By John Lehndorff
(From Vail Beaver Creek Magazine Summer ’16)
Chef Kelly Liken is famous for creating delectable fine cuisine at her award-winning Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail Village.
That tradition continues at her new place, Harvest by Kelly Liken, but she said she has put “fine dining” behind her.
“Regardless of the price they are paying, people don’t want to sit for three hours through 23 courses. It’s not what I want, either,” Liken said. “The food and service at the new place won’t be all that much different from the old place. It is just more affordable and relaxed.”
Harvest by Kelly Liken is a completely new restaurant built inside the renovated Sonnenalp Club in Edwards, 13 miles west of Vail.
“This is the first place I’ve opened from scratch. We designed it around the idea of a gathering space where families can meet for a meal without investing a lot of time or money,” she said. The eatery includes large tables, comfortable spaces and a menu of mix-and-match plates of veggies, meats and grains to feed diverse dietary and taste desires.
The view is a photogenic panorama of mountains, golf greens and rooftops. Liken’s perspective is sunny, too. The unexpected opportunity to sell the Restaurant Kelly Liken location last spring that surprised devoted diners came at a perfect time. Liken and her husband/business partner, Rick Colomitz, are parents of Lucy, a very active 2-year-old.
Harvest reflects her longtime focus on supporting sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers. Liken was farm-to-table long before that overused label appeared.
“A lot of our produce will come from the Farm at Knapp Ranch in Edwards. Wynn Farms in Palisade has fruit that’s really second to none. Eagle Springs Organic in Rifle grows greens and herbs and I love Mountain Meadows for lamb,” she said. Liken also plans to continue her tradition of buying a steer at the 4-H Auction at the Eagle County Fair.
Dinner is served year round; lunch will be available during the summer season with many of the same items as the dinner menu with more salads and sandwiches.
Liken’s “good honest comfort food” starts with treats like tempura-fried baby artichokes with preserved lemon aioli, and roasted mushrooms with house-made ricotta, fried egg and grilled ciabatta. “Two people might share three of them. On date night you can have a lengthier meal with courses,” Liken said.
Liken is known for dishes with layers of spicing and several ways of preparing the same vegetable. On the dinner menu, juicy pork shoulder roast is served with English peas and pea shoots as well as country ham salad, smoked pork broth and creamy grits.
Main courses include family-style platters of braised organic chicken thighs with sweet and hot chilies, Italian sausage and fingerling potatoes.
The goal may be to serve healthy food “designed to nourish,” but nobody said anything about deprivation. “People want some delicious options available when they want to celebrate. There will be a great steak on the menu and seafood specials,” she said.
Harvest includes The Pantry, a casual are which opens at 6:30 a.m. daily year-round for coffee, pastries, smoothies and light breakfast items and stays open all day with ready-to-eat items. “In the summer we’re going to make frozen fruit pops for the kids,” Liken said.
Naturally, Harvest will have a great kids menu. “”We give them something delicious and healthful. Besides, if you talk to kids they really don’t want chicken fingers,” Liken said firmly as only a mother can.
The beverage list will not require a master’s degree to decipher. “We have put together a small, focused wine list that is not full of famous names. We like great bottles with a story behind them,” she said. The roster of spirits includes bottles from Colorado’s growing roster of distilleries but won’t appear in and “fruity, foof-y cocktails,” Liken said. “With craft brews we really don’t have to leave Eagle County to find them.”
Besides daily diners, couples are already booking the spacious patio for weddings throughout the season in the “warm” end of the valley.
When Liken opened her celebrated eatery in 2002, she was unknown locally but her resume included stops at some of the nation’s best restaurants. ”I was 27 but I looked like I was 14,” she said. Liken quickly established herself as one of Colorado’s most acclaimed chefs with appearances on “Iron Chef America and “Top Chef,” and by cooking at the James Beard House.
Despite the new name and surroundings, Liken said some things haven’t changed. We still serve the elk carpaccio. It was the only thing that didn’t change on the menu in 12 years. And it’s still just dinner at Kelly’s,” she said.
Harvest by Kelly Liken
Sonnenalp Club, 1265 Berry Creek Road, Edwards
John Lehndorff is the former Food Editor of the Daily Camera and Dining Critic at the Rocky Mountain News. Read his blog at: johnlehndorff.wordpress.com. Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on Boulder’s KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, streaming at kgnu.org).