Cosu summer 2014 dining keystone ranch ctptjr

By tradition, dessert at Keystone Ranch is served around the homestead’s hearth

Image: Liam Doran

It’s no wonder so many weddings happen here. Back in 1938, when Soda Creek homesteader Luke Smith married off his daughter to rancher Howard Reynolds, he presented the newlyweds with a two-story stone fireplace as a gift. Even better, he sited it atop a hill at the far end of a lush, green valley nestled between Summit Cove and Keystone Mountain, aiming the chimney like a rifle’s crosshairs at the distant peaks of Mount Guyot and Bald Mountain.

The couple built a cozy, one-room log cabin with a sleeping loft around that hearth, later adding two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a barn. Today that green valley is Keystone Ranch, one of the most bucolic golf courses this side of Scotland, and that barn is a dining room serving one of the most romantic and memorable meals to be had in all of the high country.

“Keystone Ranch has always had a special place in my heart. I love this restaurant,” says executive chef Steven Vlass, who has cooked in practically every kitchen at Keystone since he started as an apprentice in the resort’s culinary program thirteen seasons ago. “There’s a lot of history and beauty here.”

The result is like an epic poem told with food, arriving in four chapters: Hudson Valley foie gras crème brûlée in raspberry water with toasted hazelnuts and a leaf of candied mint, buffalo barley soup, a salad of wild arugula with a wedge of pickled watermelon rind, and bing cherry–glazed duck breast over duck confit risotto in a ruby port reduction. The fifth course, by custom, is served around the hearth in the history-steeped living room of the original farmstead. There, seated on couches around a crackling fire, couples share conversation and a cornucopia of desserts: a trio of dark chocolate mousse sculpted and dusted with raspberry powder, an apricot and frangipane tart with rhubarb coulis sweetened with Tasmanian honey, pineapple upside-down cake with black sesame seed ice cream in an emulsion of passion fruit.

In light of this bounty, it’s no coincidence that Vlass married a pastry chef. And that daily, with his kitchen, he rekindles a romance that began with a stone fireplace two generations ago.

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