Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mountain Standard, Vail Valley, Colorado

Sunday was our last day in the Vail Valley and on Sundays in the summer Vail Village is packed with visitors to the popular Vail Farmers' Market.  Local farmers, artisans and food vendors flock to the Village to exhibit their goods and summer Vail visitors can never get enough.  It's one of my favorite things to do in Vail (because those who know me know that I love shopping).  There are a lot of great food purveyors at the market and, if I were traveling alone, I would not hesitate to sample all their wares.  But when traveling with my kids in tow I'm much better off finding a place where I know they'll be sitting down and relatively well behaved.  So, despite walking past some very enticing aromas, we took the path from the Solaris toward Gore Creek.  On any other day, we would have wound up at Up The Creek, a well-attended lunch spot along the creek.  Instead, we happened upon Mountain Standard.  We've heard good things about Mountain and after eyeing some of the dishes being served on the outdoor patio, I agreed to give it a try.

Mountain Standard rests on the bottom floor of its older sibling, Sweet Basil, which itself was voted as Colorado's Most Popular Restaurant by a Zagat survey.  Only open since December 2012, Mountain boasts a contemporary tavern style that is more appealing to a casual diner.  The outdoor patio is only a few feet from the creek and the best spot to dine.  But indoor diners won't be disappointed because they get a full view of the open kitchen and its wood fire grill manned by Chef de Cuisine Brian Broulliard.  The menu at Mountain reads simply but tastes just as sophisticated as the food upstairs.  Classics like club sandwiches, French dip rolls and potato skins are elevated in a way that make you forget that these are pub staples.  This is definitely a place where both simple and refined tastes are equally satisfied.

For lunch the kids enjoyed their usual favorites:  cheeseburger, hot dog and fries.   (An Urbanspoon reviewer commented that Mountain is skimpy on fries. It definitely was NOT my experience. Plenty of fries to go around here.) My husband ordered the French dip sandwich with the eye catching onion rings that drew me into the restaurant.  I ordered the duck confit potato skins and an appetizer of fried green tomatoes.  Water was served in glasses cut from wine bottles (reminiscent of a Pinterest project) etched with the restaurant's porcine logo.

Fried Green Tomatoes
with House Ranch
What I loved:  I was quickly sold on the fried green tomatoes when our waitress, Kayla, told us they were fried in bacon drippings.  I love everything with bacon so I was completely expecting these to be good.  They weren't just good.  They were great.  Different than the traditional Southern recipe that uses cornmeal, these batter dipped treats were nicely seasoned and served with a house-made ranch dipping sauce.  The green tomatoes were mildly tart, warm but still firm to the bite.  The duck confit potato skins, a menu appetizer that I ordered as my lunch entree, was also enjoyable. Shredded confit of duck topped lightly crisped potato skin shells and were accompanied by mole, crema and wisps of scallion.  I'm not certain why, but the texture and taste of the dish reminded me of an open faced pulled pork sandwich made with better quality ingredients.

As I ate, I thought this entry was going to be built on the strength of the confit alone, but I was wrong.  The best lunch bite came from my husband's plate and his French dip sandwich.  The French dip at Mountain is made of slices of roast beef carved from rib eye.  That roast beef was the juiciest and tastiest bit of roast beef.  I only intended to have a taste but wound up having more, sopping up the remnants of the mole on my own plate as I went.  If Brian Broulliard ever decides to dip that roast beef in the mole and pile it on a bun with melted Swiss cheese, that would make one awesome faux-BBQ beef sandwich!  I'm not a steak and potatoes kind of gal, but I'm kind of sorry I didn't order that French dip for myself.  You can be certain that next time I will.

Duck Confit Potato Skins with
Guajillo Mole, Crema, Lime & Scallions
What I didn't love:  While it's fair to say that I had a great lunch at Mountain, there was one thing that didn't appeal to me as much as I had expected.  I had first been drawn to dine at Mountain when I eyed another patron being served large, golden breaded onion rings.  I like a good ring but I didn't love these.  I don't know if it is because I'm partial to the beer battered variety, but these were too crumby and crunchy for my taste.  More breading than onion.  I had one bite and that was enough for me to say no to the rest.  I also wasn't keen on Anna's hot dog, which was a bit salty and had a rather chewy skin.

How much we spent:  ($$)  We were a party of four with two children dining from the kids' menu.  We all had soft drinks and did not order any dessert.  With a generous tip of more than 22%, we spent $90 on lunch.

My overall rating:  4 spoons (out of 5).  Unlike the better fine dining counterparts in the Village, including Sweet Basil, this is a Vail restaurant that could easily fall onto my "must dine" list for future visits.  Lovers of fine dining may say that the simplicity of the menu lowered my expectation and in turn improved my perception.    I say that good food is good food and doesn't need to be complicated to be appreciated.  

Mountain Standard on Urbanspoon

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