Keystone’s hidden romantic dining gem

By Janice Sakata-Schultze,

After shredding the back bowls at Keystone Resort in winter or scaling the trails on your mountain bikes in summertime, you’re running on empty.  Thick crust combo pizza and a pint of Fat Tire might satisfy, but what if you’re wanting to impress…and be impressed?

If you are looking for something a little more elegant and completely extraordinary, ascend the River Run and Outpost gondolas to Alpenglow Stube.  In business since 1991, they have the distinction of being a AAA four-diamond award winner 19 times, nearly every year since their opening, and at the highest elevation (11,444 feet) in the United States.  If possible, arrive right around sunset (the “Alpenglow”), when you can take in the panoramic views from both lines and possibly watch either hardcore skiers or mountain bikers glide down the fir-canopied slopes.

Walk into the rustic log cabin entrance, and you will be greeted by friendly waitstaff, who take your coats and shoes and offer comfy slippers to warm your feet and wear during your meal.  Warm glowing light fixtures made from elk horns cast illumination on walls adorned with hand-stenciled green vines and paintings created by staff members.  Choosing a wine to drink, you would be assured of excellent choices all around – Alpenglow Stube is a recipient of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Best of Award of Excellence, offering 450 different bottles.

On our visit, we were presented with menus printed with our party name – a wonderful personalized touch.  Three fixed-priced options offer four ($69 per person), six ($92 per person)or seven courses ($99 per person).  With the first two, we could select from the menu inspired by Colorado native ingredients such as trout, venison and buffalo.  Feeling more adventurous, we could have also be open to executive chef  Jeff Parker’s creativity and enjoyed seven plates off the menu.

We decided on the four-course dinner and sipped Argentinian Chardonnay and a California Pinot Noir by the glass to start.  Both my husband and I decided that the six-course meal, with caviar and appetizer courses, might be too much of great thing.

Sharing the woodsy venison currant consommé and the savory-sweet roasted beet and mache salad as a first course, we also enjoyed four different kinds of house-baked breads.  These included a mini-brioche, a multigrain roll, lavosh with rosemary and a buttery strudel with Westphalian ham, accompanied by butter, herb butter and raspberry preserves.  Almost a meal in itself.

After a palate-cleansing strawberry-juniper sorbet, my husband enjoyed buffalo short-ribs with whipped potatoes.  Even with my semi-vegetarian diet, I relented and savored the tender meat infused with pomegranate.  My wild mushroom risotto was prepared perfectly, with silky consistency and a delightfully earthy flavor.  On the menu, this dish was offered as an appetizer, but when I asked to order it as my entrée, our terrific server Christina happily accommodated.

The dessert course, with scrumptious chocolate hazelnut bars and creme brûlée, provided the flawless ending to a magical dining experience high above Keystone.  “We get a lot of repeat customers, people who come up here every year,” said longtime hostess Harriet Bobo.  We would readily join this lucky group on our next few visits to Summit County.