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Vail Valley (mostly) Notes

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Wife and I made a quick trip here this week. Here are some brief thoughts about the food this time.

Lunches:

Larkburger in Edwards -- wonderful burgers, including the Truffleburger with truffle aioli. Great thin-cut fries, regular and with truffle oil and parmesan.

The Bear's Den in Grand Lake -- not the Vail Valley, but on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park and the beautiful Ridge Road. Wouldn't recommend it. Just typical diner food served to a bunch of tourists.

E-Town in Edwards -- good, not great. Wife had a Caesar salad with salmon and I had the special fish and chips. Just OK. I really liked the space -- very open and inviting.

Picnic at the top of Spraddle Creek Road -- picked up some roasted chicken, cheeses, crackers, salads, olives, pickles, etc. from Vail Gourmet in Avon and took it all up on the mountain for a great lunch far, far from any manmade noise.

Dinners:

Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek -- This place is consistently outstanding. Good crabcake appetizer and spinach salad. Excellent take on walleye with Ritz cracker crust. Over the top lamb dish, with medium rare roasted rack and braised shank. Tres leches cake is incredible.

Ribeyes and fixings at home -- Stopped by Middle Park Meat Co. in Kremmling, Colorado for the first time. We had heard of a good meat market in Kremmling and finally found it. They have Choice grade beef that they age themselves. Had them cut two thick ribeyes that had a superb flavor when grilled medium rare. They do beef, pork, sausages, deli meats and jerky. A neat little place to stop in and visit with the owners.

Fiesta's in Edwards via Ala Car -- Pretty good way to do Saturday night dinner is to call up Ala Car with your Fiesta's order and let them bring it to you. Had good shrimp enchiladas in blue corn tortillas, excellent chile verde and great chicken rellenos, an off-menu item they will prepare on request. Not bad for a TV tray meal.

Didn't have the time to do a full-blown culinary tour. Maybe next time. There really are lots of great places to eat here. Hope to be back sometime with an extended amount of time to do it right.

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  1. Maybe next time you can make it to Juniper. They are the best dinner stop in the entire Vail Valley. Larkspur is also fantastic. In Edwards you need to hit Eat! Drink! either for lunch dinner, take out or wine and picnic supplies!

    1. The Bully Ranch in Vail Village (located in the Sonnenalp Resort) is my favorite. It's out-of-the way, not as touristy, and therefore much less expensive. They are known for their mudslides. The BBQ is also very good---I like the pulled pork sandwich topped with cole slaw. If there's a wait they will send you to the King's Club next door. It's a much more formal atmosphere, but no one minds if you aren't dressed up. It's a nice place to have a drink and listen to music before dinner.

      1. RiverR,
        Thanks for taking the time to update us. I surprised by other folks who don't take the time to read earlier posts. If they did they would know you had alerted us to Larkspur, Juniper and Disha long time ago. As far as Bully Ranch goes, every time I've had to go there to meet out of town visitors, all I ever seen there is out of town visitors (flatlanders). I rather walk across the street to Bottega.

        I tried the new Vista in Arrowhead. The price on the "mains' are about 40% higher than when it was in Avon. The setting is very nice, food quality is good, but they need to work out service. It doesn't appear to be the old crew. Parking is a problem, you can't use the lot across the street unless you valet, but there are no valets available.

        I did Dish again last Thursday. Its probably where I'm going to go in Edwards from now on, until it gets overwhelmed. Polly made sure she checked with every table and helped with wine selections I even saw the Eagle County Sheriff sitting at the counter. Junipter is really good, but they still don't understand that they must take care of the locals when things get busy. Larkspur knows how to do that.

        Did you checkout the Hyatt when you were here?

        3 Replies
        1. re: BlueOx

          Didn't make it to the Hyatt. As a matter of fact, I didn't set foot in the village while I was there! Golden Eagle was still not open for dinner -- they said they were trying to serve lunch but not taking reservations because of the unpredictable weather. We have never tried Bully Ranch, but have been to Bottega for lunch and liked it. Of course, Juniper, Larkspur and Dish are old standbys. Ate at Vista when it was in Avon. I thought it was good and very reasonably priced. Wife wasn't crazy about it, but I think that's because it was very reasonably priced!

          1. re: BlueOx

            And just so there is no misunderstanding, if I want my wife to know I said that I will be sure to tell her!

            1. re: BlueOx

              Hmm. To me, the presence of "flatlanders" at the Bully Ranch has nothing to do with the food. Perhaps it is touristy (as is everything in Vail), but the food is great.

            2. Thanks so much to all CHers because we ate very well on our week-long stay in the Vail valley this month due to all of you! Hits:

              Larkburger (Edwards): Went there twice. Truffleburger is great, but cheeseburger is, too. Thin-cut parmesan-truffle fries sprinkled with parsley. This is what fast food should be.

              Eat! Drink!/Dish (Edwards): We were so impressed with the panini and crostini at the wine bar (Eat! Drink!) that we returned for dinner at Dish the next night. Panini were really a bargain for the quality of the ingredients, and they come with a side salad covered in pine nuts! ($9). Mine was smoked turkey-fontina-sliced pears-cherry compote. The pairing with a crisp German riesling was perfect. Generous wines by the glass for $4.50-$9. Crostini were also excellent, with delicious fresh cheeses.

              Dish was fun but a bit inconsistent. However the quality of the ingredients was excellent, and if you are interested in good wine they do a flat $25 markup over retail. Obviously that works in your favor if you want to buy a more expensive bottle, and they have a lot of interesting stuff. They also have a good variety by the glass which can also be ordered by the quartino or half bottle. We were steered to a reasonably priced super-tuscan (100% sangiovese) that was a great choice. Three of us did the $40, 7 course prix fixe and the other was less hungry and ordered 3 dishes. They made several off-menu items for the prix fixe. The standouts were a carrot-sage soup and a pork loin (served gloriously medium rare!) on white bean-quinoa-citrus with watercress. Desserts were quite good. The place is a bit loud due to hard surfaces, but the open kitchen is fun, the staff very friendly and excited about what they are doing. With a group of 2 or 3 I would sit at the bar that looks into the kitchen.

              No Se Hagan Bolas (Avon): Means roughly "don't be confused". Don't confuse this with various Americanized Mexican places--this is a real western Mexican food, just fabulous. Barbacoa of beef cheek was the standout meat for me, but everything was just excellent. Great salsas, too. I loved the tacos but plump tortas are what most of the Mexican clientele are chowing on.

              Red Lion (Vail): Great beers and the pulled pork sandwich was pretty darn good.

              Beaver Creek Chophouse (Beaver Creek): Similar beer-lunch spot with surprisingly good salads and fish tacos.

              Shopping:
              Bookworm cafe (Edwards): good espresso.
              The Kitchen Collage store in the same shopping center has an amazing variety of high quality stuff. Seriously, you can spend an afternoon there if it's raining or something.

              Middle Park Meat Company: If you will be grilling or cooking, the 1.5 hour drive (from Avon where we were, shorter from Vail) to Kremmling is a must. Award winning thick-cut bacon (heaven on the grill), homemade red wine salami, and excellent dry-aged meat (though only 2 weeks). The longer drive back to I-70 via CO Rtes 134 and 131 to Wolcott is gorgeous--you see a lot of very happy-looking black angus steers roaming the valleys.

              7 Replies
              1. re: kenito799

                kenito799 (and I'll ask Blue Ox this as well) -- Do you buy Dish's claim that they are pricing all their wines at $25 over retail? The reason I ask is that the last two times we were there we got two bottles that I don't think fit that profile. A bottle of Jellyroll Syrah was listed on their menu at a price in the mid-80s and a bottle of JuxtaPosition Cab was about the same price. We bought the Jellyroll from a website for $32.99 and a bottle of the JuxtaPosition at Central Grocery in Dallas for about $40. As far as we can tell you can't find either of them any more, which makes my wife sad, but still it just doesn't look to me that they are just charging $25 more than retail for all their wine. Of course, their retail shop, Drink!, may charge so much that those prices really were only $25 above retail.

                1. re: ddavis

                  I am not familiar enough with the retail values of the wines in the $60+ range on their list to judge whether the claim was reasonable...but judging from the prices in the shop of wines I recognized (I buy in the under $20 range mostly), their retail was at least 20-30% more than what I pay in NYC. The best wine values on their list might be the by the glass/quartino selections.

                  The Tuscan we had was La Spinetta Il Nero di Casanova, which was $48 I think. $23 is full retail for that wine, but of course it can be had for $17 fairly easily, less with case discounts, etc. It's a good wine and we appreciated the recommendation. The markup is pretty typical, I guess (don't get me started on how frustrating it is to drink wine in restaurants in the US compared to Europe!)

                  1. re: kenito799

                    Dick and Kenito, I think you nailed it. Dish is probably pricing at $25 above their wine shop (Drink!) prices. Its a boutique wine shop and those prices are about 25% higher than Applejack. I've only found 2 wine stores in the Valley that can have some good deals, the one located next to Costco (not Costco owned because of the stupid wine laws in Colorado that do not allow grocery stores to sell wine or "real" beer). The other is West Vail liquors next to Safeway. At West Vail you have to watch for the deals, but they still give you a case price on sale items.

                    I do a trip to Applejack and Argonaut once a quarter and stock up. Neither store will deliver to Eagle County. Because I feel ripped off when I go out to eat, I either order one wine by the glass or a microbrew (and have a nice bottle when I get home). And I go out to eat a lot less. The wine CH board has a lot to say about this.

                    So I think Dish! probably uses the $25 guideline for the wines under $30 in the store. I did notice that lot's of the younger folks were drinking mixed drinks, rather than wine, the last time I was in there.

                    1. re: BlueOx

                      Thanks for the info on where to buy wine in the Vail valley! I thought high wine prices were something you have to live with in the mountains.

                      We managed to land a couple bargains at the wine store on the main drag in Frisco. I found a dusty stack of a 97 Ribera del Duero for $10, wish I had been able to bring a case of that home, it was rich and oaky in that Spanish way and aging well.

                      Eat Drink does have a nicely chosen selection and knowledgeable staff, which is worth something. I have to reiterate how perfect the Van Hovel riesling was with my panino!

                      The cocktails at Dish were quite creative and looked great, that is another good option there.

                      1. re: kenito799

                        I am not sure why a $25 mark-up would a considered a good deal? If you order a $50 bottle of wine, that would be a 50% mark-up and a $25 bottle a 100% mark-up, which does not seem out of line with what most restaurants charge.

                        And just an FYI BlueOx, while Colorado liquor laws are indeed stupid, as I understand it, state law does not prevent grocery stores from selling real beer or wine, it does however prevent more then one store in each chain from selling liquor. Both the Target and Whole Foods near me sell alcohol, but they are the only Target and WF in Colorado to do so as far as I know. Actually the Whole Foods has a pretty nice wine selection. Hopefully one day liquor sales law in Colorado will change.

                        1. re: ColoradoFun

                          I just discovered that Target yesterday and was very surprised. I've moved south from the northern 'burbs and live very close to the Whole Foods that sells wine and beer and the Target is a reasonable distance. I agree that Colorado liquor laws need an overhaul.

                          And, yes, I agree, Dish sells their wine at $25 above Drink's prices, not above what we in the Front Range would expect to pay for wine. I had their Salty Dog mixed drink while there and loved it! It's my new drink of choice.

                          1. re: ColoradoFun

                            a lot of restaurants will do a 100% markup over retail no matter what the price, $50 for a $25 wine, $100 for a $50 wine, etc. No it isn't an especially good deal for less expensive bottles at Dish, but most people would consider drinking a $100 bottle of wine in a restaurant for $125 to be a good deal.