Game Creek Club
Editor’s Note: Locals living in the Vail Valley often exchange careers and money for the everyday recreation fun to be had in the mountains. This is the fourth story in the “Winter Quest for Fun” series that reveals some of our favorite activities, dinners, snow outings and more.
Game Creek Club wishes you and wends you to eat adventurously.
The quest began the moment we stepped aboard the gondola, sweeping us to the top of Eagle’s Nest. There, a Snowcat awaited to take our hungry souls over snowy mountains under starlit skies to Vail Mountain’s premiere restaurant.
A bright moon lit up vast ranges in the distance as my date and I stepped out of the purring coach, and the hearty aroma of grilled meat drifting from the Bavarian chalet ushered us inside. Once seated our waiter, James Holmes, greeted us. Two glasses of NV Pol Roger brut in hand, Holmes set the standard for the unassuming, yet knowledgeable service that did not waiver from champagne to dolce toast.
The first delicious morsels came in the form of the amuse bouche, smoked trout on a crispy wafer with a splash of tomato.
Happily amused, the surprisingly hearty tiger shrimp served as my first course in harmony with avocado parfait and pear tomato “confit” au aspic (cold jelly-like cubes). Holmes paired the seafood delight with 1997 Pascal Jolivet pouilly fume, for a similar taste profile. Meanwhile, my date dined on the sea scallops prepared in a traditional Tuscan-style relished caponata, a grilled eggplant, onion, celery and herbs, and olive oil watercress coulis. Light and crisp, the 2003 Simi Russian River Valley Reserve chardonnay paired seamlessly with the shellfish.
It didn’t take long to realize that not only did we set out on a concrete journey, but a palatable one as well.
“I try to keep it fun,” said Executive Chef Thomas Newsted. “I try to keep it modern.”
And by example, he whimsically sent out a steaming cupful of rich cauliflower veloute capped with chervil and chives brioche and a touch of Osetra caviar. Though however experimental the dish, Newsted refuses to put anything on the plate he wouldn’t eat himself.
With this in mind, I prepared for the next adventure, the second course ” braised Kurabuto pork belly. I don’t normally partake in pork, but Newsted’s version was cooked impeccably, firm but not hard. Delighting in a caramelized onion glace de viande and gorgonzola cheese fondue, I enjoyed the tender sampling in between sips of the light, yet smoky 2002 Belle Pente pinot noir. My date dined on the soft herbs chevre, tarragon-mustard dressing drizzled over butter lettuce and frisee served accompanied by a sweet, crisp 2003 Trimbach Riesling. Then to our surprise and thrill, with the main course yet to be served, Holmes revealed an intermezzo of apple sherbet in sparkling wine and mint garnish to cleanse the palette.
“It’s a lost art,” said General Manager Scott McConnell. “Especially when you’re doing specific wine pairings with courses. If the guests are foodies and winies, we’re prepared to knock their socks off. You need to deliver an experience that exceeds their expectations.”
For the third course, I indulged in the beef tenderloin rossini. A red beet and apple crusted La Belle Farms foie gras and black fig conserve perfectly balanced the tender cut. I was in a state of euphoria with my steak and glass of 2002 Amiral de Beychevelle. My date feasted upon the dry-aged bison, a lean New York strip served with a subtle kick from the ancho chili glace and habanero cornbread pave. The earth and spice of 2003 Joseph Drouhin pouilly-fuisse made for a perfect medley.
The chocolate lover that I am, the grand finale was no disappointment. We shared the sweetly divine double chocolate terrine set aside sweet rum raisin ice cream and kumquat jam, a creation of pastry chef Paula Turner. But I would be lying if I said he got more than a bite. A glass of 10-year tawny in hand, I toasted my dolce-drinking friend to a journey indeed. But it was not over.
On the way back, our Snowcat driver took us on an extended tour to the western rim of Eagle’s Nest. There, we stepped out into the moonlight for a moment, while he pointed out the mountain ranges and constellations hanging over our heads, before we descended on the gondola ” our quest a success.
Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14641, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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