Larkspur and The Fitz offer apres ski and more at Golden Peak

Kimberly Nicolleti
Special to the Daily
Chef de Cuisine Bill Fitzgerald creates a variety of desserts and wedding cakes.
Kimberly Nicoletti | Special to the Daily

VAIL — Longtime Vail locals and visitors think of Larkspur as one of the original fine dining establishments in the Vail Valley, but those new to town may not realize the father of the gourmet burger, Thomas Salamunovich, founded Larkspur in 1999 — and then went on to develop the gourmet fast food chain, Larkburger.

The award-winning restaurant offers lunch, apres bites and drinks during the winter, from noon to 4:30 p.m. It’s so popular as a wedding and large events venue in the summers that the restaurant closes to the public.

At approximately 10,500 square feet, Larkspur is one of Colorado’s largest independent fine-dining establishments, but that’s not the only reason it books out for events well in advance. The rooms flow into comfortable dining areas with spectacular Vail Mountain views and detailed interior design by Salamunovich’s wife, Nancy Sweeney. And then, there’s the cuisine.

Salamunovich trained in France, studied under Wolfgang Puck and cooked in renowned San Francisco and Paris establishments. He believes in making food with love and care, and it shows at Larkspur. His culinary team follows his dedication to locally sourced, fresh-food ingredients combined in creative ways and plated like artwork.

Chefs tailor every menu for each unique event in the summer, providing buffets for 800 people and a 14-course tasting dinner on the same day. So, to have the opportunity to savor Larkspur’s gourmet plates during the winter months is a unique treat for locals and visitors alike.

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Since Larkspur sits outside the main portals to Vail Mountain, in the ski area’s smallest base area, many people don’t realize it’s there. Yet, Golden Peak ski instructors and locals in-the-know have been enjoying apres ski specials at Larkspur for years. Favorite dishes include the veal paillard, the way-above-average grilled cheese and tomato soup, and, of course, the infamous Larkburger, complete with Creekstone Farms’ premium beef, Tillamook cheddar, housemade dijonnaise and hand-cut fries.

Larkspur’s apres ski specials offer a hefty discount off lunch prices — about 25 percent to 50 percent, and include dishes like trout amandine gougeres, Pacific Coast oysters and black truffle fries. Larkspur also provides popular grab-and-go breakfast items in its market, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Chef Remington Fleming joined the team this season after working as a private chef in Eagle and an executive chef at Vintage. He plans to continue the innovative spins on comfort food, while also bringing in the bold flavors of Hispanic and Asian influences. In fact, he spends about two months a year in Latin American and Asian countries to inspire new dishes.

Manor Vail’s The Fitz

Manor Vail and Larkspur often work together, as the hotel hosts wedding guests for receptions at Larkspur. But, in its own right, Manor Vail’s Fitz Bar & Restaurant, which re-opened with a fresh look and taste in December, is a lively spot for apres ski and is open from 3 to 10 p.m.

The modern Fitz is known for its elevated comfort food, creative cocktails, Colorado drafts and cool kids’ menu.

Standout dishes include the mac-n-cheese, Brussel sprouts with shishito, pancetta, pickled radishes and micro cilantro (grown on the premise); braised pork shank atop fried rice mix; ahi poke salad; roasted cauliflower and the colorful Boulder chicken with roasted squash.

Sandwiches include the dry aged beef, brined chicken breast and Impossible Patty with such toppings as bacon jam, avocado spread, mushrooms and fried egg.

The dinner menu offers Colorado mushroom risotto, roasted duck, steak and seared bass, while desserts top off a perfect fireside evening with s’mores cheesecake, chocolate cake or a rotating selection of local ice cream trios.

The Fitz’s extensive drink menu provides a plethora of whiskeys, gins, tequilas, vodkas, scotches and rums, as well as drafts, bottles and wines.

Manor Vail also serves breakfast buffets in winter, summer and fall; winter buffets include egg station with sides, juices, breads, fruits and more, from 7 to 10 a.m. daily.

Both The Fitz and Larkspur offer some of Vail’s finest mountainside dining and apres ski, so don’t let them slip off your radar.

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