Vibrant, floral dining at The Fitz
- Manor Vail Lodge, 595 Vail Valley Drive, Vail
- Price: Starters and salads $13-$24, sandwiches and entrees $18-$33, signature cocktails $14
- Ambiance: Upscale casual with views of Gore Creek
- Signature dish: Burrata watermelon salad or chipotle miso sable fish
A breeze stirs above the tumbling, cool waters of Gore Creek, hopscotching along current-worn rocks and climbing the sloping riverbank before tickling the leaves of fragrant basil, mint, lemon balm and sage and deftly threading its fingers through a patch of colorful violets, pansies and nasturtiums in purple, yellow and deep fuchsia.
Flowers and herbs plucked from this small garden are destined for the kitchen of The Fitz Bar & Restaurant at Manor Vail Lodge, mere steps away, where they will be enthroned upon one of the fresh new choices that pepper Executive Chef Ken Butler and Chef de Cuisine Courtney Manaligod’s summer menu.
Butler says the idea was to “play off dishes we’ve done, creating elevated, approachable comfort food.” The bright, flavorful courses draw together elements of the Four Corners area of the Southwest, from the green chili of New Mexico to Colorado-raised proteins, with a hint of coastal influence from Butler’s years in Maui.
The menu begins with the tuna tartare nachos: layers of crisp wonton skins with ruby-red tuna, diced jalapeño and cucumber, red onion and avocado drizzled with a balsamic reduction and topped with microgreens. The dish is resplendent with a magenta-hued Trail Head cocktail that combines house-made jalapeño-blackberry simple syrup, blanco tequila and a hint of lime.
Food and Beverage Director Aaron Piatkowski has pulled together spirits from distilleries across the Front Range and High Rockies region for The Fitz’s handcrafted cocktails, which stand alongside a frequently rotating selection of Colorado craft beers.
From the wine list, sips of chilled rosé harmonize with the creamy and crunchy textures of the burrata watermelon salad, a still life-worthy collection of jalapeño, tomato, hunks of velvety mozzarella and a drizzle of balsamic atop a bed of frisee punctuated with tri-colored pansies.
Dry-aged beef, brined chicken or plant-based Impossible patty sandwiches with selectable toppings and a handful of creative entrees round out the menu. The chipotle-miso sablefish is Manaligod’s design, a succulent, flaky filet served with sautéed corn salad, roasted poblano grits and pickled onions.
Finish out the meal with a s’mores mousse cheesecake accompanied by fresh strawberries and blueberries and a berry coulis.
The light and playful food pairs perfectly with the “calm but chill and trendy” vibe of The Fitz patio, which Manaligod says reminds her of Chicago’s rooftop bar scene. The large, sweeping deck is dressed in upscale mountain garb, a mix of dining room and comfortably cushioned settees surrounding flame-topped tables to fight back the summer evening chill, all hedged by the creek and the tiny corner garden below.