Over the river and through the woods to Zach’s Cabin we go | VailDaily.com

Over the river and through the woods to Zach’s Cabin we go

Gabrie Higbie
Photo: Bret Hartman

From the snowcat-drawn sleigh-ride to the beautifully crafted log structure with spectacular views of the Gore Range, Zach’s has the market cornered on what is unique and special about this valley.

One of the best features of Zach’s Cabin is that, unlike some of its sister restaurants, the fare is offered a la carte. The prices are comparable to those at any restaurant off-mountain, ranging from $21-$39 an entree, and that includes the cost of the sleigh ride.

The evening begins at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. Be certain to leave ample time to get there. You will need to take a shuttle bus from the West lot of Beaver Creek, unless you choose to pay for valet service at the Ritz-Carlton. The shuttles run regularly, but plan on arriving at the lot at least an hour before your scheduled sleigh departure.

Once you board the sleigh, you will ride up the Bachelor Gulch hill in a true winter wonderland. We happened to go on a night of a full moon, and very little rivals the romance of that. The ride lasts approximately 10 minutes, and is quite cold, so dress appropriately. They do provide blankets for snuggling under the stars. You will arrive at the front door of Zach’s Cabin, where you hang your coat and find cubbies full of fuzzy slippers in all sizes for your dining comfort.

Despite the fanfare of transportation, the real star of the evening is Chef Tim McCaw’s vision of American cuisine with a Pacific flair. A good starter is a glass of champagne from the J Winery in Sonoma County. The bubbly is the perfect combination of sweet and dry and accompanies the crab fritters ($12) perfectly. The fritters are made of lump crab meat, are fried to a perfect golden brown and topped with pesto aioli and tomato brunoise. They are nutty and light in flavor, and extremely fresh. If you are a more adventurous eater, the seared Hudson Valley foie gras ($16) is worth the journey. McCaw uses a fattened duck liver and serves it with Asian pear chutney topped with a black currant vinegar reduction. This extremely rich and buttery treat is accompanied very well by a glass of the sweet wine, the classic Dolce by Far Niente.

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Zach’s house salad ($8) provides a refreshing way to cleanse the palate before moving on to the main course. Consisting of baby mixed greens tossed with a champagne vinaigrette, it’s topped with grilled onions, caramelized apples, toasted walnuts, gorgonzola crumbles and balsamic syrup. The combination provides a light mix of flavors highlighted by the balsamic syrup. This is a great salad, of main-course proportions. It pairs beautifully with the light and sweet Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc.

The entrees provide a wide variety of choices for all kinds of eaters. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a carnivore, you’ll find something to delight your senses. The chef’s favorite is the oven-roasted half rack of Colorado lamb ($38) with sweet potato puree, haricot vert, and baby carrots over huckleberry demi glace. Topped off with the Robert Mondavi Oakville cabernet you can’t go wrong.

If you prefer a meal on the lighter side, the seared yellowfin cumin-and-ginger-encrusted tuna ($29) is topped with an oriental relish and sweet soy sauce served with curried rice and seasonal vegetables. At times, tuna can be tricky, but Zach’s has it down. The sweet soy sauce tempted me to lick my plate.

For those with any room left, the banana bread pudding is worth every calorie.

Zach’s Cabin has paid close attention to detail in its design and presentation. From the extensive wine list to the wine glasses, the butter with just a hint of honey to spread on the fresh warm bread, to the varied and thoughtful menu, the experience is a delight.

Zach’s is open during lunch to members of the Ritz-Carlton Club, but dinner is accessible to all. You can treat yourself to this experience Thursday through Saturday evening through the remainder of the ski season. Five sleighs depart each night, beginning at 5:15 p.m. The rides run in 45-minute increments. You’ll experience an intimate setting no matter what time you go, as the crowds are staggered appropriately. Zach’s is also available for weddings and large groups. Call 845-6575 for reservations.

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