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Oct 6, 2008 05:40 PM

Restaurant Avondale -- Avon, CO

We eagerly looked forward to our first meal at Thomas Salamunovich's new Restaurant Avondale in the new Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. We were not disappointed. As a matter of fact, we were charmed.

Complimentary front-door valet parking is a good start. The lobby of the hotel is beautifully simple and the walk to the restaurant is reminiscent of the stroll to Dean Fearing's new place in Dallas inside the Ritz Carlton. (As a matter of fact, it is also similar to the entry to Centre V at Arrabelle in Vail, but that's a whole other story!) At any rate, the restaurant itself continues the simple theme with a lovely and lively bar and a relaxing, low-key dining room. It does remind one somewhat of Salamunovich's original spot -- Larkspur in Vail.

The menu, although having some hints of Larkspur, is very different, not only from the very size of the menu but also from the price point. Unlike Larkspur, which is definitely in the "fine dining" category, Avondale takes a step down and attempts to be more casual -- witness the waitstaff dressed in jeans and aprons. The menu offers five "for the table" appetizers, including Market Vegetables with Red Pepper Hummus, Green Goddess and Pita Chips, PEI Mussels "a la Plancha" with Squid and Lemon Butter, and House Made Sausages with Black Walnut Mustard. The menu continues with five Cured Meats and Cheeses offerings, seven Soups & Salads, five Starters, seven Pizza and Pastas, three Seafood offerings, two Poultry dishes, three Meats and a host of Vegetables & Grains.

Prices are refreshingly modest for the Vail area. Starters top out at $13 for 6 West Coast Oysters with Cucumber-Champagne Mignonette. Pizzas and Pastas range from $13 for Late Summer Margherita Pizza to $21 for Fettuccine, Puttanesca, Shellfish and Tuscan Beans. Main courses run from Pacific Coast Skate for $19 to Grilled Scallops and Shrimps with Romesco Potatoes and Melted Leeks for $25. Roasted Rosie Chicken for 2 with Onion Rings and Gypsum Vegetables is $39.

We started with a salad of Alaskan King Crab with Grilled Avocado and Sun Gold Tomatoes ($12) and California Sardines with Jamon Serrano, Olive Crumble and Marcona Almonds (also $12). The sardines were excellent -- the crab salad was fabulous. Great presentation and wonderful flavors. Our entrees were an off-menu seafood dish of Monkfish with Chick Peas, Fennel Slaw and Garlic Aioli ($23) and Pork English Cut Spare Ribs with Corn Spoon Bread Pudding and GreenTtomato Vinaigrette ($19). The fish was very good but the spare ribs were really special. Our waiter told us they are braised for 24 hours. The way they fell from the bone makes me believe it. The flavor was just incredible.

We did not have dessert because we ended the meal with a Farmstead Cheeseboard with House Preserves and Solar Dried Tree Fruit (aka dried apricots). Three cheeses -- Humboldt Fog, marinated chevre and one other whose name I can't remember -- served with housemade saltines that were wonderful. It was a great ending.

Service was a little clumsy to start, but after a couple of blunders (one person not knowing what another was doing) it smoothed out and was fine. Timing was good and unrushed but not too slow. Several management-types, including Jelena, the GM, stopped by the table to ask how things were. All waitstaff were friendly and accomodating.

Okay, so as you can tell, I like this place. I was afraid it would compete with Larkspur, but it is completely different. I won't even try to compare the two. This place seems to me to fit into a niche that has no competition in the area.

Highly recommended.

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  1. Thanks for the detailed review. We will be dining there the weekend after next and I hope our experience is as good as yours.

    1. You really sampled some of the best dishes of the restaurant, ddavis. The sardines are definitely a real treat, and if someone has never tried fresh sardines, this is the place to try them! Everyone has been saying that Avon needs a restaurant just like this, for all meal times. The views up to BC from the dining room cannot be matched in the valley! The team there seems to be putting their heart in soul into the restaurant, and by winter operation should be flawless. I will be a repeat customer!

      1. Since we were staying at the posh new Westin, we ended up eating here three times! While I will never like any Westin as much as their younger, hipper, up-market cousins the W, I have to say this is the nicest one I’ve stayed at (and I was just at a brand spankin’ new one in Orlando in August). Clean, modern-ish design aesthetic without being too edgy—kind of like if you moved into Room and Board in Cherry Creek. The comfortable feel continues to the dining room at Avondale. Sprawling bar with a mirror overhead. Area off from the bar with seats surrounding a currently-extinguished fire pit. The only thing I could do without are the banquette fabric coverings which appear to be parts of letters arranged in incomprehensible patterns.

        Peeked into the Market first, which has a few things on offer (Caesar salad, salumi/cheese plates, spinach/potato/cheese breakfast burritos, coffee drinks, smoothies, gelato, shelves full of snacks/chips/chocolates, peach salsa from Palisade, house-made caramel and chocolate sauces) with the promise of more things to come soon (pizzas and other hot items, sandwiches, pastries, more salads, etc.). This will be a fantastic spot once they ramp up.

        We wandered in and sat at the bar at Avondale for lunch (and conveniently RSVP-ed for our evening’s dinner reservation). The hostesses were very friendly and welcoming, and seemed surprised that I had already found them on Open Table. While looking over the menu, my first thought was, “How does anyone decide what to eat here since everything sounds wonderful?” House-made charcuterie, pizzas, pastas, mussels, skate wing and remoulade sandwich…and a $14 Larkburger (which is also available from room service for the princely sum of $19 plus a 2.50 service charge and 20% gratuity…yikes…or from the chef’s joint in Edwards down the road a bit for just 5.75 + 1.95 for basic Larkburger ‘n fries). We didn’t want to go too crazy since we would be eating there again in a few hours, so we opted to split the raw vegetables (fennel, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, radishes, tomatoes) with red pepper hummus and green goddess dressing (whose vivid colors were set off beautifully by being served in stark-white, square-shaped receptacles). I preferred the green goddess, as the hummus wasn’t as spicy as I’m accustomed to, but both were excellent accompaniments to the super-fresh, well-presented veggies. We both thought the pita chips were a bit too hard. We were brought out some crusty bread and a lovely parsley/garlic/olive/olive oil/caper/anchovy concoction to dunk the bread into. Also tucked into half a dozen West Coast oysters with a cucumber-Champagne mignonette, although I regrettably didn’t finish in style by tipping back the mignonette like it was a shot as this board’s tatamagouche is known to do.

        So my first impressions were very positive. It’s just the kind of place I love—like Frasca in Boulder or Dish in Edwards—and would patronize frequently if I were a local.

        On to dinner. We were told they had a green initiative going of house-distilled sparkling and still waters (the same spiel we received at a couple of other places this month). We started with a couple of glasses of Domaine Chandon but weren’t allowed to sit and enjoy it with the bread, as our starters arrived way too quickly. This comes down to training on proper pacing. If someone orders a cocktail or glass of bubbly to start (and has different wines paired with their meal choices), let them enjoy their aperitif instead of rushing into the first course. I still had some of the sparkler left by the end of the meal. It also shouldn’t be too much trouble to have your servers memorize which wines (especially from the by-the-glass list) pair with which dishes so they can offer suggestions. Hopefully all of this will come with time, as this is still a new establishment finding its way in the off-season. Service is energetic and friendly—just needs a bit of polish. The food makes it all worth it.

        I ended up with a 1/2 glass of a Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with the Alaskan King Crab Salad with grilled avocado and sun gold tomatoes. This was tasty, but I truthfully made a crab salad this summer using items from the Boulder Farmer’s Market that to my own befuddlement I remember enjoying more (although Avondale’s crab was better than what I procured at Whole Paycheck). As soon as I tasted Mr. rlm’s Potato Leek Soup, I knew I should have gone with my first instinct and ordered that. It contained smoked rainbow trout and came with a crostini topped with orange roe. God, it was good. For the main, I had the Pollo a la Plancha with Nancy’s potatoes (although I have no idea who Nancy is, she does have a way with taters), squash, and truffle jus. Well-seasoned, and a perfectly-sized portion. I think they just made chicken sexy. This was with a ½ glass of a Pinot Noir. While trying to decide between the two they had on offer by the glass (one from Oregon and one from Sonoma), our server told me the Penfolds was the best. Well, yes, if I actually wanted an Australian Shiraz. Heh heh. I couldn’t resist trying the side of blistered chick peas with sweet 100 tomatoes and piquillo peppers. The bites including the hot, juicy tomatoes were fantastic, but once they were gone, the crispier-than-one-normally-eats-them chick peas felt a bit too dry in my mouth. Mr. rlm had the English cut pork spare ribs with corn spoon bread pudding and green tomato vinaigrette (which he gave me a smidgen of). Fantastic, melt-in-your mouth, spin-around-and-dance-in-your-chair kind of food.

        The next day after a trip to the Westin’s sparkly-new gym, we would have eaten breakfast instead of lunch but the bar didn’t open until lunch service began at 11:30. (No mimosas or bloody marys at breakfast? That’s criminal.) We prefer sitting at the bar anyway, as I think you often get the best, most attentive service there. Side note: The lobby bar in the hotel is currently closed. We were told it was built incorrectly and they are going to have to rip the whole mess out and start over.

        After growing up on the stuff (I swear I had a t-bone to suck on instead of a rattle while cutting baby teeth), I’ve only had beef once since July, but couldn’t resist being evil for my birthday weekend and splitting with my better half a small starter of three veal meatballs with Anson Mills polenta, mushrooms, and beef broth. If you’re going to fall off the wagon, do it in style like this, baby. I followed this up with a painfully-good mushroom pizza with pretty green rocket leaves, house-made ricotta, and truffle oil (the inclusion of the latter caused Mr. rlm to refer to it as a Larkpizza). Mr. rlm had the pepperoni, pancetta, fennel, and sausage pizza. This was the only time we weren’t offered the bread and tapenade, although we weren’t hungry enough to inquire as to why.

        For scientific research purposes only, we made a nice dent in the beverage menu over the course of the weekend. (Because I care about all you Chowhounds, my liver took one for the team.) First up was the Purkisset (Hendricks gin, rosemary, lemongrass, lychee, lime), named for their food and beverage manager Richard Purkiss. This was the best-flavored of the bunch, although it didn’t turn me into a narco-terrorist like the other Percocet. Worst drink of the bunch was probably Mr. rlm’s Capiruva (Cachaca rum, muddled grapes, turbinado sugar, lime). I like caipirinhas, so perhaps this was just a botched attempt (as I swear we could have used it as lighter fluid for the Weber). The Pink Manther looks like a foofy drink but isn’t really (Jim Beam rye, honey hibiscus-which gives it the shocking-pink color, acqua dulce, fresh lemon, and soda). We were told the “manther” is the male version of the youngster-prowling cougar. (See what you can learn from your friendly bartender while dining out, kids!) The Cuke-a-Racha (Don Julio Blanco, cucumber mash, lime, Thai chili infused simple syrup) had a nice kick, although it’s still not as good as Rioja’s Loca Hot (before they tamed it into a Loca Warm). The Beaver Berry Infusion just sounds wrong (which is probably the point). The seasonal berry-infused vodka consisted of blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries and was mixed with lemonade. Ehh. The Cucumber Flower (Hendricks gin, sake, St. Germain, cucumber “floaties”) was another good one. The house bloody mary was requested spicy. Had a fresh flavor but wasn’t as mouth-tingling as others I’ve had (although the mixologist swore he dumped a bunch of cayenne in there). We are freakish anomalies on the spice tolerance front, so our experience is probably not indicative of that of the general populace. They pour a tasty mojito as well, although the squat glasses were a little odd. The Nuts and Berries is a good faux-tini (Frangelico, Chambord, half and half) which won’t threaten your manhood even though it’s pink and creamy. I only had a few sips of the Mr.’s Platino 96 but enjoyed it (Cuervo Platino, mint, bitters, and topped with domestic Domaine Chandon sparkling wine, which is listed as Champagne on the menu).

        Which brings me to a side rant: Why don’t more restaurants teach their staff the differences between Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, sparkling wine, etc., instead of having them refer to every bubbly as “Champagne.” GAH! I’m not even French and this pisses me off.

        I do like that they offer ½ glasses of wine and affordable options by the bottle and half-bottle. But why even have a Rose section on the by-the-glass menu if you’re only going to offer a white zinfandel? I know being in a hotel you have to appeal to tourists and white zin drinkers help subsidize those of us who enjoy real wines (hee hee…yes, I’m being snarky), but I think great restaurants can gently nudge people into expanding their horizons. We all have to start somewhere. (“Why don’t I bring you out a taste of a lovely Rose from Bandol?”) Then bring the white zin sipper out a complimentary splash of the rose and tell them something interesting about the wine. Turn them into the customers you love! You know, the ones who will come back and progressively get more adventurous and spend more money the more you educate them. :-)

        The summer menus are still up on the site (although they have moved into the nifty autumn ones).

        9 Replies
        1. re: rlm

          RLM, thanks for the detailed report on Avondale. The decorating in the restaurant was done by Nancy, who is Thomas' wife. The letters on the banquette fabric are repeated in much of the design work along the new Avon main street. It drawn lots of comments, but to me it appears to spell Avon in some convoluted way. And as you noted, Avondale is trying to have as many 1/2 bottles as they can stock to allow folks to sample wines new to them. And the lead barman is from Larkspur and has always been very helpful.

          1. re: rlm

            Holy crap, what a report, rlm! Nice going. Not only is it wonderfully vivid and funny, it gives me horrible guilt pangs for having gone up there 2 or 3 weeks ago to no avail—I have precious few memories of the whole experience since we started drinking pretty much the moment we got there. I do remember these cylindrical glass vases full of long strips of beef jerky along the bar, and was curious to determine whether that would be a regular gimmick (though apparently not curious enough to follow through)...did you happen to notice any?

            Sigh. That potato leek soup sounds superb.

            1. re: tatamagouche

              Well, we started drinking before we even checked into our room. This was more by accident than design, actually, as thanks to Mr. rlm’s Starwood Platinum thingy, we were upgraded to a room that I don’t think anyone had stayed in yet and they had to make sure it was inhabitable. (“Oh, darn the luck, we have to go to Avondale early.”) We did have a full kitchen with stainless steel Kitchen Aid appliances, Schott Zwiesel glassware, and a pimpin’ martini shaker, but the lamps near the bed were bulb-less, the gas fireplace didn’t work, and there was a nary a control for the flat screen TVs (although they brought those up on request…sadly, not on top of a bejeweled pillow like they would have done at the St. Regis…heh heh).

              I did not notice any extraneous containers of beef jerky sitting around the bar, but since we weren’t driving and decided to kick back a cocktail or six, it is quite possible there were enormous receptacles of dried cow flesh right in front of our myopic posteriors and we just didn’t process it.

              I did like the décor overall, and I’m usually the kind of person who likes odd things, but the fabric on the booths just didn’t do it for me for some reason. But like Robyn S said, the view from the large windows in the dining room is simply spectacular.

            2. re: rlm

              Wow, great report!

              I have been remiss in reporting my lunch there a couple of weeks ago. I had a Purkisset and it is now on my list of favorite mixed drinks. I'm not one for super sweet drinks and this one was nicely balanced and mostly tart.

              To eat I had the salumi sandwich which was served panini style along with a melon and grape salad. I really liked it except that the tomatoes on the sandwich were barely colored, much less red and I think the sandwich would have benefited from a good ripe tomato. Mom had the chicken salad sandwich with fries which were the same fries that Larkburger has without the truffle parmesan and probably my favorite "plain" fries ever. We also had the bread to start which had a really nice dipping sauce (although I'm blanking all that was in it but I think it included capers and anchovies?).

              Personally, I loved the decor including the fabric but can see how some wouldn't. And the view? Spectacular!

              1. re: rlm

                Great report! Thanks. My prophecy is that Avondale is going to stay very, very busy.

                1. re: ddavis

                  The sardines you mentioned in the OP sound ridiculously good too.

                  1. re: ddavis

                    DD, that giant sucking sound (pardon me Ross) is that of folks leaving Beaver Creek Village for Avon this winter. By the way, that's why we don't have a gondola from Avon to BC, the merchants at the upper end were fearful of losing more business to Avon. Maybe Avondale will be that place to hang after skiing the Beav.

                    1. re: BlueOx

                      I bet you're right. It's certainly a great room. I don't know the numbers of those skiers who are sleeping in the village vs. those who leave after skiing, but it looks like there are lots of folks taking buses down the hill and I guess those who are downloading from Beaver Creek Landing will be unloading almost in the entryway. Should be a busy apres ski venue. (The wood burning fireplaces in the Pines Townhomes aren't bad, either.)

                      1. re: ddavis

                        With two large fire pits and a number of outdoor heaters I'm guessing this will be a rocking apres ski location. I won't be surprised if I find my way there on occasion.

                2. Based in part on this thread, we chose to try Avondale last Saturday for a nice evening meal. Incredibly disappointed. They were pushing the shrimp pizza, so, finding nothing else appetizing on the menu, one of us ordered it. The shrimp was clearly not fresh, and the pizza as a whole smelled bad. Another got a meat lover's pizza (also because there was nothing else on the menu he could stomach). It was good, but not spectacular. Another got the pork ribs, which again, were good, but nothing special. I ordered the Butternut Squash Soup, which was too sweet and too watery, followed by the Veggie Plate with Hummus and Green Goddess Dressing. The Pita Chips were stale. The Hummus was good, but the Green Goddess Dressing was pretty mediocre. I also had the Mac and Cheese with Broccoli which was OK, but nothing much to speak of.

                  Desserts, on the other hand, were very good. We split the Smores fondue, and one of us got an apple tart that was good.

                  The room was very pretty, and service was good. The wine list was not good. There were some great wines at prices about 50 percent higher than I have seen in other restaurants, not much in the mid-range (the few that were, again were at least 50 percent higher than we have seen at other restaurants), and a few very cheap wines that we really didn't care to try. Seeing as we normally stay in the mid-range on wines ($60-$100), there was not much for us there.

                  In all, dinner was not inspiring, and for $65+ a person, I expect something better than just OK. We would, however, return for dessert and coffee only.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Hoc

                    I'm sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy the restaurant but since you say that nothing sounded good I wonder if this just isn't the kind of restaurant that is for you? That's okay if that's the case. Personally, I look at the menu and can't decide because so much looks good. Curiously, on the wines, are you comparing to other Eagle Valley restaurants or restaurants elsewhere?

                    1. re: RobynS

                      I'm with RobynS in that it doesn't sound like your kind of place if you found "nothing else appetizing on the menu," as my better half and I had an insanely hard time deciding amongst all the delicious-sounding menu items. I just pulled up the recent winter menu on their website and am having a hard time understanding how Colorado lamb, salumi, cioppino, veal meatballs, mussels, oysters, house made ricotta, and hand cut fries with truffle butter sound unappealing.

                      I didn't like the pita chips either on my trip, but loved the green goddess. Granted, it wasn't the Better Homes and Gardens version since it had all those "awful" fresh ingredients in it. :-)

                      1. re: rlm

                        " didn't like the pita chips either on my trip, but loved the green goddess. Granted, it wasn't the Better Homes and Gardens version since it had all those "awful" fresh ingredients in it. :-)"

                        You mean those "awful fresh ingredients" that tasted like feet? Must be. I like my fresh ingredients to be, well, fresh.

                        1. re: Hoc

                          Green goddess that tasted like FEET? It doesn't even sound like you dined in the same restaurant.

                          Places in the mountains fly in their seafood from some of the same sources as everyone else, so it's a psychological misconception to say you can't have good seafood at altitude. Dish in Edwards does a bangin' job with seafood, for example (and everything else). I personally wouldn't lean towards a seafood pizza either (especially with all the other amazing choices on the menu).

                          Did you not check the menu out on their website before dining there to see if it met with your preferences? Clearly you could have perused it and realized that foie and guanciale and chanterelles are not for you and headed to the nearest "safe" place.

                          As a point of comparison, what are some of your favorite restaurants in the US and/or favorite dishes?

                      2. re: RobynS

                        On the wines, I was comparing to restaurants elsewhere, since I am in the Eagle Valley only once every few years.

                        It could be that it is not our kind of restaurant. We don't like game meats, and do not eat lamb or venison. Seafood in the mountains (other than trout) normally is not fresh enough (as shown by the shrimp on the pizza here, which was old and smelly). Veal is out as a matter of philosophy.

                        1. re: Hoc

                          Note that alcohol in general is VERY expensive in the mountains. When I'm heading up I always stock up down here in Denver. I find a 6 pack of microbrews at the liquor store is usually $1-2 more so a bottle of wine at a restaurant is going to be significantly more. Not fun but pretty much a fact of life up there.

                          As far as seafood in the mountains. I've actually had some really good seafood up there but seafood pizza is not a combo that I would go for anyhow whether I was in the mountains or seaside. In fact it's one of the few things on the menu that I do find unappealing.

                          Sorry you didn't enjoy it though. Did you try anything else while you were in Vail?