'Off-Season' Dining in Vail, Colorado (Slideshow)

'Off-season' in Vail can be a real culinary adventure

1. Assorted Local Libations

Wines from Jack Rabbit Hill, Peak Spirits, and CapRock all have one very interesting thing in common — the same maker. Each are hand-crafted at Jack Rabbit Hill Farm, located in western Colorado’s North Fork Valley, made with certified organic fruit grown at Jack Rabbit Hill, Gunnison River Farms, or Ela Family Farms, and cut back with water from the CapRock formation at 10,500 feet on Grand Mesa. Find all three at Vail Fine Wines.

2. Chicharrones at Mountain Standard

Colorado isn't Mexico, but when a visit to Mountain Standard — a smart and small-plate-heavy restaurant that features foods from their wood-burning oven — begins with a salty and spicy plate of fresh-fried chicharrones, who needs to cross the border?

3. Truffle Honey Brioche at Game Creek

When you get to the top of Vail Mountain (and if you don't, please ask yourself why you are in Vail in the first place...), don't just hop on your skis and jet back down. Stop at Game Creek and start your meal with house-baked brioche, brushed with a light glaze of truffled honey.

4. Grilled Colorado Peppers

Grilled Colorado peppers, fresh from the farmers' market on a Bunsen burner, at an outdoor cooking demo by Elway's Top Chef alum Tyler Wiard makes for a pretty hot picture.

5. Eggs Benedict at Elway's

Eggs Benedict, given a seasonal twist by chef Wiard of Elway's, using the locale's finest foods —  potato and green onion cake, topped with beef tenderloin, onions and peppers, a fried egg, and corn hollandaise — is a Colorado cowboy's way to start the day.

6. Elk Corn Dogs at Back of House Burger

Chef Jason Harrison of Flame, the steakhouse at the Four Seasons Resort in Vail, hides some of his best bites at Back of House Burger — a single hidden table located right in the middle of his restaurant's kitchen. A starter of Colorado elk corn dogs with house-made smoked tomato ketchup is a must. And save room for your second course...

7. Fried Chicken and Waffles at Back of House Burger

When you’re done with those Colorado elk corn dogs, kick back a bottle of suds and go for one of the "build-your-own" sandwiches at Back of House Burger. Or order some of chef Harrison's masterpieces, like this fried chicken and Cheddar-bacon-scallion waffle "burger," topped with apricot slaw. Remember, to get a table, call Flame, because you won't find a website or a phone number anywhere online.

8. Smoke-Infused Whiskey at Back of House Burger

Steve Teaver, general manager and beverage director of Flame at the Four Seasons, uses charred wood from a local distillery's leftover whiskey barrels to infuse his whiskey with smoke. Mixologist? Magician? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

9. Dessert at Game Creek

Dollops of light and airy coconut mousse, topped with kataifi, macadamia crumble, mint sauce, and fresh raspberries, are the perfect way to end brunch at Game Creek. Savor every bite of chef Collin Meyer's creations during the "on-season," when the private restaurant opens to the public for brunch and dinner only, and maybe the view from the top of Vail Mountain, too.

10. Farmers' Market

Grab a coffee from Yeti Grind and stroll your way through the Vail Farmers' Market & Art Show, where you'll find the tail end of summer's Colorado tomatoes, peaches, and sweet corn, alongside the beginning of autumn's apples, pears, and squash.

11. Nobu in Vail

Of course Nobu has a Vail outpost. When landlocked, and you need a respite from lamb and beef, you need not look any further than Matsuhisa. Fresh fish, from all over the world, is flown in daily, and sliced and served in a solitaire sashimi. But if you have time, I suggest you allow chef Nobu to decide what you'll have for dinner — with his signature omakase tasting menu.