Whether produce or protein, this chef Kelly Liken gives diners a quintessential taste of the Centennial State.
One-hundred percent, I want my food to taste like Colorado,” says chef Kelly Liken, who has been serving simple, seasonal American cuisine for a decade at her eponymous restaurant in Vail. Guests are offered everything from Southern-fried sweetbreads to grilled collard greens and fava bean ragout, the makings of which have been locally sourced from area farmers and ranchers.
Same goes for her signature starter. “Rocky Mountain Elk Carpaccio (see recipe) is a dish that we’ve served every single day we’ve been open,” Liken says. “A lot of our guests are coming from elsewhere — all over the world. They want something that’s quintessentially Colorado, and this is it. Our dish is made from elk raised in southern Colorado and served with a tabbouleh salad and whole-grain mustard aioli.”
Carving game meat into melt-in-your-mouth thin slices and serving it raw is one of the many ways that Liken is re-envisioning Western cuisine, particularly for the more health-conscious crowd that steps off the slopes and into her restaurant.
“Ten years ago our visitors expected nothing but big, heavy cowboy food,” she says. “I think the most exciting food is coming out of the West, specifically Colorado, because there’s a group of us who honor our roots but are willing to really elevate dishes with individual perspective and creativity. Three to four years ago, we went to a fixed price menu. It lends itself to smaller, more delicate portions. That really helped me educate my customer on Colorado food, because they are able to taste more things. It’s a flavor experience.”
From the May/June 2015 issue.