Traveler Notes: Soul Food

High-country chefs nourish body, mind and spirit with a new spin on comfort-food favorites.
Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, VT.

Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, Vt. A 19th-century grist mill near Stowe is home to some of the region’s most authentic seasonal fare. Executive chef/co-owner Eric Warnstedt, a 2008 Food + Wine magazine Best New Chef, forages for ingredients from local farmers, purveyors and artisans. Menus change daily, but the integrity of his delicious, down-to-earth dishes never does.

Eight K, Snowmass, Colo. Named after its base village’s elevation, this sleek designer spot in the new Viceroy Snowmass hotel is the place to enjoy the progressively sized plates from executive chef Rob Zack and chef de cuisine Dave Kruz. Favorites include “Pots of Mom’s Meatballs,” mac ’n’ cheese with pulled pork and bacon, and pan-roasted organic chicken with turnips and Swiss chard.

Snake River Grill, Jackson, Wyo. Split lodgepole pine walls, hickory-plank floors and a moss rock hearth provide the atmosphere at this mountain-chic spot, where cowboy boots and Manolos are equally at home beneath the tables. Executive chef Jeff Drew’s wood-fired “Wyomato” pizzas, buffalo pot roast, apple cider–glazed pork shanks and pumpkin ravioli are fitting fare.

Trading Post Café, Taos, N.M. If the devoted local following here is any indication, chef René Mettler’s hearty, homey menu is top-notch. The best table is actually the high counter that fronts the open kitchen. There, you can eye the action and feed on bowls of steaming minestrone, penne tossed with spicy Italian sausage and garlicky pork chops.