Many restaurants, if very good, can make you feel as if you are on top of the world. A perfectly cooked steak, a bittersweet chocolate, a rich flush of good wine – eating can absolutely be an organic (and sometimes orgasmic) experience.
But have you ever literally dined on top of the world? My sister and I had the rare pleasure of dining at the highest restaurant in the U.S – The Alpenglow Stube, located in Keystone, Colorado. The Stube is owned by Keystone Resort, and there is only one way up to this Four-Diamond restaurant – by gondola.
We boarded the gondolas at the bottom of the Keystone Resort Ski Lift. If you are not from Colorado, you might not know what a gondola is. It’s a box, that is attached to a cable that lifts you hundreds of feet in the air. It’s a fancy ski lift. It’s kind of neat…
unless you hate heights. I was okay at first as we hurtled up the hill. It was pretty, and the gondola seemed stable, although my heart was pounding in my chest. Every time the gondola went over one of the wheels, it gave a hearty shake, and I let out tiny whimpers.
My sister thinks gondolas are fun and she kept trying to take fun pictures with me as we flew up the mountain and I kept pushing her back to her side of the gondola. “Don’t shift the weight!!” I would scream.
Finally, after I saw my life flash before my eyes, we were there – at the top of the world, the summit. We climb out of the gondola and took it all in (as I wiped tears of fear off my face) – one of the best views I’ve ever seen. It’s quiet. It’s high. It’s… amazing. Blue mountains and green pines, dirt and big sky. It’s Colorado in all her fierce, independent, grand beauty.
The Alpenglow Stube is located on Keystone’s North Peak at 11,444 feet, the highest restaurant in North America. The stube itself is a cozy looking but elegant log cabin.
We were greeted with a smile from the manager, and led to our table – the chef’s table! We had a perfect view of four master chefs, creating gourmet Bavarian inspired dishes. You could just tell these chefs were the real thing. It was way out of my league. My sister leaned over and whispered to me “This is not a place where you order stuff ON THE SIDE.” Bewildered and impressed, we looked over their intimidating seasonal menu. Everything looked good.
We chose the four-course Chef menu, which included a salad or consomme (which I learned means SOUP), a nightly intermezzo, entree and dessert. I started with a grapefruit and avocado salad with toasted pine nuts (which are like, my favorite thing ever). After that, we feasted on a wide variety of rolls: hard crackers, cheese and bacon rolls, sweet wheat and sourdough with homemade berry jams and butters.
Then our intermezzo came – a prickly pear sorbet. It was delicious. I don’t know that I’ve ever had anything combining pears and ICE, but I want to again. It was heavenly on my tongue and cleared my palette.
The entrees were dazzling and hearty: My sister ordered ordered the steak, and I chose the gnocchi. How to explain my gnocchi? Cheesy, salty, herbed deliciousness. Perfectly seasoned and topped with many crunchy. yummy mysterious things, I wish I knew what they were, but I just don’t. A food blogger, I’m not, nor have I ever claimed to be. But I do know when I’m eating food that tastes exquisite, expensive and rich. It not anything like you’d whip up at home, unless you’re Martha Stewart. It’s an experience, instead of just filling your belly.
Dessert arrived, and I was thrilled when I saw that they had swirled my initials onto my plate. My flour-less chocolate torte was simply to die for, and my sister uttered a lot of happy moans while eating her lemon creme brule with a poppy seed spoon.
I casually asked the manager if there was any other way down the mountain other then the gondola. She laughed. I leaned back and laughed too, awkwardly, like I was totally kidding. I wasn’t. “So there is really no road or anything?”
We left the Alpenglow Stube so full and happy that I kept it together all the way down the mountain. Yes, I laid down, and yes, I covered my eyes for the entire ride down while my sister went on and on about the resplendent mountain sunset outside. I looked. It was beautiful, but still scary. I covered up my face again.
Finally, we made it to the bottom of the mountain. I survived. Dining at the Alpenglow Stube was truly one of the most incredible and memorable eating experiences I have had and will ever have again. From the gondola ride (which everyone else seemed to love) to the superb cooking that melts on your tongue, I cannot express fully how much everyone needs to the visit the Alpenglow Stube at least ONCE in their travels.
I can’t imagine a place that more summarizes everything that’s both stunning and scary about Colorado better than this restaurant.