There's a swirl of energy in every direction at the new SolVista Basin ski lodge. At the eye of the exciting storm is Seven Trails Grille.
Since its doors first opened on Dec. 17, 2007, it has experienced a great reputation as a place where people can come together and feel comfortable. Karl Vogelbacher points the way for the dining room and the upstairs cafeteria as food and beverage manager; Tom Kresler is executive chef in charge of the day-to-day operations of the restaurant.
Alone, the two have a long list of talents and official couture. Together, they create a wave of Mediterranean delights for hungry guests.
After graduating from the Culinary Art Institute in Denver, Kresler attended a four-week course at the Italian Culinary Institute for advanced culinary and pastries and went back for a quick visit just before Seven Trails Grille opened. Through his courses of study and a variety of travel, he has developed a deep passion for Southern Italian cuisine.
Vogelbacher grew up and trained in Switzerland. He worked at the Brown Palace in the early '90s and met Kresler while he was executive chef at the Gasthaus Eichler.
"He is an unbelievable resource," Vogelbacher said of Kresler. "His knowledge of regions and food trends in those regions are remarkable."
They present a Mediterranean-inspired menu with influences from Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, focusing on fresh cuisine and prices families can afford. Appetizers start at $5 and the most expensive entree is $12.
"We will always focus on the family here. We wanted a place that appealed to everyone with a price range that everybody can afford," Vogelbacher said. "We keep it simple but authentic to the region."
At first, the restaurant almost couldn't keep up with the demand for its lasagna, he said. Now its the pizza (with the four cheeses) is "selling like crazy." Vogelbacher smiles, and he should with everything shiny and new around him including a new gadget behind the front line that looks like a big tortilla press (for pizza dough).
On the bar-appetizer menu shines an apres ski platter of prosciutto, salami, sausage and fontina; there's minestrone, pastas, and several salad selections, including an intriguing apple salad. Desserts include tiramisu, creme Catalana, chocolate mousse cake and several flavors of gelato, an Italian-flavored ice cream that has less fat.
Other specialties include a barrista station complete with pastries, espresso machine and beans roasted locally; kids menu ($6 buys meal, drink and gelato), and two special Italian wines (Gabbiano chianti and pinot grigio) served from a bar which also extends outside. The elegant, full bar offers eight more wines, specialty martinis, flatscreen TV and a great appetizer menu - with its grilled lamb Kofta meatballs with yogurt mint sauce as the big seller.
Vogelbacher, who helped plan the restaurant and kitchen, said everything worked out great with construction on the entire base lodge remodel project. The dining area, complete with lots of windows, fireplace and decor complementing the Mediterranean style put together by an interior designer, can seat up to 80 people.
A little spice was also added to the upstairs cafeteria, which features a new fireplace and The Overlook, a cool lookout tower from which onlookers may view the bustling valley and enjoy interactive displays for all ages.
Plans on the back burner include seasonal menu changes and Vogelbacher hopes to be hosting special events for the public starting this summer.
Lunch service is available 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week; dinner is available 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights with additional days being considered down the road. The dining room has also been host to live music almost every other Friday during free night skiing. Reservations are recommended for dinner to (970) 887-5200.