Mirabelle nestled at base of Beaver Creek coming up on 20 years in the valley | VailDaily.com

Mirabelle nestled at base of Beaver Creek coming up on 20 years in the valley

Melanie Wong
Special to the Weekly

Editor's note: This article was previously published as a paid feature in EAT, a compendium of restaurant snapshots featuring the best in Vail Valley dining. Look for it on newsstands everywhere.

When Chef Daniel Joly and his wife, Nathalie, took the helm at Beaver Creek's Mirabelle in 1999, they wanted to preserve

the historic, rustic feel of the old building and serve gourmet fare that would match the restaurant's cozy feel. Almost 20 years later, dining at Mirabelle remains one of the Vail Valley's most idyllic experiences.

Nestled at the base of Beaver Creek, Mirabelle is housed in a 19th century farmhouse next to a bubbling creek and amidst towering pines. The dining room is elegant, yet entirely homey and even a bit rustic. It feels a bit like going to a friend's home for dinner — if your friend is a Belgian Master Chef, that is.

"If a restaurant is too stuffy or pretentious, you're uncomfortable, you're unsure of yourself. Here, you almost want to take off your shoes and switch to your favorite channel, that's how comfortable it is!" says Chef Joly, laughing.

Mirabelle's setting certainly adds to the dining experience, but by no means steals the show. Joly's cooking speaks for itself with his classical French technique and seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. As a result, Mirabelle's food has been recognized by many publications, culinary critics and even the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

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Despite the accolades and success, Joly spends little time resting on his laurels. He's constantly inventing new riffs on classic European dishes, such as the open-faced lobster and artichoke (a deconstructed ravioli featuring buttery lobster, greens and roasted chanterelle mushrooms sitting on a thin sheet of pappardelle pasta), or the salmon tartare (a creative seafood rendition on the typically steak-centric dish, complemented by a tangy citrus sauce and a gentle hint of chili peppers). Microgreens and herbs from the domed greenhouse just steps from the kitchen add freshness to each dish even in the midst of winter.

Other dishes are deceptively simple, yet still catch your attention with a single bite. The sautéed scallop and seared foie gras literally melts in your mouth, the rich flavors offset by the tart crunch of thinly sliced apples and bitterness of Belgian endive. Joly insists that he simply lets the ingredients speak for themselves, especially when it comes to his signature foie gras, a favorite among Mirabelle regulars.

Dessert is not to be eschewed at Mirabelle, and cocoa lovers shouldn't miss the restaurant's classic chocolate soufflé. The dish arrives at the table jiggling immodestly before collapsing into a puff of sweet aroma at the touch of a spoon. Mix in warm vanilla sauce, and it's the perfect end to a meal.

Make sure to come early and enjoy a drink in the recently remodeled bar and lounge area, which sports chic décor, plush blankets and an overall snug atmosphere. Regardless of where you're seated or how long you stay, the staff will make sure you're made welcome.

"I hope that eating here is an experience for our guests. For me, a successful night is when someone walks out with a smile and says, 'Thanks for the great meal, Daniel.' That's when I know we've done a good job," Joly says.

If you go …

What: Mirabelle, Belgian American in a historic setting.

Where: 55 Village Road, Beaver Creek.

Cost: Appetizers $13-$24; entrees $30-$46.

Signature dish: Any dish with seared foie gras, classic chocolate soufflé for dessert.

More information: Call 970-949-7728 or visit http://www.MIRABELLE1.COM.