Local discount low down
In many parts of the world, spring is an exciting time for diners. It means new menus, new ingredients, and a chance to finally dine outside. The same is true here, only in Vail Village, it also means your favorite restaurant may not be open. For chefs like Oliver Philpott, spring can be frustrating. “It’s a time of year when all the ingredients are finally here, but the customers leave,” he said. “The local farms are kicking it off, we get all this cool stuff, and for us, staying open means we can use all those great ingredients.”Philpott is the executive chef at La Tour in Vail Village, one of only a handful of restaurants to stay open during the off season, which generally runs through the end of May. Restaurants like La Tour, which do stay open throughout the off season in Vail Village, offer deep discounts April through May to entice the local clientele that is still here. “By doing the volume, we get to retain our staff and get to buy these fantastic ingredients,” said Philpott. He said some of his favorite new ingredients, which are featured on the restaurant’s brand new spring menu, include morel mushrooms, wild ramps and exotic peas.”Right now we have a pea dish that has five kinds of peas on it,” he said. “Peas are so perishable and sweet, we get them in just for that dish.”La Tour, located on Meadow Drive in Vail Village, is offering 50 percent off entrees during the off season. On a recent Saturday night they were packed full with diners.Down the road at Terra Bistro, also on Meadow Drive, the restaurant is offering a three-course menu for $39. They also just recently switched to a spring menu.”The trout is definitely something I would recommend on that menu,” said Marge Montiel, a server there. “Or maybe the cobia … it’s a nice, mild white firm fish.”Montiel said the spring menu is a lot lighter than the winter version. She said a good salad to try is their new spicy radish and sprout salad.
At Sweet Basil, a well-known restaurant named after a popular spring ingredient, Chef de Cuisine Brian Brouillard said the salads on their new menu are worth the trip.”Our spring vegetable salad is beautiful,” Brouillard said. “It’s vegan. On a plate it looks absolutely amazing.”Sweet Basil, located on Gore Creek Drive in Vail Village, will only be using their spring menu until June, so now’s the time to check it out and take advantage of the three-course dinner for $45. The top entree on the new menu is a crisp Rocky Mountain trout, served with grilled artichokes, dill, crushed potato and green garlic.”It’s the whole fish on the plate,” he said. On Bridge Street, Ore House, Vendetta’s and the Tap Room are still rocking. If you haven’t tried Vendetta’s outside of the late-night pizza menu, now might be a good opportunity to sample the true Italian fare in their fine dining area downstairs. All entrees there are currently $12 or less, with options such as shrimp gorgonzola, veal piccata and fettuccine alfredo. If you’re in the mood for a steak, Ore House has 50 percent off entrees right now including the Steak Ore House, a tenderloin served with applewood-smoked bacon, crab and chipotle bernaise. Check out the Tap Room for a great deal on lunch. They’re currently running daily specials; on a recent Sunday it was a barbecue club and fries for $6.95.The nice folks at Sushi Oka on Meadow Drive say the construction there has been killing them, and since an ingredient like sushi must stay fresh in order to serve it, they thought it better to close until the repairs outside their building cease. But they’ll reopen May 8 with 25 percent off the whole menu, and the hibachi grill will be sizzling and waiting for you. Owner Rick Woo and company also have May Palace in West Vail if you’re in the mood for Chinese; during the off season you can ask for a locals’ discount there and get 15 percent off your tab. Another great place for fish is Montauk in Lionshead. All their entrees are currently $25, and that includes lobster tail, tuna, salmon, trout, swordfish, catfish, mahi mahi, crab and shrimp. They just started up a spring menu, as well, and are open for dinner nightly starting at 5:30 p.m.
You’ll only catch Restaurant Kelly Liken, located in the Gateway building in Vail, open Wednesday through Sunday right now, but if you find yourself in the mood for a delicious meal on, say, a Monday, it’s well worth the wait. Among the items available on their discounted menu are the tender, succulent lamb cheeks, served with herbed spaetzle and a basil vinaigrette. “Everything is new, pretty much,” Chef de Cuisine Matt Limbaugh said of their spring menu, which was just initiated a few weeks ago. “I don’t know anyone in town who’s doing lamb cheeks… We have to special order them.” The lamb cheeks come from Mountain Meadows Farm in Colorado; Restaurant Kelly Liken’s goal is to use ingredients from local farms whenever possible. “We braise them for about two hours then throw them on the grill with Carolina-style barbecue sauce,” said Limbaugh. “They get caramelized right there on the grill. People seem to really like them.”Limbaugh has been looking forward to cooking with some of the ingredients he’s using now since last spring, he said.”We’re extremely seasonal – you won’t see tomatoes until it’s time for tomatoes,” he said. “All the new stuff comes in the spring, so that excites me.”Limbaugh said another locally produced and seasonal dish not to be missed is the gnudi, which is basically a type of gourmet cheese dumpling.”We get sheep’s milk ricotta from Fruition Farms, which is Alex Seidel’s farm,” said Limbaugh. “And all the vegetables are locally grown down the road in Sweetwater.”Restaurant Kelly Liken opens for dinner at 6 p.m.; they’re currently offering a three-course prix fixe for $45.