Edwards’ ‘neighborhood kitchen’
“Your creative neighborhood kitchen.”That’s the tagline at Balata restaurant, the eatery located in the Sonnenalp Golf Club in Singletree. But for some people, especially non-Singletree residents, Balata isn’t top of mind when thinking about Edwards dining options. “I do think that people that don’t live in Singletree forget about Balata or maybe think you have to be a member to eat there,” said Edwards resident Michelle Connolly, who frequents the restaurant often.That’s just what General Manager Yoon Chough is hoping to change. This summer there will be monthly beer dinners with Crazy Mountain Brewing Company, the first of which is scheduled for Thursday, and a fun program called BB&B, which stands for Bubbles and Beer at Balata. You can buy a BB&B card for $100, which gets you a punch card with 30 punches. Beers are one punch, glasses of Champagne are two, and the cards can be used Monday through Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. There will be live music on Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. for BB&B starting May 31. And of course, there’s a new menu, designed by Executive Chef Steve Topple, It took Topple, who this winter redesigned the menu at Ludwig’s in Vail’s Sonnenalp, more than a month to write the new menu, he said.”This whole process took a long time to get together, more than any other menu concept I have done,” Topple said. “I really had been researching Edwards restaurants and wanted to come up with a slightly new idea; I felt like there was nothing like this in the area.”There is a lot of challenges with this restaurant as it has membership as well as the public, so we have to keep a few things on the menu that the members wanted, while keeping the costs down, as this restaurant is downvalley and tourists don’t travel downvalley, so our customers are locals and members of the golf club,” he continued.Topple changed around 90 percent of the menu, but kept a few member favorites, he said. He calls the fare “creative Southwest cuisine with a Colorado twist.”
During a press dinner earlier this month, members of the local media had a chance to items from the new menu, being served for the first time that evening. While the crispy blue crab spring roll, served with cucumber salsa and a ginger lime vinaigrette, was my favorite bite of the evening, Vail Daily special sections editor Wren Wertin liked the Laughing Bird shrimp and lime ceviche as well as the ahi tuna tacos, topped with pineapple salsa and cilantro dressing. While she dislikes mussels, that didn’t keep her from dipping into the rich white wine broth, heady with spicy Italian sausage, roasted garlic, tomatoes and parsley. “The broth was great with the garlicky grilled bread,” she said.The shrimp ceviche is one of the highlights of the menu for Topple. “The shrimp arrive fresh from Seattle Fish Company via Costa Rica,” he said. “They are the best shrimp – they’ve never been treated or frozen and the ingredients list shrimp and nothing but shrimp.”That same evening, Tricia Swenson of TV8 acclaim, opted for the New Mexico spiced pork tenderloin, flanked by apple-potato-chorizo hash and topped with bourbon ancho chili reduction, another of Topple’s favorites.”I usually order fish, but I wanted to check out the chorizo hash,” she said. “It was delicious, and a nice sized portion.”For Sous Chef Bradley Stieber, it’s the Wagyu flank steak with smashed potatoes, smoked black beans and grilled asparagus that he’s really excited about. “It’s the meat that’s so awesome,” he said. “Wagyu is basically kobe beef, just not from Japan. We get ours from Australia. The marbling is just great. Most people don’t like flank steak but this is just really tender. We grill it and top it with our housemade steak sauce, which has a nice smoked tomato base.”Since the new menu was introduced, the shrimp and scallop duo has been very popular, Stieber said. “It’s served with black quinoa, fresh grilled corn and a green tomato relish.”
For Swenson, Balata is anything but off the radar. She’s been frequenting the eatery for years. “Balata is one of my picks for one of the best decks in Eagle County,” she said. “I love the views – it’s cool to see Arrowhead from that angle. I love the lighting at the end of the day. It’s a good spot for sunsets. Though you don’t face west, you can see the alpenglow.”Connolly is also a big fan of the sunny deck. Connolly lives in Homestead, but dines at the restaurant often, usually ordering off the restaurant’s pub menu, opting for a burger, salad or “their awesome tacos,” she said. “I like the beautiful deck in the summer,” Connolly said. “The staff is awesome and friendly and remember you by name. You can get a great meal that isn’t crazy expensive and you can’t beat the atmosphere. You feel like you are in an upscale dining place but can relax and enjoy yourself and a great meal. They try really hard and are always very accomodating.”High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or email@example.com.