Leonora serves tapas in a hip bistro setting | VailDaily.com

Leonora serves tapas in a hip bistro setting

Traci J. Macnamara
EAT magazine
Leonora’s bouchot mussels with cava, chorizo butter and herbs
If you go ... What: Leonora, a sophisticated, social setting. Where: The Sebastian – Vail | 16 Vail Road | Vail. Cost: Small Plates: $3-$18; Plates: $12-$60 Signature dish: Octopus Asador with new potatoes, garlic and chorizo More information: 970.306.4612 | thesebastianvail.com/dine.

Tucked inside of The Sebastian is Leonora, a hip bistro, tapas and wine bar that’s an inspired place to share dinner and libations with family and friends. Whether you get cozy in a high-backed booth or belly up to the bar, you’ll have the option of sharing small plates with pairings from an extensive wine menu or ordering entrée-sized selections all for yourself. No matter which approach you choose, you’ll delight in the simple yet sophisticated flavor combinations coming from Executive Chef Tyson Peterson’s kitchen.

Begin the evening at Leonora with a cocktail fitting for the season: the Spiced Sparkling Pear, a balanced sipper with pear vodka, sparkling wine, lemon and allspice that foreshadows more good things to come. Or choose from a wine menu that showcases selections sourced from traditional and unexpected places. With a floor-to-ceiling column of wines on display in the center of the dining room, it’s not surprising that wine pairings are a highlight of the Leonora dining experience.

“We’re a tapas restaurant at heart, so everything on the menu is designed to be shared,” explains Executive Chef Tyson Peterson. “Order three selections or so per person for sharing around the table, or build your own three-course meal,” he suggests. In this way, dining at Leonora is like a choose-your-own adventure in which you can taste small plates to your heart’s content or settle in with a favorite combination.

To simplify this approach, the menu is organized into shareable plates for mixing and matching. Among the luscious small plates — poblano bacon biscuits, pinxtos, seafood and crudo — the mussels are standout, steaming in a garlicky, chorizo-filled broth and topped with grilled bread for dipping from Hovey & Harrison, a bakery and café in Edwards that’s one among several local purveyors whose additions you’ll find highlighted on the Leonora menu.

Continue picking from lighter options including the apple and endive salad while mixing in some more substantial plates. Among these, the Colorado lamb chops arrive like meaty lollipops that you can eat in a refined way with knife and fork — or pick up as finger food to get the best last bites. Still hungry? The braised short rib proves to be the ultimate winter comfort food, and this rich plate that mingles the sweet and savory will satisfy any hearty appetite.

Leonora is a place where you don’t need to feel guilty about wanting two desserts since even these can be shared. For a fun sweet finale, choose both the Sebastian Snowball and the flourless chocolate cake, two desserts that go well together despite entirely different flavors, one centered around a strawberry sorbet, the other around a more potent rich chocolate.