Monday, March 07, 2011

On the Road Eats: Vail, Colorado

Some recent eats during a trip to Vail, Colorado.
Dinner at Terra Bistro

When you spend a few days eating out around nice restaurants in Vail, many of the menus start to resemble one another — many of the same meats and fish with slightly varied preparations. Thankfully, Terra Bistro provides some respite from repetition. Flavor inspirations taken from different ethnic foods abound on this menu.

Tequila and sage organic chicken tamale, caldo verde, salsa cruda, yogurt crema. The presentation was lovely. The masa in the tamale was slightly dry and crumbly without very strong flavors, but mixing it in with the green sauce saved it.

A salmon dish exists on the current menu, but on this night, the chef was experimenting with a new preparation. The salmon was pan seared over a bed of mango horseradish. It came with hominy, fried asparagus, grilled avocado and watercress. Mango isn't on my list of favorites, but I decided to take a chance with it here. It just added a slight sweetness, which blended nicely with the very recognizable taste of horseradish. But it could have used a bit more kick. The salmon was cooked so perfectly it would have tasted good on a plate alone. I liked the mixture of sides, but it wasn't necessary to fry the asparagus. Grilling it would have carried a healthier, more refreshing feeling through the dish. I was able to taste the standard preparation of the salmon alongside this as well and I hope the chef goes for the change because this new version was outstanding.

Dinner at La Tour

Yellowfin tuna poke, avocado, crispy wontons and sesame poke sauce. The tuna was a nice, light appetizer, but too mild. It could have used more of the sauce. But the tuna eaten atop the wontons makes this a very substantial starter for a hungry post-skiing crowd.

Pan roasted duck breast, black pepper spaetzle, swiss chard, grilled pickle endive and pomegranate sauce. A beautiful display of duck, cooked medium per the chef's suggestion and perfect at that. Duck often finds itself married with some sweet accompaniment (think orange sauce), but the pomegranate was an interesting change of pace. The only thing that took away from the course was the lukewarm temperature at which this was served.

For dessert: creme brulee flambee with Grand Marnier macerated berries; milk chocolate pot au creme with a layer of caramel mousse and sea salt and a side of chocolate truffles and vanilla bean tuile; and ginger bread pudding with stewed blueberries, creme fraiche ice cream and Jack Daniels caramel sauce.

Hands down, the chocolate pot au creme was the winner. Dipping your spoon all the way to the bottom to hit all the layers, you got a mouthful of rich chocolate capped with a salty, not too sweet caramel. And the truffles were rich and delicious as they should be. The ginger bread pudding on the other hand was terrible. The bread was too stiff as though it hadn't been soaked for long enough and the flavors were off — the berries and the sauce had the flavor of Chinese dried plums, not the most appealing for dessert. The ice cream was decent though. My dining companion enjoyed the creme brulee, though I would have preferred more of a char on the sugar crust.

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