Beaver Creek, Colo.
David Clark's recipe for success: Take a bounty of Colorado ingredients, coax them into six meticulously prepared courses in an exhibition-style kitchen and present them in an elegant, high-alpine meadow setting. "It's a dream job," 31-year-old Clark says of his position as executive chef at Beano's Cabin in Beaver Creek. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a comparable dining experience anywhere in the country."
While the restaurant is stunning-housed in a renovated version of homesteader Frank Bienkowski's early 1800s log cabin, with a beamed cathedral ceiling, river-rock fireplaces and expansive windows-its mid-mountain location makes getting there an adventure. Diners hop onto horses for an hour-long, nose-to-tail trail ride. (If you're not feeling trail worthy, wagons are an option, as are vans.)
Clark's dinners are worth the ride. They're also a far cry from the restaurant's early days, when tables were set up "lumberjack style" with helpings of beef, big bowls of salad and jugs of rhubarb wine. Calling on experience garnered at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, as well as restaurants from San Francisco to Keystone, Clark puts wood-burning grills, brick ovens and rotisseries to good use. Ditto a wide selection of local products-from rabbit to baby candy-striped beets-much of which is grown or farm-raised especially for him.
Standouts from the always changing menu include wood-fired pizzas (pomegranate-braised rabbit with poblanos, tomatillos and a "cabin-made" potato crust, for example), fire-roasted tenderloin of beef with wild mushroom duxelle and foie gras demi-glace, and roasted Colorado rack of lamb with a savory sweetbread tart. Fresh brioche and other breads from the bake shop are always a treat, as are pastry chef Andrew Fox's desserts.
After two years, Clark is pleased that Beano's has matured into a world-class destination. "It's not a hayride experience anymore," he says. "The setting might be casual and the dress cowboy boots and jeans, but the food and service are high-quality. People are impressed."
To add a quick blast of flavor to your summer barbecue, try the potent blend of seasonings called Prairie Fire Spice, from chef Scott Mason of the Ketchum Grill in Ketchum, Idaho.
At the restaurant, Mason stirs a dose into garlic, olive oil and Marsala, and uses it to marinate Cornish game hens before tossing them onto his wood-burning grill. At home, use it to season whatever you like. But beware: Mason claims the stuff is addictive.
Prairie Fire Spice
2 heaping tablespoons paprika
1 heaping tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 heaping tablespoon chili powder
1 heaping tablespoon thyme
1 heaping tablespoon curry
1 heaping tablespoon anise seed
1 heaping tablespoon ground black pepperCombine ingredients. Store in an airtight container.