Kelly Liken Restaurant in Vail, Colorado

Previously¬†I posted my thoughts on my trip to Colorado. The post was running a bit long so I decided to split it up. Here’s some more of what happened on my weekend getaway to the Centennial state. When I travel I make it a focus to try the foods that are unique or native to the location I’m visiting. In Montana for example I’d want to try bison. Massachusetts I’d want clam chowder, and in Idaho, gotta be Potatoes of course.

Colorado has a reputation for “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” which is something I’d drawn the line at decided I wasn’t interested in. Colorado is also known for Green Chili, which I did have. Not being a fan of spicy food, it wasn’t my favorite thing to eat and I found it a bit watery and light. But I’m glad I tried it. I also try to visit places to eat that are staples of the place I’m visiting. It could be a chain restaurant in theory, ¬†(For some a trip to kentucky wouldn’t be complete without eating at Kentucky Fried Chicken,) but for the most part I try to find restaurants, diners and dives that are tied to the community.

In Colorado I decided to drive through the towns of Vail and Breckenridge. Both of these towns are definitely worth taking a look at. They are upscale, very affluent places known as ski resorts for vacationers and they both live up to that reputation. For dinner I decided to find a place that served Elk and I stopped in Vail.

Vail Village

I chose “Kelly Liken” one of the upscale options in Vail that I saw offered Elk. The atmosphere was pleasant. “Kelly Liken” is he name of the restaurant as well as the name of the owner and head chef. Kelly is well known for being a contestant on Top Chef as well as Iron Chef America. For dinner I ordered an opening and then the 3 course grouping for a flat rate of $74. I decided on: Artisan Cheese Selection Rocky Mountain Elk Carpaccio Seasonal Soup (I think it might have been a bisque) Roasted Colorado Lamb (I think this is what I got)

The Verdict?

Not impressed. It wasn’t that any of the food was bad, but rather that nothing stood out. Much of the food was pretty bland and I ended up using a lot more bread and butter, and salt to compliment my meal than should have been necessary, especially at a restaurant where quality is supposed to trump quantity. Another point that I’ve realized after I had thought about it some more, was that I think I just didn’t enjoy the style of the cooking and the menu.

The major example of this is that too many things were paired together that didn’t work well on the palette. On the appetizers for example, the plating featured both sweet sauces and bitter sauces. By themselves they may fit, but together, the taste got too mixed up. They were also drizzled almost right on top of one another so there was no way to keep them separate. Imagine having a serving of relish placed right on top of a serving of honey. Separately they serve a purpose but mixed together and it’s a weird¬†combination.

Kelly Liken

There was also an abundance of pine nuts on the main dish. Way, way too many. I actually enjoy pine nuts in small doses, but there were so many that they overpowered the entire dish. My main course smelled and tasted of pine nuts and I could barely taste anything else. Another thing that comes to mind is that at one point one of the tables asked for Kelly to come out to say hi. She did, and then made her way around the restaurant to ask tables how their meal was.

She went right past my table though. I’m hesitant to read too much into this. I don’t believe she’s obligated to talk with me or anyone in the restaurant. Maybe she felt out of place talking to someone dining alone or didn’t think I wanted to be bothered. It wasn’t a big deal but at the time it did strike me as a bit odd.

Overall I think “Kelly Liken” put far too much emphasis on the side ingredients and additional tastes, instead of crafting a solid dish that was accented by the side tastes and smells. For the price I did not feel that I left full and the meal itself wasn’t really that enjoyable. This would not be a restaurant I would visit again and with so many other dining options in Vail, I would not recommend this restaurant to someone in town for only a day or two. To finish out my trip, finally over Saturday night, I met up again with my friend Matt and his girlfriend.

We walked around Fort Collins, which I found as a pretty busy and upscale downtown. Some vintage record stores, three spice shops, antique stores and two different places that specialized in different types of olive and seed oils, surprised me a bit. Seriously there were three spice stores and two olive/seed oil stores. We also passed a bar called, “The Drunken Money,” which apparently has a number of its seats as swings hanging from the ceiling.

Drunken Monkey, Fort Collins, CO 3-17-08 016

Overall my trip to Colorado was great, and proof that a vacation for a weekend getaway does not need to be expensive. I got the roundtrip plane ticket from Des Moines to Denver for less than $100.