Kelly Liken is a bit of a mouthful. For lack of a better term, she is a Colorado culinary celebrity. If you can get past all that alliteration, Kelly Liken has become well known for work in Vail at her self named restaurant, as well as her TV appearances. She, like all other major chefs these days, has participated in both Top Chef (season 7) and Iron Chef America. This basically means she is a certified culinary badass. Give her squid eyeballs and poisonous Guatemalan fruit and I’m sure she’d make you the best tasting dessert you’d ever had -unless your Tom Colicchio and in that case it’s horrible.
Never mind the crazy challenges she has endured, one of her most successful endeavors is her new American restaurant by the same name. Tucked away in the Vail Valley village (there I go again with the alliteration), Liken’s restaurant is a gem that one must try. It might take you a minute to find though because it’s disguised within another building. Nevertheless, Restaurant Kelly Liken serves up some amazingly delicious dishes. I was lucky enough to try the majority of her menu and found many favorites.The braised pork cheeks and creamy white corn grits were a total killer and the NY strip steak was cooked to perfection. And not to mention her signature Sticky Bun Sundae that still makes me salivate. Every single plate that was brought out was creative and well executed. The wine selection was also excellent. They served me with one of the best pairings I’ve had in a while- the Gundlach Bundschu winery definitely found themselves a new fan.
What I appreciated the most from this experience though was not necessarily the dishes themselves. Rather it was the fact that the ingredients were chosen not because they are on trend, but because they were the freshest pick from the local selection. Because honestly I think I’ve had pork belly or arugula as many ways as one can possibly experience. So my little trip up to Vail and to Kelly Liken ended up not just being a well-needed break for my sanity but for my taste buds as well. Definitely check them out the next time your up in Vail because they will not disappoint. And maybe if you’re lucky you will get a chance to meet Kelly and she can tell you how she survived both Tom and The Chairman.