Dining among the sage | VailDaily.com

Dining among the sage

Wren Wertin
The Red Sky Ranch Guest Clubhouse is open to the public for lunches and special functions, weddings, parties or otherwise.

When Red Sky Ranch’s Director of Clubhouse Operations Harry Johnson described The Silver Sage restaurant as “rich ranch,” he got it exactly right. From the comfortable chairs overlooking the Greg Norman Course to the gleaming goblets filled with elixirs, Silver Sage is elite and unfussy.

“It might be a little arrogant and forward to describe it that way,” he said, apologetically, “but I’m going to go ahead and put it out there.”

Red Sky Ranch includes two golf courses, two clubhouses and several home sites, some of which are already built.

“The land itself is as pretty a spot as exists in the Eagle River Valley,” he said, waving his arm to include the rolls of sage, rock and endless blue sky that surround the property.

Members play one course, while guests play the other. It alternates daily. The Silver Sage is located in the member clubhouse, meaning only members and their escorted guests are allowed to eat lunch there. But in the evenings, it’s open to the public for dinner.

Because Thomas Salamunovich, owner of Larkspur in Vail, is lending his culinary expertise and passion to both Red Sky restaurants, it’s something the public should take advantage of.

“When I took this job, I was looking for a way the restaurants could get good, fast,” said Johnson, who has 35 years of experience in the business. “Thomas served personally as a consultant last year, and I chose to deepen the relationship to include the Larkspur culture. We’re not opposed to be stealing his reputation.”

The Larkspur culture includes Adam Baker, Stephanie Rainsford, Dan Kent and more. Everyone involved seems to benefit from the set-up. Red Sky Ranch benefits from Salamunovich’s experience and skill, while he gets an outlet for his excitable tendency to design, create and re-create. As for the staff, Larkspur’s busy season is winter. In the summer when business slows down in Vail, they go to The Silver Sage, which will be busy until the weather turns cold. Both restaurants get to keep experienced, well trained staff, and the staff gets regular income with very little off season.

The Silver Sage takes its name from the native plant that surrounds Red Sky Ranch; the menu takes its inspiration from the seasons. Written into Salamunovich’s contract is the promise of a restaurant garden on-site. When diners sit down at the table, they’re brought a plate of crudites, fresh bread and tapenade.

“It’s sort of old school,” said the chef. “And it goes with the idea that we want only very fresh vegetables, and organic when possible. We’re not fussy – we’re just ingredient-driven.”

As old school as crudites may be, they’re fresh and clean in flavor.

“There aren’t any new ideas,” said Salamunovich. “But it’s new again. I’m not interested in re-making Larkspur at Red Sky. It’s a whole different ball game. Here, we’ve got clean food with minimal fuss and manipulation. The key is, it’s got love.”

There’s still a hint of the exotic, no matter how down-home chicken-fried quail might sound. The dinner menu isn’t massive, but it does have something for everyone. In addition to a la carte selections of appetizer and entrees, there will be three tasting menus on a daily basis. One of the tasting menus will change each week, just to keep it interesting.

The Garden Menu is exclusively vegetarian, and the Ocean Menu features fish and seafood options. Anything else will go onto the Range Menu, from steak to chicken to beyond.

Salamunovich is quick to explain he’s not the executive chef of The Silver Sage – that’s Dan Kent. But he is the idea man, with the know-how to implement them.

“What he creates is a forum for creative people to express themselves,” said Johnson about Salamunovich.

The restaurant in the Guest Clubhouse is open to the public for lunch and special functions. Whereas the Member Clubhouse overlooks the Greg Norman Course, the Guest Clubhouse has views of the Tom Fazio Course. Wildflowers spring topsy-turvy from the gardens, and there’s an open-air patio for those craving sunshine. A tented area takes the guess-work out of weather forecasts the day of the party. Timothy McCaw, executive chef for Zach’s Cabin in Bachelor Gulch, is the chef de cuisine at the Guest Clubhouse.

“It’s really a flexible venue, because it can be used for a formal dinner or a laid back event,” said Brooke Himot, special events coordinator.

Either way, it’s still rich ranch.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.

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