Executive Chef Paul Wade has prepared this Colorado bass dish with a country-French inspired flavor throughout. Wade showcases locally harvested bass in a way that allows those flavors to shine, but also draws from an Old World flavor profile that never tires. It’s Niçoise style, complete with quail egg, tuna galantine and saffron-red pepper jus. The worldly characteristics of the dish make it a stand-out at the Tavern On the Square, in Lionshead. Look for a variation of this dish on the restaurant’s winter menu. Always a treat!
Mussels Frites, known in France and Belgium as Moules Frites, is a classic coastal dish, especially on the Northern Coast of France. Vintage’s mussels are steamed with white wine, melted garlic and leeks, and finished with fresh herbs. And these simple, fresh ingredients are all that is needed for the French dish to shine—particularly seafood. And, of course, fresh Pomme Frites is a delicious side, as the salt in the fries compliments the sweetness of the mussels and the wine. This Vail Village restaurant sources its mussels from a small, sustainable farm on Bang’s Island, Maine, as owner, Brodie Broderick finds these black mussels to be much meatier and more flavorful than the ubiquitous Prince Edward Island mussels.
This pan-seared salmon dish served at Terra Bistro in the Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa is a dynamic and flavorful entree. The restaurant is known for its lighter and healthier approach to food, and this rendition is no exception. Managing Partner Kevin Nelson and his team always go for clean flavors that allow the main elements of a dish to shine through.
Here, the sustainably raised Scottish salmon sits over a savory and smooth Yukon gold potato chowder. Fresh thyme creates an unforgettable aroma from the moment the plate is set on the table, and a healthy portion of garlic sautéed spinach and grilled leaks top off each bite with texture.
Harvest’s Shrimp Bruschetta made with herb and wine poached shrimp, roughly chopped and tossed with tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, then finished with balsamic reduction. Executive Chef Rosa Provoste says it’s simple and fresh, inspired from Mediterranean flavors. The bruschetta is great to share as an appetizer and to pair with a glass of crisp pinot grigio.
A trip to the mountains doesn’t mean your palate has to be land-locked. Restau-rants up and down the Vail Valley have fish and seafood dishes that are truly fresh. Ingredients are flown directly from the source, and the talent of our local chefs makes the preparation and flavors on each plate pop.
Hooked sits in the heart of Beaver Creek Village, and although the restaurant is nowhere near an ocean, its entire menu is right out of the water. The New Zealand Pink Sea Bream is known in the sushi world as “N.Z. tai,” and “tai” in Japanese means “good fortune,” so the fish is often served there at celebratory feasts. Hooked Chef and Owner, Riley Romanin, says the fish is always flown fresh to Hooked straight from New Zealand, and is prepared half cooked and half raw, so a guest can get a chance to appreciate the flavors of the fish in both styles.
Once upon a time, in the German mountains, there lived a girl name Resi. After losing her beloved fiancé, Florian, Resi retreated to an isolated cabin and dedicated her time to looking after the travelers that passed by, thus trying to heal her broken heart. Her hospitality became known far and wide, with locals who felt spoiled, loved and completely at home saying, “It’s just as lovely here as it is at Almresi.”
So begins the story of Almresi, a legend in Bavaria and the inspiration behind the new restaurant in Vail Village. An evening here almost feels as if you’ve been immersed in a fairy tale, from the rustic cabin decor to the almost magical warmth and comfort that emanates from the staff and the cuisine. But it’s not magic: The story behind Almresi Vail is firmly rooted in hard work, dedication
A Family Affair
Almresi opened in December 2016 in the building at the top of Bridge Street in Vail Village. And, while the Thoma family originally hails from Germany’s Black Forest region, the ties to Vail are strong. Franz Thoma lived and worked in Vail in the 1980s, but his kids think that it was always a secret plan to open a restaurant here, even after moving back to Germany.
“It didn’t work out when he was our age,” explains daughter Alyssa.
“They said, ‘America is not going to change for you,’” continues son Josh. “He said, ‘Oh, I’m coming back, just wait.’”
After a long career in restaurants in Germany, the Thomas own and operate two restaurants in Germany and their dream to open a restaurant in Vail has come true. It seems like it was meant to be, Alyssa says, like everything fell into place. She worked at the Sonnenalp for two years and had no plans to stay in Vail (like so many other Vail transplants). However, she explained that when you work in a restaurant, you’re always looking at other restaurants. One space fell through, but when they saw the former Tap Room space recently vacated by Solantro, they thought, “We can do something with this.”
“It was really back and forth, but the gut feeling was right,” Alyssa says. “Then our mom saw it and she’s really the boss. When she says it’s fine, we go with it.” Since Alyssa was already in the United States, she agreed to manage the restaurant. Josh, who had been living and studying in Barcelona, soon joined her in running the operation, with direction from their parents. The two complement each other, providing varying viewpoints and perspectives.
“We know each other really well,” Josh says. “We’ve worked all our lives with our parents together in our restaurants, so we know the perspectives of our parents and their expectations of quality. We’re always looking to be better, better, better.”
A Cabin in the Woods
The family ties continue in the look and feel of the restaurant. Gone are any traces of past restaurants, swept into the clean mountain air like so many ghosts. Diana Thoma designed the interior of the space, with the assistance of Minturn-based Arrigoni Woods, creating a welcoming feel without an overload of mountain or country kitsch. Alyssa said that the relationship was natural: owner Balz Arrigoni is from Switzerland and she said that he understood right away they wanted to do.
“He knows exactly the feeling of a traditional ‘Almhütte’ and how important wood is, to bring this special feeling of coziness over,” Alyssa says.
The walls, ceiling and beams are covered in rustic wood panels reclaimed from farms in Austria and Germany before being shipped to and installed here in Vail. The result is a warm and welcoming feeling, much like you’d find in a mountain hut in the Alps. It’s very different from the Thoma’s other restaurants in Germany, which are at pool resort and see upwards of 3,000 visitors on a nice day, but it’s perfect for this space.
There are various seating arrangements designed to accommodate almost any size of party, from small and intimate nooks to a large communal table, crowned by a large light fixture festooned with authentic Austrian cowbells. Faux fur throws, cow hides and small stools reaffirm the feeling that you’re visiting a mountain chalet. Almost everything comes from Austria or Germany, carefully chosen with Diana’s impeccable eye.
“She always puts a bunch of love into every single thing,” Alyssa says. “We want to give this love to other people.” With the German music providing a background to the various conversations floating throughout the space, Almresi truly feels as if you’ve walked into a friend’s mountain home. This friend, though, can cook.
The Flavors of Almresi
Vail is a Bavarian-inspired village, with several European restaurants already in operation. However, rather than being viewed as competition, Alyssa and Josh say that they’ve been welcomed by restaurateurs and businesses in town. “In Germany, people are not as nice to each other because they see each other as competition,” Alyssa says. “Here, we’re seen as an addition.”
As every restaurant has a different focus and feel, so Almresi fits in nicely in Vail’s dining scene. Featuring not just German fare but also Austrian and Swiss flavors, Almresi’s menu is thoughtful and concise. Alyssa and Josh said that they and Chef Daniel Schleehauf tested everything at home in Germany; if it passed muster there, then it’s considered for the menu here.
“We fixed a menu before the (previous) season started and tried a lot of things,” Schleehauf says. “Then we decided which dishes to feature.”
Chef Schleehauf is family, too—though not by blood. He grew up with Alyssa and Josh and the relationship is evident as the three tease each other and finish each other’s sentences. After attending culinary school, he was brought into the Vail restaurant, contributing a soft-spoken balance to the kitchen.
The summer saw lighter dishes added to the menu, like the flammkuchen, a type of German flatbread from the Alsatian region, near where the Thomas are from. The oven used to bake this treat is also imported to provide just the right temperature and resulting flavor. Alyssa said that it’s so good that everyone should try it once; after one bite, you’re sure to agree. You’ll get your chance; a version will appear on the winter menu. “It’s food for your heart,” Josh says. Though some dishes may be new this winter season, there are some items that are emphatically staying, due to popular demand like the schweinshax’n, a pork shank with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes; schmorbraten, which are short ribs with shallots, red cabbage and spätzle and schweizer rösti, a Swiss rösti with homemade farmer cheese with fresh herbs and smoked salmon.
Even dishes that may have seemed a bit exotic, like the griebenschmalz, a bread made with pork, have been firmly entrenched in the minds, hearts and palates of guests.
You’ll not worry about leaving hungry at Almresi: the portions are substantial. However, it’s worth planning your meal to account for dessert, like the original Austrian kaiserschmarr, a fluffy pancake, ripped into little pieces, with caramelized, powder sugar on top and a cherry compote on the side.
After all, “Every great dinner should end with a little dessert,” Alyssa says. So this season, make plans to visit the Black Forest cabin in Vail. Pick an intimate table for two or slide into a seat at the family table, ready to make some new friends. No matter what you choose, you’ll end the evening feeling satiated in both soul and stomach, tapping your foot to the jaunty strains of German music that float through the night.
There was a time, less than a year ago, when David Shankel wanted to die.
He and his wife, Patsy, came to Castle Peak Senior Life and Rehabilitation Center in Eagle following individual stays in the hospital after they both had gotten very sick. While Patsy, sadly, passed away in March, Shankel is still very much alive and living at Castle Peak, after going through an emotionally difficult time.
The memory is quite vivid for Shankel, 81. He didn’t want to get out of bed; he didn’t want to live. Then he met Stephanie Sheridan, the life enrichment director at Castle Peak, whom he credits with saving his life.
“I told her I wanted to die. She said, ‘Not today, not on my watch.’ She told me ‘David, you’re going to get out of that bed’ and she didn’t say please. I credit her with keeping me alive.
“They keep me going,” he says. “They’re all very generous with their love and care for me. They make sure I’m exercising and eating properly. I feel like I have a mother almost.” The Shankels moved to Eagle County in 1974, after David retired from the Air Force where he used to fly C130s, airplanes he knew “from top to bottom,” he says. The couple opened the Gypsum Café on Highway 6 and Valley Road, owning it for 10 years before their son took it over and ran it for another 10 years before they sold it. It was back around the time the couple first moved to town that people, like the recently deceased Dr. Tom Steinberg, Vail’s first full-time physician, started advocating for affordable nursing care options for older folks. But it would take another four decades before that vision became a reality.
“Dr. Steinberg had envisioned having a facility like Castle Peak since the ’70s,” says Monica McCarroll, Castle Peak’s director of marketing. “He worked for years to bring it into existence. He was one of the many financial donors. A group of the larger donors asked that we name the Health Care center after him.”
And they did. A plaque at the entrance reads, Dr. Thomas I. Steinberg Skilled Nursing Facility. Dr. Steinberg even helped cut the ribbon when Castle Peak Senior Life and Rehabilitation opened Sept. 26, 2017. Inside, the gorgeous $25 million facility resembles a ski lodge, with fantastic views of the facility’s namesake peak visible from the dining room. Aside from amenities like a beauty salon, library and fitness center, the place really exudes a homey feel. And its exterior blends right into the Eagle Ranch subdivision.
Augustana Care, a Minnesota based nonprofit that runs two dozen assisted-living centers in Minnesota, Wyoming and Colorado, owns the 62,000-square-foot center. There are 64 total beds, including 22 skilled nursing beds (for people with chronic care conditions; staffed with 24-hour licensed supportive service providers); 20 assisted living apartments (private apartments with separate bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living spaces; 24-hour non-licensed support available); 12 memory care suites for those with cognitive issues and 10 short-term rehabilitation suites (where the average stay is less than 90 days).
The second floor of the health center, which includes the memory care and half of the long-term care suites, is slated to open this winter; thus far they’ve been limited by staffing, McCarroll said. Even so, Castle Peak has served more than 100 people in the relatively short time it’s been open.
“We served our one hundredth unique client on August 14, 2017,” McCarroll says.
The impact stretches far beyond the folks who live at Castle Peak or visit for rehab.
“The people who have loved ones here don’t have to drive over passes or through canyons like they did before to visit; they can pop in at lunchtime to see their parents or loved ones,” McCarroll says.
And that’s a huge benefit for the people who call Castle Peak home.
“The residents are happy they get to see their loved ones more often,” McCarroll says, noting that all of the current residents either lived in the area previously or their children live here currently. “They get to be in their home area and near whatever it was that brought them here. They can stay close to their favorite restaurants and be near their family. They don’t have to leave the (Vail) Valley to do in-patient rehab or for permanent care, whatever the case may be.” Along with residents like Shankel, who plans to call Castle Peak home for the remainder of his life, there are plenty of folks whose stay at Castle Peak is much shorter— days, weeks or months rather than years; usually they come like the Shankels did, following a hospitalization and in need of more occupational and physical therapy before returning home.
“Short-term rehab is one of the resources that didn’t exist in this valley prior to Castle Peak opening,” McCarroll says. “Before us, Glenwood Springs or Evergreen was the closest options. We do in-patient rehab here, and people can also continue to come and see therapists after they go home.”
If you ask Shankel the best thing about Castle Peak, there’s no hesitation.
“The socialization with the people here—the nurses, doctors and the people who are here,” he says. Because it’s a smaller facility—just 15 people in long-term care and 14 in assisted living as of October 2017—Shankel has gotten a chance to really connect with people. “I think that makes my day — getting up, getting out and talking with people,” he continues.
Castle Peak’s extensive life-enrichment program fosters those connections and sets it apart from other facilities, says McCarroll.
“We provide purposeful, meaningful activity and community-based programming for all the residents,” First Name Sheridan, the life enrichment director, said in a recent TV8 television interview. “We are focused on the quality of life—social, physical, emotional and spiritual. We have things like music therapy; we have social hours; we go on outings; we go out to eat; we go to the grocery store. We do an interdenominational service every Sunday. We have one-on-one spiritual visitation as needed—residents can call 24/7. Everything is volunteer-based. We couldn’t ask for a better community.”
Indeed, the monthly calendar is packed with options like horticulture therapy, happy hour, movie nights and activities that keep people moving: walking group, Wii bowling, exercise classes, chair yoga and more. “This is such an important part of what makes Castle Peak special, especially for our permanent residents,” McCarroll says.
These days, Shankel is feeling much better than when he first arrived at Castle Peak, and he certainly has his sense of humor back.
“I think if I felt any better, they’d probably send me home,” he says. “But I think I found a home and I want to stay here.”
There’s no doubt that Vail Christian High School (VCHS) encourages kids to let their lights shine, whether through rigorous academics, theatrical performing arts, sports, strong spirituality or all of the above. Leading through love, guiding with compassion and encouraging the best in every student are just some of the principles that faculty, staff and students embrace every day.
Many schools talk quantitatively and VCHS boasts metrics that are impressive: a faculty that averages 18 years for tenure where more than 60 percent have advanced degrees (in same cases more than one), and a student body that routinely gets accepted into some of the best schools in the country. However, Steve O’Neil, head of school, believes that creating a successful student of each student.
“The faculty has an insatiable appetite for learning, they are always improving. Love is central to the Christian identity, it goes beyond the instructional content,” O’Neil says. “We have a balanced approach. The school academic portion is the most important portion but we believe in the development of the whole student. Arts and athletics and experiential learning and spiritual formation are super, super important, as well. We want to provide a lot of opportunity to our students–it’s not just about academics.”
The school encourages strong character formation through service learning and actions. It’s about friendly authority, not knuckle-rapping or harsh punishment. “We seek to help students explore their spirituality, to love each other well with empathy and respect,” O’Neil continues.
“It’s beautiful inside and out, it’s a place of learning, it’s a place of being loved and it’s just a gift of community it really is. It’s what our society desperately needs right now,” says Sheryl Engleby, a mother of three, two of whom are currently enrolled at VCHS.
The high school is celebrating 20 years this year–from humble beginnings with just 32 students in modular classrooms at the campus of Gracious Savior Lutheran Church–to a thriving community of 150 students.
“The school never was intended be a Lutheran school, it was always intended to be diverse and open to everyone regardless of religious affiliation or no religious affiliation,” O’Neil reminisces.
“From the beginning, it had a very inclusive bent with the school.” The interfaith communities came together and agreed to mutually support each other through partnership and collaboration. That spirit continues to exist on the campus just off Highway 6 in Edwards, which sits on the banks of the river surrounded by golden leaves on a particularly vibrant day in autumn, creating an immediately welcoming feel.
Donna Caynoski, a mother of two sons who graduated from VCHS, always felt that nurturing environment. “Every time I went there, whether to meet with a teacher or drop something off or go to a performance or a sporting event, I left feeling good and inspired and ready for my day,” she says. The inspiring school vibe is just the start because underneath that welcoming exterior are strong academics with high expectations with generous opportunities for students.
“If you set a high standard, students will reach and achieve it, with an excellent faculty who are supporting students and keeping the bar high,” says O’Neil. As a matter of fact, the school offers 17 Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Several of these classes are required for all students, creating that strong baseline. However, O’Neil is quick to add that the school is not only for the academically gifted among us. Supports are available for kids who need additional help through tutorials, the Learning Resource Center and one-on-one meetings.
“The teachers are happy to meet outside of classes,” shares one student. Caynoski, whose sons went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rochester Institute of Technology saw the benefits of the academically rigorous school firsthand. “They were both prepared academically, yet it was a balanced and loving environment, as well.”
To further set students up for academic success in high school and afield in college, VCHS recently debuted Project Lead the Way (PLTW)–a program that is in 9,000 schools throughout the country. It’s complimentary to AP programs, but has a more experiential component with project-based learning and real-world applications. The three courses offered include engineering, computer science and human body systems. The classes are dual enrollment through the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs so that the students receive college credit and a certificate in addition to working towards their high school degrees.
PLTW is just another way the school encourages students to not only learn the skills but to really apply them–maybe through an internship at the Steadman Clinic or another equally challenging program. Students swarm to the newly established ‘Hive,’ a place where students create, collaborate and learn with state-of- the-art technology.
Using this hands-on approach is beyond helpful for future college students, as getting into college can sometimes feel arduous. The college counselors work closely with students, culling the long list of colleges to find what would work best for each student. Sure, the kids do the heavy lifting with the class load, but the counselors help seniors get into elite colleges and universities around the country. O’Neil adds that some parents want to know there is a ‘return on investment’ when they attend VCHS. Its students, on average, get $10,000 per year in merit based scholarships when entering college.
BEYOND THE CLASSROOM
As anyone with a teen, or who has been a teen, knows, high school is equal parts academic and social. VCHS doesn’t ignore the comradery aspect of grades nine through twelve. This year, O’Neil instituted a small group gathering: single sex, kids of the same grade and overseen by a teacher. It’s a time when kids get to know each other and can dish on topics that are of concern to them, whether it’s academics or way outside of the classroom–news, social media and pressures that many of us didn’t face growing up. These small groups are a chance for kids to process what’s happening in the world.
“The parents and teachers can spot things. It’s a small community so if somebody is having a tough time and things are tricky everybody helps out. They aren’t being busy bodies,” says Engleby. “I love that when the teacher is talking to me about my daughter, it includes telling me who she is as a person, rather than just about her grades.”
Parents and educators stress -and maybe stress about–that these teen years are the last chance to influence their kids in a positive manner; to not only teach them but to help guide them towards the adults they will become.
And the parents of VCHS have no doubt that their kids will do well. “I feel like I have a posse of little angels shepherding my kids in the years that are tricky,” Sheryl Engleby, says fervently.