Game Creek Restaurant
$85 (three courses)
$95 (four courses)
Corn Ravioli; Colorado Lamb; Game Hen; Rhubarb Crumble
Game Creek Bowl | Vail Mountain | Accessible via snowcat from Eagles Nest | 970.754.4275 | gamecreekvail.com
More than a just a meal in a restaurant, Game Creek is best described as a full sensory experience. That’s in part because you have to journey — via hiking in or by gondola up and four-wheel-drive shuttle over — to get to the Old World-inspired chalet on Vail Mountain.
Once there, oh what a treat. Soak in the mountain majesty from the flower-filled deck while you sip a cocktail and nosh on appetizers from a special après menu available from 5:30-7 p.m. Or, on Sunday mornings, revel in the most indulgent brunch imaginable, complete with an ever-changing buffet — the seafood station, with crab claws, poached shrimp and oysters on the half shell, is worth the journey alone — and bloody mary bar.
As tradition holds, the restaurant offers a three- or four-course, prix-fixe dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Executive Chef Steven Topple has created a menu that focuses on local ingredients whenever possible; along with sourcing produce from LaVenture Farms in Gypsum, he’s even growing some of his own at a garden plot in Minturn this season.
Start with the pickled watermelon salad with feta, olives and arugula, which Topple calls “mouthwatering,” or opt for the King Crab salad — big hunks of poached crab atop lettuce frisée spiked with orange segments and an avocado dressing that’s reminiscent of gazpacho.
“I believe you eat with your eyes first,” Topple says of the beautifully composed and colorful dishes.
Once the Olathe sweet corn ripens on Colorado’s Western Slope, you can bet that’s where Topple will source the kernels for the corn ravioli starter — decadent homemade pasta squares topped with a Parmesan cream sauce, basil purée and a smattering of pine nuts.
Topple unveiled the lamb tartar starter this past winter, to high marks. The tenderloin is diced small, tossed with mint vinaigrette and served with lemon caper marmalade.
“It was a huge hit,” Topple says. “Tables would hear about it from nearby diners and order it.”
The entrées pose the night’s biggest decision: pillow-like potato gnocchi with asparagus in a trio of colors — white, green and purple — topped with a homemade ricotta cheese and a bright lemon English pea sauce, or perhaps the Alaskan halibut, topped with a garlic-studded tomato “crust” and flanked by shrimp polenta cake, all topped with a bright spinach sauce. The game hen, meanwhile, really is just a small, über-flavorful chicken atop a hash of baby corn and potato served with poached baby carrots and tarragon jus. Or stick with Colorado-bred fare and opt for Topple’s signature dish — the one he brings wherever he lands: gingerbread-crusted Colorado lamb.
Along with the set menu, check out Topple’s weekly tasting menu — new this summer — to get a feel for what’s in season and gets him excited.
The best part of prix fixe? Dessert is assured. The rhubarb in the crumble is grown in Gypsum, by the way; combined with buttermilk ice cream, it’s as fleeting as summer itself and not to be missed.