Publication: Colorado Golf Magazine
Author: Dana Lauren Berry
Date: May/June 2006

Restaurant Kelly Liken, Vail's Hot Spot! An accomplished young chef makes her mark on Vail

People have really taken a liking to Restaurant Kelly Liken. The sophisticated, friendly restaurant in the heart of Vail has attracted a cult following and earned acclaim by the most critical of reviewers, including Bon Appetit, The New York Times and Wine Spectator. At 29, chef and owner Kelly Liken has established herself as a powerful force on Vail's restaurant scene, with culinary skills that rival

America's most seasoned chefs. Liken's impressive background includes formal training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where she gradated first in her class. After working at The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, she joined the staff at Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek before opening her namesake restaurant on Memorial Day weekend 2004.

Since day one, Liken has strived to create a warm, intimate restaurant with impeccable service and a one-of-a-kind dining experience. "Our attention to detail is what sets us apart from other local restaurants," she says. "From our valet greeting each guest at the door to the breakfast pastries to say farewell, each guest feels like a VIP."

The luxurious, cozy 1,200-square-foot restaurant exudes warmth and elegance. Unique light fixtures, custom-designed chairs and charger plates and a warm color palette of rich ambers and browns help create the perfect ambiance.

"Everything was carefully designed and detailed to create an elegant and contemporary space," says Liken, noting that her team is passionate about creating an unforgettable dining experience.

Chef Kelly Liken's signature fare is Seasonal American, which she describes as a classic cuisine that relies heavily on high quality, locally produced products.

Inspired by products available in the Vail Valley, Liken uses seasonal products to elevate the American culinary tradition to a new level of fine dining.

"We are proud to support our ranchers by serving all natural Coleman New York strip steak and roasted meadow rack of lamb as two of our featured entrees," says Liken, noting a majority of the restaurant’s produce, including heirloom tomatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, peaches and cherries, comes from Wynn's Farm in Palisade. The artisan cheeses are ordered from Eat! in Edwards, and the bread is baked at the nearby Alpenrose Bakery.

The use of fresh, locally grown ingredients is a huge draw for restaurant guests. While the menu features such staples as New York strip and rack of lamb, the bolder entrees include Cider Braised Organic Rabbit and Liken's signature Potato Crusted Trout Filets, accompanied by caramelized brussels sprout leaves, toasted hazelnuts and golden raisins.

Liken's personal favorite is the Colorado Wildflower Honey Glazed Duck Breast, because "it is truly an expression of American cuisine.

At first glance it's seemingly a French dish, but is a naturally American pairing between Colorado corn, duck and local greens, all which grew natively in the Midwest and were eaten by Native Americans," she adds.

Other menu favorites include the elk carpaccio salad and "can't be missed" sticky bun sundae. An impressive wine list offers more than 30 wines by the glass and more than 150 French and American bottles. Appetizers average $14, entrees range from $31-$39 and the must-have desserts are priced at $10-$14.

Although the wine list offers something for everyone, not to be overlooked are the restaurant's signature cocktails. At the Taste of Vail in April, the eatery won the "Bar Chefs Mix-Off" competition for its Cucumber Lime Elixir.

"During the summer, the cocktail that has guests coming back time after time is our Tomato Consomme Martini," notes Liken. "It's unique and refreshing, and guests start calling in May to find out when we'll put it back on the cocktail list."

Restaurant Kelly Liken participated in the Taste of Vail as another way of supporting the local culinary community, while bringing attention to Vail as a premier dining destination.

Stephen Lloyd Wood, spokesman for the Taste of Vail, welcomed Restaurant Kelly Liken's participation.

"They're highly evolved, and they were a great help to Taste of Vail this year, with Chef de Cuisine Anthony Mazza traveling to Denver on at least two occasions on his own to appear on Denver television cooking lamb and promoting our second annual Colorado Lamb Cook-Off," he says.

Chef de Cuisine Mazza has attributed his secret to cooking lamb to not "overpowering its natural flavors" with strong ingredients.

Mazza's recipe, Grandma Mazza's Leg of Lamb, got rave reviews at the Taste of Vail. "It's a reminiscent dish, warm and comfortable," he says. "You could taste the time and care in the production. Feeling and memory are what translated through the dish."

Chefs Liken and Mazza dish up a unique presentation of culinary delight. While they’re stirring things up in the kitchen, Liken's husband, Dining Room Manager Rick Colomitz, runs the front-of-house and serves as sommelier. With more than 10 years of fine dining front-of-house experience in multiple markets, Colomitz has used his expertise to assemble and train a highly dedicated service staff.

With tastes that truly dazzle the senses, combined with the subtlety-elegant atmosphere and family-feel, the restaurant is truly something Liken and Colomitz can boast about.

"Colorado has never seen anything like this," says Liken. "We are doing things that no one in our community has ever seen or experienced. We are shaking up the dining community throughout Vail and Colorado." For more information, visit or call 970-479-0175 for reservations.