We arrive at the restaurant and there’s Kelly greeting patrons at the door. That was quite a surprise. We expected to meet her at some point during the meal, but weren’t prepared to meet her coming in. Also her husband was the person parking cars, greeting guests, working with the wine, and basically seemed to have a hand in everything front of the house, and I must say he does a fantastic job as the experience over all was fantastic.
We are seated and the experience begins. Our server Rachel delivers the amuse bouche. It is a roasted corn bisque with fennel, blackberry, parsley and chive.
She says: This was a tasty start to the meal. The corn was crunchy and the flavors blended together beautifully. It smelled and looked fantastic.
He says: Rachel says corn bisque and I immediately have an inner sigh. My experiences with corn chowder, corn bisque, corn soup, creamed corn, well you see what the thread have in common. It left me with the overall feeling of blah with corn based food items, but boy was I wrong on this one. From the wonderful creamy texture of the bisque to the sweet notes the blackberry added this was a fantastic start to the meal.
Kelly has a special menu on Sundays. She visits the Vail Farmer’s Market and plans the menu around the ingredients that she purchases that day to take advantage of produce that is in it's peak of freshness.
We had the tasting menu, and we each picked a different item so we could taste everything on the menu.
Jonathan also did a wine pairing with his meal.
1st course wine: 2007 Canyon Wind, Sauvigon
2nd course wine: 2007 Sutcliffe, Merlot
3rd course wine: 2009 Jack Rabbit, Riesling
She says: Now you all know that I’m not a wine lover, but in small doses and paired with the right food they can be enjoyed even by those of us who don’t always enjoy.
He says: I have found myself to like some wines but in general the sommelier has to be darn good to get me to think the wine really enhances the meal.
Barb’s first course was Morales Farms roasted Beet Salad: “Sowing Seeds” tender lettuce, fines herbs, caramelized shallot crème
She says: My beet salad was delicious. The colors were sharp and inviting. The beets were fresh and crunchy and I ate every bite on my plate! I can't remember having beets as an adult as much as I did when I was younger, but I'm definitely having them again soon because this dish was delish.
He says: Ok, yes it was pretty but this is, the second time in a row something came out that I am normally not a huge fan of...beets. I think in general I am just going to have to throw out the whole preconceptions of dishes in general it seems lately every time I say to myself "hmmpf" I am not going to care for that .. I end up really enjoying it, and this was no exception. It was as tasty as it was good to look at but I guess it’s just the deep down meat loving man in me who has a hard time giving huge praises to a salad regardless of how good.
You will see Sowing Seeds several times in this menu, and we will talk a bit more about this later and a lot more in a blog entry along with a few questions for Kelly.
Jonathan’s first course was Miller Farms Spring Onion Vichyssoise: Spiced balsamic reduction, house made bacon crisps.
She says: This was good, but I was so engrossed with my salad, that I only had one bite. The presentation was beautiful.
He says: Woohahah! Soooo very happy Barb was engrossed in her salad as this to me was the star of the two dishes. The onions had a very light not overpowering taste like you get in some onion based soups where the onion jumps up and smacks you so hard in the taste buds you might as well just be eating raw onions. The bacon pieces added a very smoky flavor and really, how do you go wrong with bacon. The balsamic just topped it off with a little sweetness that made this dish just pop, I could of had another 2 servings of this, so as you might have guessed, I was not disappointed at all when Barb did not want more than a taste. The wine, a 2007 Canyon Wind Sauvigon had a nice flavor to it and seemed to go well with the courses but did not stand out other than being a wine that I liked which is something in itself.
There were three choices for the main course.
Pan Roasted Colorado Striped Bass: Morales Farms beet and potato gratin, wilted summer greens, warm bacon vinaigrette.
All Natural New York Strip Steak: Silky Miller Farms, carrot potato puree, sweet baby carrots, “Sowing Seeds” cabbage slaw.
“Sowing Seeds” Summer Squash Risotto: Brush Creek Elementary summer squash and cherry tomatoes, creamy basil drizzle, parmigiano-reggiano Because they wanted us to try everything; they brought us both a serving of the risotto.
She says: For me, I think the risotto was my favorite dish of the night. I've had risotto a couple of times before, and was just not impressed with the effort. I can not say that about this risotto. It was so creamy, the vegetables (squash, tomato and zucchini) were just the right size bite to mix in with the risotto. Yummy!
He says: Well here we have our first certifiable Mmmmmm! You know the one when you bite into something that is so darn good and a Mmmm just comes out involuntarily. The risotto was cooked to perfection, the fresh vegetables were fantastic and the overall flavor I can only describe as something you lust after days later. Had this been a small plates restaurant I doubt I would of ever made it past the Onion Vichyssoise and this risotto as I would of just asked for more of each. And as it turns out that would have been a mistake as for me the standout of the evening was yet to come.
Barb had the Striped Bass
She says: I was blown away by the beet and potato gratin. I would never have thought of those flavors together and it was wonderful. It was even better when you took a bite with the bass. Delicious! I still struggle with fish courses as I haven’t had a lot of them, but this one was fantastic.
He says: I also normally struggle with fish but I can appreciate some well prepared fish, this one was very well prepared and when I took a bite of just the fish I liked it, however when I took a bite that had all the components on it : a little fish, a little potatoe/beet gratin and a little sauce I was wowed. I have been looking over the blog and thinking back to past fish dishes we have had and I have to go all the way back to Le Bernardin before I can find a fish dish I liked as much as this one and that is high praise indeed.
Jonathan had the New York Strip Steak
She says: The carrot-potato puree was smooth and creamy. I could have had a plate of just that. The steak was cooked perfectly and tasted wonderful.
He says: The meat was well cooked and tasted good, the carrot-potato puree also was tasty and overall a good dish, but after the incredible fish and risotto this just did not stand out for me. The wine here, a 2007 Sutcliffe Merlot was good but did not really add much to either the fish or the meat, but as I have said before I am not a true wine person so it has to be an extremely good pairing for me to notice and in general has to be a very good wine for me even to like and I did like this one.
Kelly came out and talked to her patrons, stopping at tables, posing for pictures and even signing autographs. She was at ease and friendly. She stopped and talked to us for a minute and we talked about the Sowing Seeds program that she is working on with the Vail school district. They’ve created a garden at the school and some of the items on her menu came from this project. It was fun talking to her but it was awful hard not to bust into hundreds of Top Chef questions, as it was she seemed very down to earth and passionate about her cooking.
Dessert: Grilled Wynn Farms Palisade Peach, vanilla scented mascarpone cream, rich and moist yellow butter cake.
Kelly served the dessert course to us herself.
She says: This was light and airy and just the right size to end the meal. The peaches were grilled and warm, and the cake was yummy. I finished the meal and felt full, but not overfull which sometimes happen with several courses during a tasting menu.
He says. This is the season for fresh peaches here and Colorado and to have them used in such a light and tasty way was great. You left the desert still wanting just one more bite and I think that’s the way a good desert should leave you feeling. Sometime you leave a restaurant feeling like you’ve indulged too much and sometimes still feeling like you could have a bit more and sometimes you just leave and the meal does not really leave any impression on you other that filling a void in your stomach. As we were bidding Restaurant Kelly Liken goodbye I felt happy and satisfied both in the food and the experience as a whole. The wine paired with this one was the 2009 Jack Rabbit Riesling and it was a great addition to the course and seemed to even bring out further the taste of the peaches.
He says: Most meals we have had have a "miss step" some where something that though may be good just did not live up to the quality of the rest of the menu, here even though the meat dish did not soar it could not be called a "miss step" or really even close to one, and a meal with out a "miss step" is a incredible meal indeed.
If you happen to be in the Vail area I would HIGHLY suggest you stop at Restaurant Kelly Liken. I can almost guarantee you will leave the restaurant with a smile on your face and a full and happy belly!
Thanks for stopping by our Colorado based restaurant and food blog. We hope to have a post up within two weeks with a few questions we asked Kelly about her cooking and her restaurant.
We were contacted and invited by the restaurant and they did comp our meal (which we were very grateful), but it’s not expected on our part. I added this just so you know, we never write our review based on a free meal, we write what we truly felt about the food and sometimes we do have to slam the food (like the food at the Scottish festival).
Luckily, here there was no awkwardness here as the food was all fantastic. I just mainly wanted to add this bit to say not only to the people who read our blog, but also to anyone who may invite us out, that while its fantastic and greatly appreciated if you want to cover part or all of our meal it never affects what we say about the meal itself, good or bad. If you have any questions feel free to email us at jonathan or barb @milehigheater.com or just leave a comment here.
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