After a day of skiing, I have but one request: I want to eat as well in Vail and Park City as I do in San Francisco and New York. Fortunately, that's getting easier all the time as more great chefs move to the mountainsnot to relax and live the good life, but to open ambitious restaurants with inventive menus. Here are four newcomers that will make you look forward to the last run of the day.
No moose antlers here. Chef Thomas Salamunovich's Larkspur Restaurant at the Golden Peak Lodge is subtly stylish, with aspen-leaf patterns on the banquettes and hand-carved hummingbirds. Salamunovich was formerly the chef at Vail's Sweet Basil, but influences from his early days in San Francisco (at Stars and Postrio) and Paris (at Arpège and Lucas Carton) show up at Larkspur as well. Classically trained, Salamunovich turns modern classics on their head. You can dine here on Chinese lacquered duck that's been blanched, air-dried and rotisseried. But he dispenses with the standard five-spice powder and instead serves it with Colorado peaches and a pistachio-and-wild-rice strudelan odd-sounding combination, but certifiably delicious. For those who just want a burger, the Larkspur version is cooked with butter, served on a homemade bun and paired with Kennebec potato french fries that come in a stainless-steelcup. As for those Caesar salad croutons that at high altitude dry out like jawbreakers, Salamunovich ditches the bread and cuts up squares of gratin dauphinois, coating them with panko bread crumbs before frying them. A favorite dessert is homemade doughnuts with mocha sabayon. 458 Vail Valley Drive, Vail; 970-479-8050.
In Aspen, gentrification means the billionaires have driven out the millionaires. It also means that restaurateurs like James Nadell, of Bistecca Toscana, have fled to towns like Carbondale, half an hour away. The onetime chef at the Caribou Club in Aspen, Trattoria Roma in Carbondale and Fifteen Degrees in Boulder, Nadell planted his Tuscan grill in a space recently renovated with Peruvian cherrywood walls and huge chandeliers. He serves such Tuscan staples as Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a one-pound, center-cut porterhouse that's rubbed with garlic, fresh chopped herbs and lemon. When he serves quail, it's a generous seven-ounce bird from California with wild boar and sun-dried cherry stuffing, finished with white truffle foam. And he makes homemade spicy wild-boar sausage to serve in his Penne Salsiccia. Nadell also smokes his own fish, cures his own prosciutto, and makes his own mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese and mascarpone. 580 Main St., Carbondale; 970-963-4800.