By Kim Fuller Published in the Vail Daily
There’s a new restaurant in town, but it’s one you won’t just stumble across. Like some of the most coveted areas of the wilderness, Wyld is a sought-after destination amidst a memorable journey.
The windy road that approaches Bachelor Gulch is just a taste of the escape you feel as you make your way up to The Ritz-Carlton. Set back between Beaver Creek and Arrowhead, the resort nestles up against wilderness. It’s here where the bustle of the world seems to fade as you retreat into the comfort of mountain elegance.
Wyld is refined, as guests of The Ritz would expect, but within the polished edges of the restaurant is a rustic authenticity that’s driven from locally sourced ingredients, Colorado flavor and classic alpine cuisine that’s been infused with contemporary style.
Executive chef Benjamin Christopher has developed breakfast, lunch and dinner menus inspired from the same elements that brought early settlers to the area and that keep guests coming back to The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch — because for so many people who come here, going to the mountains is going home.
The restaurant’s motto is “on edge of wild,” which Christopher said came before Wyld was given its name.
“We wanted something that would identify with where we are and who we are and to tie in with the resort as a whole,” he said.
The space used to be Wolfgang Puck’s Asian-infused Spago, and last summer when Christopher and his team were revamping a concept for the space, they shifted toward heartier food and a warm atmosphere that reflects the essence of the area and what a lot of people come here to experience.
“As a skier myself, I think about the foods that I want to eat after skiing, or after being in the cold,” Christopher said.
Not only does the menu resonate with a mountain lifestyle, but the remodel does, as well. With the guidance of EDG Interior Design, the wall that separated the restaurant from the lively bar and lounge area was removed, connecting the dining room to the living room to create the same seamless flow that’s present in modern homes. Shutters were removed to reveal more natural light, and the overall result feels invigorated.
“When the wall came down, you could feel the space really have a pulse, with positive energy,” said Zach Wendel, Wyld restaurant manager. “We’ve doubled the space, and it’s really inviting.”
Chic touches of metal and glass add fresh accents to the long corner fireplace and large open kitchen, set between deep hues of red, orange and yellow that border Wyld’s 100-seat main dining room of walnut wood tabletops and tall-backed leather chairs. On the walls, large black and white landscapes, captured by Colorado photographer John Fielder, instill a reverence of nature’s timeless beauty into every intimate meal.
“At Wyld, you’re going to get incredible Ritz-Carlton service, and all the attention to small details,” Wendel said, “but it’s a place where you can truly sit back, relax and enjoy.”
A CULINARY ADVENTURE
Wyld’s menus showcase ingredients from local purveyors such as Green Wagon Farms, Ripe Produce, Avalanche Cheese Co. and Colorado Meat Co.
“Our goal at Wyld is to highlight the amazing ingredients that Colorado has to offer today while also paying homage to the seven bachelors who settled Bachelor Gulch back in the early 1900s,” Christopher said.
Some of the more traditional alpine items on the evening menu include Swiss fondue and raclette, served with classic accouterments such as fingerling potatoes, tipsy onions and Colorado bresaola (air-dried beef), as well as classic dishes given a modern makeover.
Christopher has been buying whole animals from Colorado Meat Co. in Avon, using all the meat with Wyld’s own 21-day dry-aging process, and also using all the bones for stocks and sauces.
Colorado game meats are king at Wyld, including impressive displays of elk rack, venison chop and buffalo rib eye, along with prime cuts of beef and seafood.
The crispy half duck served on the dinner menu was created as a nod to the classic German rendition, with braised red cabbage, but Wyld makes a fun version of the dish with its delicious Bavarian pretzel dumplings.
And the smaller dishes don’t go unnoticed. The lobster cappuccino soup is a decadent play on a rich seafood stew, topped with flavorful foam and winter truffles.
Apres ski is all about unthawing and unwinding with some food and drink, and Wyld has a bar and lounge-specific menu that features more shared items, such as the Niman Ranch pork bruschetta with lardo and Colorado wildflower honey, or top-quality, simple delicacies such as oysters and charcuterie. Try the chef’s board, featuring artisanal meats and cheeses, cornichons, grain mustard and crostini.
The pizza available on the bar menu has a crust that took the chef team a while to perfect for crispness and flavor, and they’ve even added a touch of Colorado sugar beet sugar to the dough to give it a little sweetness.
“It gives it a nice, full flavor, and it crisps up very nicely,” Christopher said. “We’re really, really proud of that pizza dough we developed.”
The Bachelors is a pie for meat lovers, made with ground bison, elk sausage, smoked ham, bacon and a fried egg.
Wyld’s breakfast menu has unique renditions of favorites, such as the crispy chicken-fried steak and eggs that is served under a layer of bison sausage gravy. For lunch, try the Big Fat Toasted Grilled Cheese, made with Haystack chili jack, vacherin and fontina cheeses and paired with a standout tomato soup shooter.
The newly designed bar that connects Wyld to the resort’s living room-style lounge and outdoor terrace is coming out with cocktails for any occasion, whether its an afternoon apres, evening drink or dinner pairing. Add a little spice to your experience with the Fire on the Mountain, served in a martini glass with jalapeno-infused tequila, Cointreau, grapefruit juice and lime juice.
The wine list at Wyld has some lingering bottles from Spago days, but lead sommelier Jason Hunter has put together a glass list that will please every palate, with options that complement Wyld’s hearty dishes.
“One of the philosophies that we have always had about wine — and this comes from Jason and from Sean Razee before that — is that we like to be judged on our whole list,” sommelier Ben Marshall said. “You look at our wines by the glass and they are all phenomenal.”
Marshall understands how wine pairings can break the “rules” a little bit, and it’s fun and interesting to have him or Hunter lead you through your dinner with unique pours.
“My parent’s generation often thinks red wine with beef and white wine with fish, and that you can’t cross those two, but you can. You can do all kinds of things,” Marshall said.
Not only is Wyld on the edge of the wilderness, but it’s also an establishment exploring boundaries and forging a strong path in the Vail Valley culinary scene.