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The pasta course at Zino Ristorante is the main event

Something special emerges when talent and passion meet in the kitchen. At Zino Ristorante in Edwards, it’s the gift of homemade pasta and hand-tossed pizza. This feel-good community hub is known for a casual elegance that delivers pleasure in rich Italian flavor, curated by General Manager Giuseppe Bosco and Executive Chef Nick Haley, both partners in the delicious venture.

After descending down Zino’s beautiful stairs into the warm and inviting dining room, start your evening with the Antipasti Misti, a lovely medley of meat, cheese and accoutrements that pairs like a dream with Italian rosé.

Any of the hand-tossed, brick oven-baked pizzas at Zino are worth a try, especially since the dough is prepared in house, then rotated and stretched with clenched fists, then topped and slid into the wood-fire oven. Haley’s pizza dough recipe is a more traditional Neapolitan method, and he’s nailed the flavors and textures. In the true Neapolitan way, no rolling pin is used to shape the crusts, using 100-percent Italian wheat flour.  

“A lot of other Italian flours you can buy are just milled in Italy, but they are getting the wheat from other places,” Haley explains. “What we are using here is not as bleached, so you can actually see a lot of the texture and there is a lot more color to it when you’re making your dough.” 

New this summer is the Melanzane Pizze, made with roasted eggplant, fontina cheese, basil panko, parmigiano and marinara.

Like the peak of a show’s crescendo, the pasta course at Zino is the main event. The Pappardelle staple with veal meatballs has always been a crowd favorite, and the Tagliolini that Haley introduced this summer will certainly raise some approving eyebrows. This thin ribbon pasta dish is adorned with Manila clams, red pepperoncini, shiso butter, garlic and cherry tomatoes.

Don’t forget about the secondi piatti — the main course — of your meal. Dishes highlighting roasted chicken, pork, veal or scallops each interact with a unique setting, like the Pork Chop Milanese with whole grain mustard, pear chutney and summer cabbage salad, or Diver Scallops over sweet corn risotto, pancetta and lobster butter. For dessert, go for one more taste of Italy with the authentic and delightful Tiramisu. And maybe an espresso, too. 

Dine inside a gondola car

There’s an exciting new way to dine in the Vail Valley, but it isn’t at a brand new restaurant. The Blue Plate in Avon took a familiar mountain town icon and has reimagined the dinner table and surroundings to create a fun new way to enjoy a meal with friends.

Elli Roustom, co-owner of the Blue Plate with her husband, Adam, who is the executive chef, came up with this idea after a friend suggested it to her.

“My best friend gave me the idea. She showed me a different kind of gondola dining, it was much smaller, but really nice as well. What would be more fitting than dinning in a gondola in the Vail Valley?” Elli Roustom said.

Elli soon ordered not one but two gondola cars to be delivered to Eagle County. From there, she and Adam enlisted the help of Balz Arrigoni or Arrigoni Woods on the interior finishes of the gondolas. “We just put it in his hands and knew he would do an excellent job. He had the perfect idea and a great vision and we were blown away by his work.” Roustom said.

In just three weeks, the gondola cars were transformed into little dining rooms complete with custom European wood with intricate details and traditional Austrian textiles. In fact, Elli ordered the fabric for the curtains from Austria and made them herself. “Each private gondola cabin embodies the luxurious warmth of an Alpine chalet,” Roustom said.

The gondola cars, affectionately referred to as Hansel and Gretel, have air conditioning and heat so they can be used year-round and have their own lighting system and music piped in.

The gondola cars can fit up to four people for a special dinner or celebration. Guests can choose between two special menus: an alpine menu or chef’s tasting menu. Both menus serve four courses and guests may choose to add wine pairings, or talk to the staff about customizing everything from the menu to the music. You have a dedicated server who takes care of only you that evening, ensuring a special experience.

“Everyone who has dined in the gondola cars so far has been absolutely ecstatic. It is just so much fun and something not seen in the valley before,” Roustom said. “So far we have had multiple birthdays, anniversaries, a couple of marriage proposals as well as just sharing this experience with friends and family.

To learn more and book a reservation in one of the gondola cars, visit www.blueplateavon.com.  

Vista at Arrowhead pairs delicious dining with sprawling mountain views

With wraparound patio seating and wide windows in the dining area that frame sprawling mountain views, Vista at Arrowhead lives up to its name. Here’s a place where mountain lovers can bask in the glory of summer sunsets, where golf lovers can unwind after a day on the course. Located within the Country Club of the Rockies in Arrowhead, Vista’s location and cuisine make a perfect pairing.

Live music every night of the week keeps the vibe at Vista social and fun, so settle in early on with a refreshing cocktail like the Blood Orange Cellotini, a zesty summer favorite that includes housemade blood orangecello, or choose from among five different takes on the classic Moscow Mule, each served up in a cool tin cup. Sit back and sip from a drink menu that also includes specialty cocktails, beer and wine while listening to the lighthearted tunes of legendary piano man Micky Poage on Monday through Friday evenings — or a rotating lineup of guest musicians who set the scene on Saturday and Sunday nights. 

While taking in the music and the beauty of the evening’s shifting light, order a few small plates. The sesame tuna poke is a standout first course that owes its mingling of sweet and spicy flavors to peaches and Sriracha in the mix. Among salads, the beet and burrata salad is a luscious combination of flavor-bursting beets sliced paper-thin and splayed out on a plate that also includes peppery arugula, pickled red onion, grapefruit and a generous portion of creamy burrata, all drizzled with a honey-lemon vinaigrette and dotted with pistachios. 

Flexibility is a highlight of Vista’s menu, which is organized in sections to make it easy for diners to create a plate of favorites or select from chef-composed options. Choose your own meat, sauce, sides or vegetarian option — or pick from entrées that include the pan-seared Alaskan halibut served with grilled asparagus, sweet pea ravioli and a blood orange sauce that brings sweet, citrusy flavors into each bite. Yes: the beloved grilled Rocky Mountain ruby red trout piccata remains on the menu — and for good reason.

“One of the most exciting things about the summer for me is the chance to feature more fresh, local ingredients,” says Executive Chef David Collins, who co-owns Vista with Daryl DeYoung. “We feature Colorado products and spirits all year long, but summertime is the time to get creative with local produce and anything that’s in season,” Collins adds. Purple shadows stretch out across the golf course by dessert time, but that’s no reason to go just yet. You’ll want to stick around for a taste of the crustless mascarpone cheesecake that’s topped with blueberry compote, or the beyond-the-norm coconut crème brûlée. Both of these desserts capture a just-right level of sweetness to leave you with a sense of final delight

Terra Bistro features summer menu of light fare that is high in quality

Chef-owner Kevin Nelson has been with Terra Bistro in the Vail Mountain Lodge in Vail Village since 1993, when he started as a chef’s apprentice. His more than two and a half decades at the helm provide a consistency of quality not found in many other restaurants.

The focus of Nelson’s summer menu is lighter fare, with an emphasis on seafood and a broad range of garden-grown herbs, greens and vegetables.

“A chef-owner cares a bit more about the food and experience,” Executive Manager Katie Fiedler Anderson says, pointing to Terra Bistro’s dedication to high-quality, locally sourced ingredients and the impeccable service of its wait staff. The restaurant also happily adapts to gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and allergy-restricted diets. The menu begins with a slew of starters that run the gamut from fried goat cheese with vanilla honey, roasted beets, pine nuts and watercress to sushi-grade ahi poke tuna with fried rice “tots,” sesame-Sriracha dressing and yuzu aioli.

The standout is the Wagyu tartare, mini bites of surf and turf built from Idaho-raised beef with an oyster emulsion, accented by lemon oil, capers and pickled mustard seeds and served with gaufrette potato chips for scooping.

The idea, Fiedler Anderson says, is to take a central ingredient and prepare it in a surprising way. Another prime example of this is the creamy basil carrot salad: roasted carrots crowning crisp harvest greens, herbs and crunchy pumpkin seeds all tossed in a vivid yellow, peppery basil-carrot dressing. 

The main course selections allow the restaurant’s focus on globally inspired, multicultural cuisine to really shine. If you’re craving seafood, the lobster tagliatelle combines Maine lobster claw meat with an aromatic mirepoix, mild jalapeño-basil butter and pine nuts, or choose the new Icelandic cod with marrow beans, bacon broth and black garlic-apricot preserves.

Terra Bistro boasts one of the best happy hours in town from 5 to 6 p.m. daily, with $3 Coors and Coors Light, $8 glasses of select wines and $11 specialty cocktails featuring spirits sourced from across the state. Small plates range from $7 to $9 and include tastes from the starters and salads sections of the dinner menu, plus a few unique choices such as the corn soup with coconut, basil and Old Bay spice or the beef skewers with socarrat, pineapple and coconut cream.

Wine and food pairings are expertly crafted by Terra Bistro’s in-house sommelier from an extensive list of glasses and bottles, and chocolate molten or dense, sweet tres leches cake provides a sweet conclusion to the meal.

Almresi in Vail seems to contain a portal to the woods of Bavaria

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step; a trip to the heart of the Black Forest begins with a flight of stairs. Almresi, located at the top of Bridge Street, seems to contain a portal to a cabin nestled in the woods of Bavaria.

Here, surrounded by reclaimed German barn wood, cozy woolen throws and enough cowbell to satisfy Christopher Walken, guests gather with family and friends for a dining experience that feeds the heart, soul and stomach.

Make your plans in advance (dinner reservations fill up quickly) and make sure to wear loose clothing so as to fully indulge in German, Austrian and Swiss dishes like Schweinelendchen, pork loin with spaetzle, mushroom sauce and red cabbage; schweizer rösti, a Swiss rösti with homemade farmers cheese, fresh herbs and smoked salmon or the alpen gnocchi, filled with chestnut truffle and topped with a tomato-gorgonzola cream sauce.

“I think the only thing we really kept from the winter menu that we didn’t have last summer was the alpen gnocchi, the truffle gnocchi, because people loved it so much,” Alyssa Thoma says.

Lighter options include the Happy Creek Trout Salad with seasonal mixed greens, red beets and orange slices with smoked trout fillet and horseradish cream and soups like Backerbsensuppe, a boullion with fried butterpearls and scallions.

But perhaps the most iconic dish is an Austrian original, the hutessen or “Eat your hat.” On this hot, iron hat, guests cook their beef to their own specifications. It’s served with salad, potatoes and various dipping sauces and is guaranteed to have you tipping your own hat to the chefs.

And even if you think you can’t fit another morsel, be sure to peruse the desserts. Apfelstrudel is a classic, as is the original Austrian Kaiserschmarr: a fluffy pancake, ripped into little pieces, with caramelized, powdered sugar on top and a cherry compote on the side.

“Every great dinner should end with a little dessert,” Alyssa says.

If waiting until dinner for your Austrian fix is not an option, head to Almresi for “breakfast,” served from 12 to 3 p.m. in July and August. In addition to the regular menu, a few specials are on offer like Weisswurst, which translates to white sausage. A traditional Bavarian sausage, “you have to peel the skin off to get to the really good stuff and then you have a sweet mustard and a pretzel on the side,” Alyssa explains.

This special meal time, whether you call it breakfast or brunch, is another opportunity to gather together and enjoy Almresi’s unforgettable food…and perhaps a German or Austrian beer or schnapps. After all, it’s summer and these long, bucolic days are made for indulging. 

Luxury diners get WYLD at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch

If you think Beaver Creek is all escalators and high-end art galleries, think again — there’s a wild side to this luxurious resort and it’s hiding in plain sight at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. WYLD, the fine dining restaurant helmed by Executive Chef Jasper Schneider and Chef de Cuisine Manuel Gutierrez, resides on the “edge of wild” and dining here is nowhere near tame.

Creating plates that toe the line between fine art and fine dining, Schneider and his crew enjoy presenting food as art in dishes that taste as good as they look. Focusing on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, it’s possible to visit regularly and enjoy new variations on salmon, duck, beef and tuna, based on seasonal sides.

“In spring and summer, it’s the English peas, the fava beans, the yellow wax, the haricot verts, the broccolini,” Chef Schneider extolls. “We’re super excited for the wider range of veggies for the wider presentations of food.”

And while the focus on Colorado game remains, Chef Schneider’s aquatic roots are evident: “It’s interesting when people go, ‘Oh my God, there’s a lot of seafood,’ but it’s working well.” After all, when a land-locked state can procure fresh fish daily, why not?

In addition to regular dinner service at WYLD, Chef Schneider is also introducing a new “Earth to Table” dinner on Wednesday nights. Served family style with one seating, the menu changes weekly, allowing Chef Schneider and his culinary crew to highlight what’s super seasonal and hyper-local for a fixed price. The plan is for three salads, seasonal veggies, proteins with sides and seasonal fruit for dessert. For example, the inaugural dinner included a summer bean salad with yellow wax, Haricot Verts, pea shoots and an apple ponzu; a fennel pollen wood-roasted salmon, with a pickled fennel radish salad and an apricot tartan, among the other options. WYLD has truly established itself as a dining destination in Beaver Creek, enticing guests with its obsession with ingredients, flavors and presentation. So don’t wait — take a journey to WYLD often. It’s guaranteed to surprise you.

White Bison offers diners an essential Colorado experience

Set on Gore Creek, this contemporary mountain grill makes it easy for guests to settle into an essential Colorado experience. With Steve Maline as the new chef of White Bison, the kitchen is putting even more emphasis on local ingredients to celebrate Rocky Mountain flavor.

“We are highlighting Colorado cuisine to showcase the area’s identity and why people love it here,” says Maline. “We are using as many products as we can that represent not only the valley but Colorado itself.”

The menu will change often, he adds, depending on the availability of local ingredients, offering hearty flavors but not gluttonous portions.

Maline’s play on pork, for example, stands up a beautiful shank in the center of the plate atop a bed of polenta, covered in fresh greens and herbs. This dish will satiate the more ravenous guest, but each bite stays light with the fresh complements of citrus and fennel. Decadent appetites will swoon over the True Buffalo Mozzarella salad, along with the Roasted Bison Bone Marrow served beside 7x beef. More exotic options are available too — those looking for a taste of something more sea-inspired can enjoy fresh oysters on the half shell or a fun play on shrimp cocktail.

Many appetizers on the menu are great for sharing, like the Colorado Ricotta Crostini with toasted macadamia nuts and honeycomb and the Crispy Pork Wings served with Sriracha aoli. Lighter options are available as well, namely the Green Salad that is 25 green ingredients strong, from the toasted pistachios and green goddess dressing to olives and fennel and asparagus.

Get a buzz on with some nutrients with the carrot-inspired rum cocktail, Velveteen Wabbit, or set it up a notch and enjoy gin with a blackberry shrub in the Broken Record.

Let Wine Director Ian Gray guide your drink selections for the evening and he will only steer you right. The by-the-glass list Gray has curated is a reflection of good taste with broad appeal. And here is the locals’ secret: an afternoon or evening on the White Bison patio is not complete without a glass of their famous frozen rosé, an oh-so-delicious and refreshing “frosé” that always calls for another round. 

Blue Plate offers a diverse menu and seating options this summer

You can call Blue Plate global, or eclectic, or international — it all amounts to the same thing to Chef-Owner Adam Roustom, and he has a different word for it: Americana.

“Almost all the foods that are ‘classic American’ came from someplace else,” he says. “America is a melting pot, and that’s what we are. Blue Plate is Americana.”

And it starts with the chef and his wife, Elli, who manages the front of the house. He spent his childhood in Syria until moving to the East Coast in grade school. Elli hales from Austria. The pair met in Vail, had a brief and feisty courtship, then married and opened up Blue Plate a dozen years ago. And though the concept today is basically what they started with, every year they add a little more, do a little more. Blue Plate is practically a lifestyle.

Summer is a special time at Blue Plate for a lot of reasons — especially the patio seating off of one of the eatery’s two dining rooms. “It’s the only place in the valley where you can sit under an apple canopy or order from an outside bar.” Inside or out, it’s a great time to sample one of Elli’s refreshing teas or lemonades — made fresh daily with all-natural ingredients, including blue butterfly pea flower tea, which brings a vivid hue. Or go for a fruit-forward summer cocktail created by Bar Manager Alex Siles.

And they’ve just opened their gondola seating: cozy up in the newly refurbished Hansel or Gretel cars and enjoy the entirely customized Chef’s Tasting Menu or the Traditional Alpine Menu. With beautiful interior woodwork and seamless service, the gondola cars seat a foursome comfortably, and offer a magical experience that takes you outside of time.

But you don’t have to sit in a gondola car to experience Chef Adam’s culinary chops. Whether you’re heading in for lunch, Happy Hour or dinner, there’s a solid backbone of Blue Plate’s tried-and-trues, embellished with enough new items to keep the chef jazzed.

For a place that has developed a cult following for both meatloaf and schnitzel, there sure are a lot of inventive vegan options “just because.” Case in point, the red lentil Kibbe Nayeh served with fresh mint, chili and onion, the classic set-up for Middle Eastern raw lamb kibbe. “It makes it pop, and the lentils are really reminiscent of raw lamb — it rocks,” enthuses Adam. Or go for his spin on Papas Bravas: “Instead of potatoes we’re using sweet potato tater tots — for me, a tater tot is the epitome of Americana, I fell in love with them in 5th grade when we moved to America.” Doused with a chipotle sauce and served with an almond “vegannaise” instead of the normal aioli, it’s a fun little tapa. Other newbies to the menu include Asian Pork Osso Bucco — braised shanks, panang (red) curry sauce, Asian broccoli and mango — as well as shrimp and scallop ceviche tostadas, topped with guava foam, and Adam’s own take on liver and onions a la the Ottomans, with crispy veal liver, hummus, Syrian cabbage and sumac onions. The menu is truly a wild ride through Adam’s own interests and influences. With his flavors and execution, and Elli’s attention to the details of consistency and hospitality, they’ve cultivated a clientele that will happily follow along.

Vin48 serves terrific food, exciting wines on airy patio

Whether you call it a wine bar or a community center, Vin48 is essential to the local landscape of terrific food, exciting wines and convivial hospitality. With a robust Happy Hour that has locals leaving work just a touch early to secure a seat, and a chef who regularly creates specials that might run out after a dozen orders, it’s a hotspot that celebrates the earnest efforts of farmers, winemakers and even guests.

But summer kicks it into overdrive. The dining room’s 35-foot-long wall of windows suddenly disappears, opening up the space to the airy patio that, depending on your seat, sports views of Beaver Creek Mountain, a lovely green area and Chef Charles Hays’ wood-fired grill. The restaurant’s raspberry bushes and chives grow just around the corner, and a busy kitchen can be heard in the distance.

“The best ingredients are usually what you have locally, things that don’t have to travel hundreds of miles. And summer is the most exciting time of year for food,” admits Greg Eynon, who owns and operates Vin48 with Collin Baugh and Chef Hays. Eynon is the “wine guy,” and usually has 40 to 50 wines by the glass on the menu, in addition to bottles. He’s excited to open up his list and invite in fresher, lighter — he would say, even “crunchier” — wines to play alongside the seasonal flavors that are coming out of the Vin kitchen.

And though his list makes a big change by the season — think seafood-friendly reds from fishing communities, slightly effervescent whites from warmer climes — it’s a year-round effort. From the food on the table to the wines that are poured, Vin48 operates according to its values, namely, make things from scratch with people you like. He likes to buy wine from people who do it like they do at Vin: inventively, passionately, with available resources.

Vin48 has developed a backbone of menu favorites that beckon — the Mountain View pork meatballs are little flavor bombs, the mussels with house-made chorizo leave you sopping up every last bit of juice, and the El Regalo Ranch goat tacos are both racy and demure.

But there’s a lot to be said for what’s new. An occasional special, fettuccini carbonara, includes the crown jewel of a fresh duck egg from Edwards — the ducks determine how many orders they can offer in a night. The brined pork chop has been wildly popular, served with horseradish mashed potatoes, roasted baby carrots and a sexy little apple-pork demi. And though Baugh cites the halibut with forbidden rice, coconut-clam broth and sautéed veggies as a bit of a slam-dunk, he’s in love with the deep sea red crab fettuccine.

“There are only five ingredients in it, but it’s awesome,” he says, including the house-made fettuccini as a single ingredient. “We use a really nice olive oil, the way the Italians do it. It’s so delicious.”

Though the food and wine are the lifeblood of Vin48, perhaps the real secret of success is the long-term staff that seems invested in the overall success of both the restaurant and their guests’ experience.

“It is such a personal experience, taking care of your guests,” agrees Baugh. “It’s like inviting someone into your home. You want to empower your staff, and be kind to them.” It’s working.

Bistro Fourteen offers Colorado cuisine with an amazing view

Seen from the windows of Bistro Fourteen on top of Vail Mountain, Mount of the Holy Cross stands tallest amongst its neighboring summits, reminding onlookers why Colorado’s “Fourteeners” are iconic in their dominance — each standing at least 14,000 feet above sea level.

Named after these prized peaks, Bistro Fourteen offers its own alpine experience. The restaurant has an extraordinary location, accessible to anyone who could use a breath of fresh mountain air. Get there from an Eagle Bahn Gondola ride, or take on a more rigorous approach and climb up Vail Mountain on bike or on foot.

This family-friendly spot is perfect for a full meal or just a round of appetizers. The cuisine of mountain comfort serves of classic pub food classed up with Colorado twists that include wild game meats and local cheeses and fruits.

“We make our menu accessible to families and friends with favorites such as wings, flatbreads, a wide array of salads and burgers. All of this is accentuated by the amazing views from 10,200 feet,” explains Restaurant Manager Joe Mullins. “We are also a great place to catch an afternoon cocktail and enjoy the sunset on weekends, as the restaurant is only open for dinner Friday and Saturday.”

Start with an order of the Bison Carpaccio, served with arugula, roasted pistachio crumbles, a citrus dressing and house-made potato chips. For a little appetizer decadence, the Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms hit the spot with a bright addition of lemon truffle aioli.

The Superfood and Grain Salad is stacked with goodness, from kale and quinoa and buckwheat, to green onions, bell peppers, heirloom cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Larger appetites will enjoy the Bistro Burger made from a house ground brisket patty, or the Wild Game Gnocchi Bolognese that’s prepared with wild mushrooms and topped with shaved parmesan. Or maybe it’s just a dessert that brings you up to this special restaurant on top of Vail Mountain. Whatever your appetite, a visit to Bistro Fourteen is always worth the trip.