Back around 2000 I went to Vail with 2 other guys for a different skiing, snowmobiling and NFL football trip.. We stayed in Cordillera at another friends very beautiful chalet. We made this trip twice in 3 years. Most of what we did during these trips is encapsulated in the quote, “We enjoyed all that Colorado had to offer.”
There are a lot of stories from our trips to Vail that I can tell. This one will be about our first fine dining experience in Vail.
After a day of ski school, we walked around Vail Village for a while and with little to no research we decided to go into a place called “La Tour”. This turned out to be a good and a bad choice.
We walked into the restaurant and were immediately greeted by the hostess. Fairly quickly we determined that we were very underdressed for this fine dining establishment. There were a lot of couples in their best evening attire and we were dresses in blue jeans and polo shirts. The hostess noticed this as well and she shot us a look that felt as if she was asking,” do you have to eat here.” We told her we wanted a table for three.
The hostess said, “Follow me”, and then took us on the strangest walk around the restaurant. As we stood in the entry way we could see a table with three chairs, right next us. Yet, the hostess walked us around the restaurant and back up front to the empty table. Clearly she wanted one of two things. To show us that we did not belong, or to show us to the other patrons so they could get a good laugh. We obviously did not belong, and this became more apparent as the experience continued.
We sat down in very comfortable high back chairs. The table, covered in a sheer table cloth was very well arranged with individual place settings of a crystal water glass, two fancy forks, a spoon and knife around a plate that I thought was far more ornate and fancy to eat off of. Very elaborate place settings. The napkins were made of a very soft yet shiny and elegant material, no paper napkins here.
Our waitress, dressed better than I dress even for Easter service, walked up to us, offered us the menu on a single sheet of paper and asked us what we wanted to drink. Two of us ordered beers and my other buddy ordered a bottle of wine.
As she walked away we jokingly commented to each other that it was clear, “We did not belong here.” But we didn’t care.
We looked over the menu and noticed that besides being a fantastic selection of fine food, there were no prices on the menu. This normally means you don’t want to know, i.e., very expensive. This would eventually become evident to us.
Our drinks arrived and we commenced to prove to ourselves and everyone else there, that we truly did not belong.
The service was slow, maybe because of the crowd, maybe because they were trying to ignore us, or possibly because they wanted us to order more drinks, which of course we did.
Eventually our waitress took our food order. The menu again had lots of good choices for beef, pork, seafood and lots of Italian dishes.
Before our meals arrived we managed to drink a few beers and the buddy drinking wine killed his first bottle and ordered a second. This would prove to be a bad thing for those sitting around us because with each drink, we got louder and louder.
Our meals showed up after what seemed like an hour or so. This place was very elegant and the delivery & presentation of our meals clearly showed this.
Our waitress and two other members of the wait staff came to our table with three individual trays of food. They picked up our meals and in smooth dance like motions presented our meals onto to the table in front of us. Woven baskets with fresh bread, fresh vegetable sides in elegant pewter bowls and our main course (i.e. hunk of meat) placed on a large plate adorned with herbs and relevant condiments of spices and sauce. Definitely one of the finest dining experiences I have ever had, so far.
The wait staff disappeared almost as quickly and quietly as they showed up. The three of us looked at our beautifully prepared meals and then at ourselves as my one buddy blurted out for all in the restaurant to hear, “We don’t belong here!”
The three of us busted out laughing and agreed, “Yeah, but we are.” And we laughed even harder and louder.
The laughter fueled my one buddy to loudly repeat, “We don’t belong here” a few more times during the evening.
Little did we know that soon we would find out how true that statement was.
We tried our best to dine like civilized men, but, yeah, that’s not really possible for us. Knives and forks slashed and hacked at our meals as we devoured some very tasty food.
As we ate, the waitress returned and asked how the meal was and if we wanted more drinks. Yes, more drinks please.
With more drinks, it seemed to raise our volume even louder and I noticed that the other patrons of the restaurant seemed to be watching us. My one buddy, thru one bottle of wine and working on the second, mostly by himself, was stuck on the phrase, “We don’t belong here!” He repeated this statement often and each time a little louder which resulted in us laughing louder and then for the others in the room to stop eating and stare at us. We were having a blast. Not sure if anyone else was, but we did not care, we were paying to be there. Little did we know how much.
We finished the main course, a few baskets of bread and at least three beers and two bottle of wine. Good stuff. Our wait staff again swooped in, removed our empty plates and with smooth graceful movements attacked the table cloth with crumb sweepers. When they were done the table looked as fresh and clean as it was when we first sat down. Ok, except for a few wine and beer stains.
Our waitress came back and asked if we wanted our check. Of course not, we wanted desert and coffee.
She went back and brought out the desert sample tray and commenced to tell us about our options. We had no idea what the deserts costa, so we ordered three different deserts and coffee.
When she served us desert, it was equally as grandiose of a delivery and food presentation as the main course had been. Again, when we got done eating, they cleared our place settings and swept up the crumbs with little effort or interference to our chatter, which by now has gotten much louder.
We downed a couple cups of coffee each before the waitress returned with our check.
The buddy drinking the wine offered to pay for the evenings dinner knowing that there were at least two other dinner meals that the rest of us would pickup. All good, actually very good for the rest of us.
For two appetizers, three entree, 12 imported beers, 2 bottles of wine and 3 cups of coffee the bill came to nearly $300, before the tip. Uh oh, our budget, even if very informal, did not allow for $300 dinners.
We did not belong there for sure; however it was too late. But being professionals and respectable patrons we did exactly what we should do.
We made lots more noise, laughed at ourselves, repeated out loud, “We don’t belong here!”
We paid the bill with an appropriate $45 tip and left.
Today, over 10 years later, we can’t easily recall the name of the restaurant, but we clearly recall that we did not belong there.