The gourmet evolution of what comes from the earth |

The gourmet evolution of what comes from the earth

Shauna Farnell
EAT Terra Bistro Kevin BH 6-20

VAIL – Terra is indeed Latin for “earth,” but patrons will be hard-pressed to find hemp cookies and dandelion salads at the Terra Bistro in Vail.The earth connection comes in the form of gourmet variety at the Bistro, located inside of Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa. While the menu features such rich delicacies as lamb chops with goat cheese Stroganoff and potato-topped grouper with garlic spinach, the restaurant goes out of its way to avoid any kind of chemical-laden ingredients, and does its best to purchase as many menu items as possible from Colorado growers.”Our philosophy is that if it’s provided from the earth and can be manipulated, it’s what nature intended,” said Terra Bistro executive chef Kevin Nelson. “We always seek out Colorado growers. We use Colorado lamb and even have some Colorado cheeses from dairy farms around the state.”Despite the top-end nature of the Bistro’s cuisine and the Lodge and Spa’s accommodation and treatment offerings, the atmosphere at the Bistro is far from stuffy.

Locals’ choiceThe perpetual presence of a local crowd is evidence enough of the Bistro’s credibility. The Bistro’s year-round Appy Hour specials have made it one of the most popular happy hour venues in the valley.The specials, which run nightly from 5 to 7 p.m. in the summer, feature $5 gourmet appetizers, including the Bistro’s famed Thai beef rolls with avocado and cucumber, a Tempura scallop roll and mussels with lemongrass broth, to name a few.The special also includes $4 mixed drinks and $6 specialty cocktails. The Bistro’s cocktail menu also ranks among the best in the valley according to locals, and features a little something on the exotic side with a cucumber sake martini, a ginger lemonade and a pomegranate martini.”The Terra bistro has always been popular among locals,” Nelson said. “We’re laid back. We’re casual. We don’t put a lot of pressure on the fine-dining experience. We provide a lively atmosphere for people. We provide high-end quality food and drink, but we allow for people to take a relaxed approach.” While the Bistro doesn’t claim to fit any dietary standards, it does make healthful considerations for most of its dishes, especially for the summer.

“Our standard summer soup is spiced corn and sweet potatoes,” Nelson said. “When Colorado corn is in season, we start using it. We have a great avocado and butterhead lettuce salad that uses preserved lemon zest as the acid instead of vinegar, which is better for some people. We’ve even lightened up our signature Ahi.”Going light for summerThe Bistro’s Ahi tuna is prepared with the same ingredients used throughout its 10-plus year existence. With an exterior flecked with coriander and drizzled with tamari vinaigrette. The dish is now served with herbal salad and edemame and a rice noodle spring roll. “One of things people identify with us is our health-conscious approach,” Nelson said. “We use all natural, fresh ingredients. We use organic ingredients whenever possible. We try diligently to avoid chemicals in any products we buy.”Of course, some items at the Bistro are naturally healthier than others.

Running with the mindset that a glass of wine a day is the way to a healthier lifestyle, an abundance is there for the choosing on the Bistro’s substantial wine list. The list includes more than 700 bottles, half bottles and glasses of reds, whites, pinks and sparkling varieties, and also has a wide selection of special cellar selections. Sommelier Charlie Kimbrough has a knack for coaching patrons on how to be successful and adventurous with their wine and food pairings.Still using the freshest ingredients, the Bistro’s desserts lean toward indulgence, specifically the restaurant’s bittersweet chocolate molten, which is puffed up in the oven to a sticky, chocolate-lava filled condition before being served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.A volcanic touch”It’s really like a brownie batter,” Nelson said of the molten. “There’s a lot of chocolate in it. It’s baked to order. The flour and egg cooks, but we pull it out before the heat cooks all the chocolate.”Much research is put into every item for each course at the Bistro. And when the best ingredient combination is found, it comes down to the most minute spice or herb component.

“We have a way of creating our menu items where there’s something about it that people can remember or identify or get surprised by,” Nelson said. “We work on our menu items until we have all the flavors and textures we need to provide the ‘wow’ for the palate. There’s surprising nuances going on between flavors. Once we get there, we know the dish is complete.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 748-2936 or Vail, Colorado

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