Oh, Sweet Basil, how I love thee. Any restaurant that puts balsamic reduction in its olive oil and vinegar bottles automatically jumps the list in my book. That was the first of many things Sweet Basil in Vail, Colorado got right. The relatively small restaurant boasts a indoor/outdoor table area and a beautiful, dimly-lit bar. The menu, although not large, was full of local ingredients and insanely delicious dishes. Each ingredient shined and played off each other to create a perfectly-composed dish. The huitlacoche lent pure creaminess to the corn chowder, while the cilantro poked through just enough to taste the tangy, grassy flavor. The thinly-sliced jalapenos added a notable, yet understated punch to the rich soup.
The beet salad was the highlight of the night. “Beets? Boring, plain beets?” you may think. This, however, couldn’t have been less boring. Each cube of beet was perfectly cooked, tender, and sweet. The goat cheese mousse was distinctive and melted immediately in my mouth. I stared at my plate after every bite, in awe that these immense flavors came from the tiny, cubed root vegetable. The marigold yellow beets, contrasted against the white foam and vibrant, maroon beets made this dish a work of art. The plate was so beautiful I can literally close my eyes and remember each detail of the brilliantly deconstructed salad.
The desserts were also incredible, one of which was consummed before I could take pictures (I don’t want to talk about it). The dark chocolate mocha torte with crushed raspberries, Ice Milk,& honey-candied walnuts tasted as divine as it sounds. Two little bars of chocolate heaven, topped with tangy, ripe berries, pooled in a creme anglaise-esque sauce. I may or may not have been the one to eat it before I took pictures. Sue me. The sticky toffee pudding was just that: warm, sticky, caramelized sweetness topped with rich vanilla bean ice cream. I would likely sell my first-born child for another bite.
While our waiter drank enough ouzo shots with the table next to us to kill a large horse, we ooh’d and ahh’d as each dish came out (presented by different servers). We had eaten at Spago the previous night, and we unanimously agreed that Sweet Basil was far, far superior. Take that, Wolfie!
Butter Roasted Corn “Chowder” with Lump Blue Crab, Cilantro, Huitlacoche & Shaved Jalapeno
Heirloom Tomato Salad: Borden’s Best Tomatoes, Annabella Creamery Mozzarella, Black Olive Soil, & Parsley Pesto
Beet and Goat Cheese Salad; Beet Variations: Salt Roasted, Confit, Sous-Vide, & Juiced, with Goat Cheese & Crème Fraiche Mousse, Orange, & Almonds
Lump Blue Crab and Heart of Palm with Avocado Puree & Grapefruit Foam
Grilled Venison Loin with Spinach Puree, Summer Vegetable Hash, Pink Peppercorns, & Pickled Bing Cherries
Grilled Loch Duart Salmon with Eggplant Puree, Tempura Eggplant, Piquillos Pepper Compote & Preserved Lemon Oil
Snake River Sturgeon with Fingerling Potatoes, Fava Beans, Sweet Corn Broth, Grilled Corn & Tomato Relish
Warm Pistachio Cake with Strawberry Poached Rhubarb, Mascarpone Ice Cream, Pistachio Custard,& Strawberry Rhubarb Consommé
Hot Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake with Myers’s Rum Sauce & Whipped Cream
(not pictured: Dark Chocolate Mocha Torte with Crushed Raspberries, Ice Milk,& Honey Candied Walnuts)