.

“There were big shoes to fill so the important thing when I took over was not to change everything. It was the Left Bank and that’s what we were going to do and little by little we would change a few things, reinvent and try to make it even better and try to appeal to the next generation,” Chelain said. “I’d start by doing specials and if people liked the dish, we’d put it on the menu.”

Left Bank chef-owner Jean Michel Chelain’s Dover Sole Meunière is served tableside and has become a signature dish at the Vail restaurant. (Left Bank
Special to the Daily)

“We always had Black Angus beef before, but now I’ve added waygu New York strip, or waygu Beef Wellington from a filet, and I can tell you, that is a super popular dish now, the ‘waygu Wellington,’” Chelain said. “But, even though we add new things, we still carry out traditional French techniques in the kitchen.”

In 2014, Chelain did a complete renovation of the Left Bank’s decor and brought in world-renown interior designer Katia Bates of Innovative Creations in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Bates, an Italian native, was the designer for Versace’s mansion in 2000 and in 2004. Bates was able to update the Left Bank and give it a brand new, light, fresh look with the use of blue hues and white leather and iron chandeliers with tiered glass and crystal drops.

The wine cellar is prominently showcased in the dining room behind large glass doors and glass walls. The artwork exhibits an airy feeling and the deep blue velvet and leather detail on the booths and pillows brings in a cozy yet chic feel. The Left Bank’s updated look is in a class of its own in the Vail restaurant scene.

In 2014, chef-owner Jean Michel Chelain did a complete renovation of the Left Bank’s decor and brought in world-renown interior designer Katia Bates of Innovative Creations in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Bates, an Italian native, was the designer for Versace’s mansion in 2000 and in 2004. (Left Bank
Special to the Daily)

In addition to updating the restaurant and evolving the menu over the past 15 years, Chelain is also looking to the future. He wants more people to enjoy the Left Bank not only by dining in, but also by being able to bring a taste of the Left Bank home. Window by Left Bank is Chelain’s latest concept.

Window by Left Bank is a collection of ready-made menu items including the Left Bank’s legendary French onion soup and tomato soup. You can build the perfect meal by adding other favorites like escargot bourguignon in the shell or prime osetra caviar. There are also ready-made entrées that you can finish at home. Impress your dinner guests with Iberico bellota marinated pork lion or duck leg confit sous vide. You don’t have to let them know that chef Chelain did all the work.

Chelain, who is barely 50 years old himself, is still a bit in awe of this banner year for the Vail landmark.

“The Left Bank definitely didn’t achieve the 50-year mark alone. There have been many people involved over the decades. Tremendous dedication and understanding have gone into what this restaurant is all about. It’s the history, the quality and the special feeling people have the moment they dine with us. Our goal is to maintain the legacy while raising the bar of excellence in the 21st century,” Chelain said.

Left Bank is located on Gore Creek Drive in Vail. Visit www.leftbankvail.com for more information about the restaurant.

Eat This Week: ’Tis the season to dine alfresco

Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek offers expanded winter dining capacity with the addition of five new yurts located on their patio. (Dominique Taylor
Special to the Daily)

Eat This Week — Mondays in the Vail Daily

With dining room capacities in a state of flux thanks to public health orders, restaurants have had to become creative with their service. And some have opted for rather enchanting solutions.

Chef Paul Ferzacca has invested in an exclusive experience for La Tour diners. Faced with the reality of entering winter during the COVID-19 pandemic, the well-seasoned restauranteur has maximized the use of La Tour’s outdoor patio with eight charming “crystal cabins.”

The “crystal cabins” at La Tour in Vail Village allow guests to enjoy the ambiance of Vail Village from the comfort of their own table-sized chalet, which is also heated. (Dominique Taylor
Special to the Daily)

“This is going to be a fine dining experience in your own private crystal cabin,” promised Ferzacca. “Obviously this is increasing my capacity from 25% to about 50% or so, which is really nice, because restaurants can’t survive at 25% capacity. So hopefully it will keep this landmark restaurant operating.”

The structures are heated and have four sides of clear windows, allowing guests to enjoy the ambiance of Vail Village from the comfort of their own table-sized chalet. Two to four people from the same party are recommended for each crystal cabin, and Ferzacca says there will be a minimum price required that covers a five-course menu but excludes beverages, tax and gratuity. The minimum will change depending on time of year and occupancy. For more information and to book, call 970-476-4403 or visit latour-vail.com.

Every dining establishment has needed to shift throughout 2020. Outdoor dining, which is classically limited in winter months, has certainly become the new normal for this season.

Matthew McConnell, general manager of Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek, shares how 2020 has been quite the roller coaster of highs and lows for the restaurant.

McConnell said the summer months were busy, but now with reduced capacity in the restaurant and an unknown winter ahead, McConnell and Splendido chef-owner Brian Ackerman didn’t waiver on making yet another pivot and doing what Splendido does best — creating memorable experiences for guests.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us and for our guests,” McConnell said. “Obviously it’s in response to these challenging times of having to reduce our indoor capacity, so of course we wanted to think of a way to do that, but we didn’t just want to pop up a tent.”

Splendido’s outdoor patio has been transformed into the winter wonderland by the name of “Yurtopia.” Dining in them combines an experience of exclusive luxury with a charming winter aesthetic — ideal for a romantic date night or celebration meal with family.

Each yurt at Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek can accommodate between six to eight people and offers a uniquely cozy mountain dining experience. (Dominique Taylor
Special to the Daily)

Each yurt is constructed of waterproofed canvas with a custom-built wood base. Electric heat is used to warm the space and blankets are available for those chillier evenings. Guests can order from the regular nightly menu or have chef Ackerman create a unique tasting menu of Colorado flavors and wine pairings. Yurt rentals at Splendido are for the entire evening and have a food and beverage minimum based on the date and time of year they are requested. For more information and to book, call 970-845-8808 or visit splendidorestaurant.com.

Tents and more across the valley

Drunken Goat in Edwards just recently had an outdoor tent installed. Owner Casey Glowacki said they hope “to accommodate more patrons that would feel more comfortable dining in that type of setting.” The tent can also be rented for private events.

Doug Abel, owner of Juniper Restaurant in Edwards, said Juniper has erected a tent in the front of the restaurant this winter to accommodate guests in a safe, warm and comfortable environment.

“In addition, Juniper and Main Street Grill have also installed a tent at the entrance to the building to keep our common area warmer for our guests to utilize the breezeway and foyer area,” Abel said.

Abel said he and industry peers understand that dining in has its challenges during a pandemic and that they certainly appreciate apprehension.

“The best way to support your local restaurants during this trying time is to order takeout,” he added, “or purchase gift cards to give or use in the future.”

At Vin48 in Avon, they haven’t sat people at their signature curved bar since June, as an extra precaution for guests and staff. And for the upcoming winter they purchased multiple air purifiers with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) placed throughout the dining areas and bar.

“By Christmas we will have four 10-foot heated yurts for our patio,” said Greg Eynon, Vin48 co-owner. “The yurts will seat one table each and will be available for the whole evening with a food and beverage minimum.”

Hotels have made extensive accommodations as well. Maya in the Westin Riverfront will be tenting its expansive patio to be able to accommodate more diners with social distancing precautions in place. For those who want to stay slopeside, The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch has lots of outdoor space, heaters, twinkling lights, comfortable open-air seating, champagne and a raw bar. New this year, daily street tacos will be served outdoors.

From the mountain to the village

Guests need to start planning their on-mountain meals at Vail and Beaver Creek as well. Capacity is being restricted at all on-mountain dining locations this winter in order to allow for physical distancing both for guests and restaurant staff.

“Guests who would like to sit down to dine can book their table through our new  ‘Time to Dine’  platform on the EpicMix app —  a convenient way to  help you book your mealtime, so you can enjoy skiing and riding without worrying about the lunch rush,” explained Hannah Dixon, senior specialist of communications for the ski destinations of Vail and Beaver Creek. “We are also offering grab-and-go food at many of our dining locations for guests who would like to eat outside. Due to limited capacity in all of our on-mountain dining establishments, we also recommend bringing your own snacks and water to the mountain this season.”

Mia Vlaar is the economic development director for town of Vail. She says the town is introducing a food truck pilot program that includes two food trucks from Vail restaurants; one in each village will operate during peak times in order to provide guests and residents with alternatives to sit-down dining and address the reduced capacity at restaurants on and off the mountain.

“We know that we’re going to see more people in the villages, we already have,” shared Vlaar, “and then as it gets busier as we go into the festive season, we anticipate there are going to be more people looking for alternatives to sitting down in the restaurants with those limits.”

Town of Vail has been in conversations with Root and Flower and Moe’s Original BBQ for the pilot program.

“I want to commend both Sam Biszantz and Jeff Kennedy for stepping up and being willing to give this a try,” she adds. “We don’t have any plan for any robust food truck activation by any means, we just think this very minimal activation will help adjust to those capacity limits.”

Town of Vail also has placed about a dozen outdoor tables around the villages in conjunction with the open container allowance, and will also have new “domes” constructed that will house one picnic table.

Strolling musicians have already taken to the streets of Vail on Fridays and Saturdays, on the move and playing live during après ski time to provide musical entertainment — masked, of course.

“We still are continuing with our Vail après program which is really focusing on that après ski time frame,” Vlaar said. “At four o’clock everyone rings the bells and the musicians will be ringing their bells as well when they are out there performing. So Vail après will be another element that will hopefully surprise and delight after the ski day.”

Even if they don’t have personal crystal cabins or yurts, most restaurants are making it possible to dine or imbibe outside. In Lionshead, Blue Moose Pizza, El Sabor and Garfinkel’s are installing tents, and Concert Hall Plaza has put in awnings and breezeway walls. El Segundo in Vail Village has put heaters on their patio to make winter a little warmer.

El Segundo in Vail Village, which prides itself on putting a twist on traditional Mexican cuisine, is offering in-house dining as well as their full menu, including bottle service and cocktails, for takeout. (Dominique Taylor
Special to the Daily)

“During après and dinner, we will have an outdoor bar on the patio where guests can get drinks and social distance on the heated patio,” said Ron Girotti, general manager of El Segundo. “Our goal is to not only provide a waiting area for people waiting for tables, but to create a fun outdoor bar experience for anyone who wants to hang out.”

Tents are already installed and being used in at The Sebastian and Vail Chophouse.

“In normal winters, we enjoy beautiful bluebird patio days,” said Tami Garrett, marketing manager for Vail Chophouse. “Often due to much-beloved snowy days and weathered mountain mix, we have many unusable patio days. Tenting allows us to guarantee that we can provide ample seating necessary to provide critical revenue support for maintaining staff and operational costs while also providing a safe and enjoyable dining experience for valley locals and guests alike.”

Locals rally to help save Vail Valley eateries

Save Our Restaurants encourages people to order from a local restaurant at least once a week and share the experience and spread the word on social media.

At times, the year 2020 has brought out the worst in people, but it has also brought out the best in people. Save Our Restaurants is one example of locals doing what they can, where they live, right now to make things better.

Edwards residents Melinda Gladitsch and Beverly Freedman have been thinking about ways to help out local restaurants during the pandemic for quite some time and knew there were several individual efforts taking place in municipalities but no countywide efforts.

“We finally decided to make it happen by approaching key organizations across the county for buy-in, setting up social presences on Facebook and Instagram and launching the campaign,” Gladitsch said. Save Our Restaurants just launched this week.

The goal of Save Our Restaurants is simple: Order out at least once per week and share your experience on social media to spread the word.

Even with the vaccine coming to Colorado and Eagle County and hope on the horizon, there is still a long road ahead. State and county safety mandates are still in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Eagle County restaurants are currently operating at 25% of capacity, or at 50 people or less, whichever is fewer.

“Our restaurants are facing strict dine-in restrictions and a large part of our population may not feel comfortable dining in anyway. But everyone can do their part to help our restaurants survive by ordering out frequently,” Gladitsch said.

Save Our Restaurants reached out to several local organizations including the Vail Valley Partnership, the Vail Chamber & Business Association and Beaver Creek Merchant Association to help get the word out and they promptly backed this grassroots effort.

“I feel like we are a community of action-oriented people. When we see a need and feel passionate about it, we try to take action. Beverly Freedman is an excellent example of that. She pushes for what she believes in,” Gladitsch said about her friend and cofounder of Save Our Restaurants.

Eagle County restaurants do not need to do anything to participate in the program because this effort will be driven by local and visiting diners.

“We look forward to seeing this effort grow and make a difference,” Gladitsch said.

To join the cause simply order out, share your experience on social media and tag the restaurant as well at @saveourrestaurantsvailvalley on Facebook and @save_our_restaurants on Instagram. Bon appétit!

Artist Carrie Fell releases new book

Carrie Fell is a Colorado-based artist whose works are classified as western, but run shy of the traditional landscape and portraiture. Traditional icons are depicted via vivid colors and fluid forms. (Carrie Fell & Company
Special to the Daily)

You can’t be in Vail very long without noticing the influence of Carrie Fell. The artist’s work can be seen on the Seasons building’s east wall in Avon, on a gondola car in Beaver Creek, gracing posters for events like Taste of Vail and Gourmet on Gore and her original works can be found in Vail and Beaver Creek galleries.

Carrie Fell’s artwork has woven its way into the fabric of Vail and beyond. This year, the artist looks back with her latest creation, not a painting or sculpture, but a new book entitled “The Art of Carrie Fell – A Retrospective Review: 1994-2020.”

Fell is a Colorado native whose colorful and creative western art has been seen on the walls of many restaurants, homes, corporate offices, promotional or charitable pieces and more. Her fans are loyal and love her vivid perspectives and insights that shine throughout her work.

Like many people during the pandemic, Fell found herself with more time on her hands and came across many of the writings that accompany her art. Her boyfriend, longtime Vail and Denver caterer Richard Bailey of Taste 5 Catering, told her she should write a book.

“It was almost like the book was already written with all of the material I had found but I needed help putting it together,” Fell said. She enlisted the help of Heather Clancy, who has known Fell since 2005 and is currently the sales manager for Carrie Fell & Company. Another friend, Dana Giddens, helped Fell organize the book. Fell’s niece, Caylynn Abbott, helped her pour over 4,000 images of works Fell had done from the mid 1990s until present day.

“This was a wonderful thing to do during this downtime. It gave me the time to reflect and remember and validate all of the people who helped me get here because it was not just me,” Fell said.

Fell has a lot of gratitude for those in her life who helped her reach the success she finds today. The book is dedicated to her parents. Fell said she grew up in an artistic family with her mother and brother exhibiting artistic talents and her dad being more artistic in a marketing sense. Fell’s father, John Abbott, was a champion drag racer in the National Hot Rod Association. Fell believes she learned a lot about the art of marketing from him.

“My dad did a lot of public appearances and he was great with people. I think I studied him subconsciously because some my behaviors are similar to his actions. It was always very important to him to pay attention to who is there with you and how you make them feel. That’s important to me, also,” Fell said.

Fell’s art definitely elicits a feeling from those who view it. Even though her most famous work is classified as western art, it’s hardly the traditional landscape and leathered and weathered cowboy in her paintings. Her strokes are broad and colorful and emit more of a feeling than an actual scene.

Fell works on a painting on canvas. Fell doesn’t just work with the brush, but physically gets into her work to create sweeping lines and a dramatic use of color. (Carrie Fell & Company
Special to the Daily)

Fell came by the way of doing cowboy art after several odd jobs post-high school and eventually enrolling in design at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, CO. She took a job at Colorado Counties, Inc., a nonprofit that offers assistance to county commissioners, mayors and council members to encourage counties to work together on common issues. It was there that Fell met Eagle County commissioner Bud Gates.

“Bud Gates was one of the coolest guys, and he could command a room, or the aisle would part for him. I think a lot of the spirit of my cowboy art came from guys like him,” Fell said. “In that era in Colorado, if you weren’t in the ski industry or ranching, you were leaving the small towns, towns with so much beauty and history and I just felt I needed to capture that spirit of the cowboy.”

Fell took her works on the road and would do multiple arts shows around the region and in Vail and Beaver Creek. She’s also advertised her works in “Southwest Art” and “Vail and Beaver Creek” magazine.

Fell caught a break when Anita and Jimbo Grisbaum saw her work at one of the shows in the Valley.

“Anita walked up to me and said she was opening up Rollins Gallery in Edwards. She hadn’t even poured the concrete for the floor yet, but she wanted me to be a part of it,” Fell said. “One of my best memories was doing an event with Olympic alpine skiing bronze medalist, Jimmie Heuga, benefitting Jimmie’s Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis.”

Artist Carrie Fell is pictured with Olympic bronze medalist in alpine skiing Jimmie Heuga during a fundraising event for the Heuga Center at Rollins Gallery in Edwards in the 1990s. (Carrie Fell & Company
Special to the Daily

Fell then met gallery owner Paul Zueger.

“When Paul walked in and was willing to work with me, I hardly remember the conversation, it was so surreal, that’s when I really felt like I’d become an artist.”

That meeting prompted a long stint at Zueger’s galleries in Vail starting with Gateway Gallery. “Then, director Rayla Kundolf from Zueger’s Masters Gallery got a hold of me and we set the world on fire. It was the go-go-go 90s, people were buying homes and art for those homes and things were good,” Fell said.

Fell eventually opened a gallery of her own in 2010 in Solaris in Vail Village.

“My family all had the entrepreneurial spirit, so I thought I’d give owning my own gallery a try,” Fell said. “I had stars in my eyes and had blue sky thinking, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

During this time, Fell had to be not only an artist but also the business person running the gallery. She was also tapped for many charitable projects and was the favored artist for The Taste of Vail, Gourmet on Gore and the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships. Her works were lighting up live auction bids, commissioned works and unique backdrops like a gondola car on Beaver Creek’s Centennial Express and a mural on the Seasons building’s east wall in Avon.

“Everybody was in such a great head space and town was alive, it was an electric two weeks during the Championships,” Fell said. The Carrie Fell Gallery was a prime spot for hosting parties at night overlooking the awards stage in Solaris Plaza. “That made that experience all worth while and it was a great ride to be a part of but I felt it was time to come back to Denver after that.”

Fell still has her working studio in Denver and her artwork is sold locally out of the Gib Singleton Gallery, one of Zueger’s galleries and Horton Fine Art in Beaver Creek.

“After trying to run my own gallery, I’m so grateful to be represented by a gallery. They work so hard for the artists and have to deal with the business side of things so I can go back to create the best art I can,” Fell said.

Fell’s new book was no small feat. The 560-page book is 2 inches thick and weighs 10 pounds. It costs $350.

During the pandemic, Fell discovered writings she had compiled throughout the years and took the time to put this book, which is 560 pages and weighs 10 pounds, together with works from 1994 to present day. (Carrie Fell & Company
Special to the Daily)

“It encapsulates what I want you to witness, sort of a third-person journey of how to take something difficult and make it into something better through nature, by being guided by the light and use it to turn circumstances into a lesson on moving forward,” Fell said.

Although this book is literally a work of art in itself, Fell doesn’t want it to lie dormant.

“It’s not supposed to sit on a coffee table, it’s meant to be something you pick up with a glass of wine or a strong cup of coffee and read many times. There are several subliminal messages in the book if you think deep enough,” Fell said.

Fell had hoped to have a huge book release party and see all of her friends and collectors of her art and celebrate this accomplishment and those who helped her get to where she is after two-plus decades, but due to COVID-19, the in-person revelry will have to wait. The book can be purchased locally at Gib Singleton Gallery in Vail and Horton Fine Art in Beaver Creek. Orders can also be placed by contacting the Carrie Fell & Company showroom in Denver by emailing info@carriefell.com.


Should Vail continue e-bike program?

By the numbers

$25,000: Cost of the 10-week pilot program.

12: E-bikes in the program.

2,062: miles ridden.

.61: Trips per bike per day.


Vail’s first attempt at an e-bike share program had start-up troubles. Town officials would like to see a regional approach to e-bike use for commuters.
Town of Vail photo

After a 10-week experiment with an e-bike sharing program, Vail officials are pondering their options, including the prospect of just subsidizing private purchases of commuter cycles.

Vail Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Beth Markham recently shared with the Vail Town Council the results of that 10-week program.

The idea, Markham said, was to see if e-bikes could provide a “micro-mobility” alternative to cars and buses.

The program, which cost $25,000, also charged users to ride the bikes. Users needed to download an app to reserve and pay for their rides.

While more than 300 people downloaded the app, only 189 people recorded at least one ride. Most recorded only one ride.

As with any pilot program, there were teething troubles.

Among those surveyed about their experience, 25% said they didn’t use the service because of difficulty checking out a bike. Other users said they weren’t able to unlock the bikes.

Councilmember Jen Mason said she was at first enthusiastic about the program. But, she added, she ultimately “couldn’t trust it to get into work.”

Still, more than 76% of users said they’d use the system again.

Looking ahead, councilmembers seemed more willing to continue to the program if it also included Eagle County and, perhaps the towns of Avon and Minturn.

“The regional solution is ideal,” Markham said, adding that the county and other towns were looking to Vail to get some good data on bike-share programs.

But the rides in Vail were expensive during the summer program. Councilmember Jenn Bruno, doing some quick math, noted that the program cost the town roughly $42 per ride.

“We need to find a solution that doesn’t cost $46 every time someone takes a bike out of a dock,” Bruno said.

Councilmember Travis Coggin noted that the per-ride cost for the e-bikes was more than the cost of him using his personal vehicles, which “gets terrible mileage,” he added.

Bruno said she might be more interested in subsidizing bike purchases.

Fellow Councilmember Kim Langmaid said she’d be willing to discuss a rebate program.

“Overall, it’s about creating a culture of biking,” Langmaid said.

Vail Environmental Director Kristen Bertuglia noted that Holy Cross Energy already offers a $250 rebate for e-bike purchases, adding that there are rebate models the town probably wouldn’t have to subsidize.