Mirabelle Celebrates 20 Years
In the summer of 1981, Vail Resorts (then VA), asked Luc Meyer to open the first fine-dining restaurant in Beaver Creek. They offered him a 30-year lease on a piece of land at the end of a ravine with an old farmhouse that was miles from the slopes, with no neighbors, no clientele and no guarantee.Far from the crowds of Vail, and with only the hype and hope that Beaver Creek/ Avon would grow, Meyer spent $1 million to expand and renovate the turn-of-the-century home into an 8,000 square foot restaurant (and residence) that he named Mirabelle.Today, Mirabelle at Beaver Creek is widely regarded as one of the top restaurants in the Vail Valley, and perhaps one of the best ski-town restaurants in the United States. This month, Mirabelle at Beaver Creek celebrates its 20th anniversary, and to commemorate the occasion, I met with the current owners, Daniel and Nathalie Joly, along with founder Luc Meyer to talk about the history, food and success of Mirabelle.3From the very first day we opened, recalls Meyer, 3we were busy. At that time, Mirabelle was in a class by itself at this end of the valleyS It was very well received and business was good. In fact, we were so busy that we had a hard time keeping upS and the chef left at the end of the season, said Meyer, who also founded The Left Bank Restaurant in Vail where he is still the owner and chef.Over the next decade, Meyer hired a number of different chefs and managers to operate Mirabelle, the last of which was Daniel Joly, a Belgian-born-wiz-kid-chef who took the reins in 1992<and never let go.Joly purchased Mirabelle in 1999 and has steadfastly maintained the European standards and style that earned Mirabelle its stellar reputation. Daniel Joly, who is one of only 80 master chefs from Belgium, is the hands-on executive chef of Mirabelle, while his charming wife, Nathalie, manages the wait staff and greets diners at the door.The food at Mirabelle is decidedly French, with a Belgian country-comfort twist. Joly is a classically trained chef, but has a keen notion of lighter, healthier cooking techniques.With all the culinary cross-dressing going on these days, its getting hard to distinguish culinary styles, especially when most chefs, including Joly, seem to shun labels. I suppose it1s like labeling art, or love. What may be just for the chef/artist is surely a challenge to the writer and reader. But I digress. Some of Joly1s preparations flit about the palate with lambent flavors that tease and entice, while others explode upon the taste buds in a full-flavored frontal attack.One of Joly1s signature dishes is Dover Sole. Having grown up in Belgium, where true Dover Sole is harvested from the bordering North Sea, Joly has a penchant for this fish. He has whole, fresh sole flown in from Europe three to four times a week. He cooks it on the bone, which helps maintain flavor and form, and then removes the bone while finishing it in a butter saut. The filet is then carefully folded over and placed in a delicate potato basket lined with spinach and carrots, then topped with a lightly-seasoned butter, truffle sauce. It is simply sublime.He also makes a great lamb chop, grilled 3my grand daddy1s style. The Colorado lamb is first seared, then grilled with a coating of garlic-rosemary- herb puree which forms a crust around the tender, succulent red meat. The dish is served with garlic-mashed potatoes and a skewer of vegetables grilled on a rosemary stem.If you like lobster, be sure to ask. Joly has a variety of lobster preparations that he fondly makes any time he can get good crustaceans. His foie gras appetizer is a must try<it1s served with caramelized apples, oranges and a sweet coulis made with tiny yellow Mirabelle plums from Alsace. Try it with a glass of Sauternes<one of the best food-wine pairings on earth.The wine list at Mirabelle is a mouth-watering read. It contains 245 selections including many older vintages and hard-to-find bottles. The wine card is predominantly French, with a strong collection of Burgundy and Bordeaux. There are also several pages of top California wines, including a vertical of Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet dating back nearly 10 years.For something a little different, I highly recommend the Trimbach Riesling, Cuvee Frederick Emile from Alsace. It1s a dry, crisp wine with lots of pear/apricot flavors and no food-spoiling oak. It goes great with almost all the appetizers and fish entrees.Wine prices are very fair at Mirabelle, with many older vintages selling below retail or auction prices, some even below the current restaurant wholesale price.3Our philosophy is to price wine so that people can afford something that they normally wouldn1t buy<something special and extraordinary that will help them remember their meal at Mirabelle, said Joly.It1s a refreshing departure from the egregious mark-ups that some restaurants use to price wines. And, it1s a pricing philosophy that works. I1m much more apt to splurge on wine if I can find a terrific bottle at a fair price, rather than spend less money on a mediocre bottle and feel swindled.The rest of the package at Mirabelle is first rate. The ambiance is distinctly European and romantic, like visiting a French country cottage. And the service is nearly impeccable.Mirabelle is located at the main entrance to Beaver Creek, just behind the guardhouse. It is open for dinner only, six nights a week, closed on Sundays. For information and reservations call (970) 949-7728.