La Tour: Seasonal food in the heart of Vail Village
VAIL, Colorado –La Tour in Vail, Colorado has changed things up a little, though it’s no great paradigm shift. Almost everything they serve is either locally grown, organic or both – including the bread and butter.
“We get 90 percent of our produce from Colorado farms,” Wilbanks says. The new sensibility is shown in items like the heirloom tomato salad with burrata-stuffed squash blossoms and a drizzle of basil vinaigrette, or the miso-marinated halibut served with tender baby bok choy.
They’ve also got a new concept on portions. There are no appetizers or entrees, simply courses.
“Each plate is bigger than an appetizer but smaller than an entree,” he says. And they’re priced accordingly. Two courses would be a light meal; a terminally hungry person could ease into four courses, maybe even five if he plans ahead.
ve really taken to the new list. It’s exciting.” And so is La Tour.
Wilbanks was a shoo-in for first place at the Lamb Cook Off with his gougere, lamb and pickled ramps concoction last April. The dish had so many fans it’s been reinvented and put on the La Tour menu. The lamb loin, dusted with citrus-y cumin, is fanned out in a smoked-pepper wine sauce. The seasonal sweet-pea puree is thick and addictive with the pickled onions. But the element that grabs you hook, line and sinker is the double goat cheese gougere. Technically you could hold it in your fingers, the crisp outside barely standing up to gravity. But at first bite it capsizes, deflating into its soft goat cheese center.
“The lamb actually passed the Dover sole in menu sales last week,” Wilbanks exclaims, triumphant. The sole, deftly handled and served with a lemony brown butter sauce, is the restaurant’s most famous dish. The chefs are always itching to try something new.
The latest addition to the bar is the square absinthe fountain, which is really an ice-water receptacle with spigots on the four sides. That green fairy, absinthe, is served in a cup with a little flat, slotted spoon in the shape of a shovel, emblazoned with the word clarity. (Ha.) A sugar cube rests on the spoon, which bridges both sides of the glass. Turn on the spigot and drip, drip, drip, the water emerges one cool droplet at a time, slowly melting the sugar and clouding the glass. It’s coy, a little bit smug and very, very cool.
“Absinthe was banned for almost 100 years in the U.S.,” Sommelier Paul Di Mario says. “We all want something we can’t have.”
Di Mario’s wine list is sporting new vintages, too. For the past year he’s expanded the list beyond the borders of France and the U.S. to incorporate the globe. Italy and Spain now have good representation. He’s had an inrush of more affordable wines, too, which include more than 100 bottles for under $60.
“It’s summer, so there are a lot of sparkling wines I’m pretty jazzed about,” he says. “People ha