Visit Leonora in The Sebastian Vail for upscale wine, tapas and more (video) | VailDaily.com

Visit Leonora in The Sebastian Vail for upscale wine, tapas and more (video)

By Kim Fuller Special to the Daily

Editor's Note: This article was previously published as a paid feature in EAT, a compendium of restaurant snapshots featuring the best in Vail Valley dining. Look for it on newsstands everywhere.

By Kim Fuller
Special to the Daily

One of Vail's best-kept secrets is drawing some attention. Leonora in The Sebastian – Vail has a revitalized menu that's being brought to life by the restaurant's new leader, executive chef Tyson Peterson. Peterson recently joined the team in Vail after a sous chef post at The St. Regis Deer Valley.

Tapas have always been a highlight at Leonora, and now the menu has expanded to offer large-format options, including ingredient-inspired entrees, whole-animal butchery and prime beef and game selections.

Get a round of shared plates to begin, including an order or the melt-in-your-mouth applewood bacon biscuits with roasted poblano peppers and whipped local honey butter. Peterson has kept elements of comfort food on the menu, like these divine biscuits, but has also included a variety of vegetable tapas that really hold their own. Try the roasted cauliflower with edamame pesto and lime, and the brick-oven-roasted carrots with mint and white miso yogurt.

"Even when I was a young cook, I was trained to let things taste like what they are supposed to taste like," shares Peterson. "A carrot should taste like a carrot. Vegetables don't have to be supplementary – sometimes they are the star of the show."

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These lighter dishes do stand out on the tapas menu, along with savory choices like the crispy octopus a la plancha, shrimp al ajillo, and the salmon crudo.

With the large plate options, substantial portions of protein steal the spotlight. Local trout comes brick oven-roasted and accompanied by kale, roasted turnips and herbed tomatoes, and a mouthwatering duck leg confit is splayed atop roasted root vegetables and crispy leeks with an orange-cherry jam.

Peterson's style of allowing the ingredients do the talking is most apparent with his clean preparations for beef and game: cuts like bison, beef tenderloin and ribeye served simply with a choice of sauce.

Dessert makes a star appearance as well, from gourmet hot chocolate to maple-pecan cheesecake from the talents of pastry chef Laura Kretzing.

The fun doesn't stop at dinner. Leonora also offers a popular Sunday Funday Brunch featuring the Bottomless Bloody Mary and Prosecco Bar, as well as classic and creative brunch selections served tapas style.