Heather dropped me back at the airport Sunday late Sunday afternoon (after a wonderful but all too short visit) so I could catch the CME up to Vail to meet my Dad, his wife, and my brother for a week of Mountain time.
The first night that we were all there, after getting unpacked and changed, we went out for pizza and beer. As a family of foodies, conversation turned to restaurants we’d heard of and loosely planning out where we’d go for the various meals while we were in town. Conversation was sidelined by the arrival of an amazing pizza, and once it started up again, we ended up going down other conversational paths.
The next day, after sleeping in and making breakfast, we took the shuttle into the village. Enjoying having nothing we had to be doing, we poked around in shops and galleries and ended up ready for a beer and snacks of some kind. With no real destination in mind, we stuck our heads into a couple of what looked to be promising places, and pretty much immediately pulled them back out.
Nothing felt right, and we’d continue on our walk. We reached the top of the village, and saw a sign for Almresi, which we’d read (albeit briefly) about the night before. What the hell right? We figured we’d give it a shot. The building itself sits at the top of the village, tucked up against the mountain. You walk through an unassuming door, and are directed up the stairs
We figured that we’d find a bar, and hopefully a fireplace, and have a quick drink.
Instead it felt like we walked into a lodge in Germany.
We were shown to our table, ordered beers, with my head swiveling around like a bobblehead trying to take it all in. Much to my families chagrin, I pack my camera with me everywhere, and had it out pretty much the minute that I sat down. A rule of mine is that unless I’ve arranged in advance to there, and be taking photos, I keep it pretty low profile. (after you stop laughing, and realize I’m serious, we’ll move on).
I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to keep it at a cursory level either, so I found our server, and explained who I am, and asked if it would be alright to take some photos as we were there. That was the first time that I got to meet the force that is Alyssa Thoma.
She came over, welcomed us in, and told me that I was welcome to photograph to my hearts content and agreed to sit down with me later in the week to talk further.
I was estatic.
The Thoma family has a long history in the hospitality industry in Germany, and they have brought thier talents to Vail with Almresi. Diana and Franz Thoma’s shared goal of getting back to America was realized in December of last year with the opening of Almresi at the top of Bridge Street in the Vail village.
My husband and I met with a common dream: America. He moved to Vail, Colorado in the 80s to live and work, and he fell in love with the American lifestyle. After we got married, we started our business in Germany and we began spending many vacations with our four kids throughout the US. Even though our lives were in Germany, we never lost sight of our hearts’ desire to bring America into them as well.
About a year ago, we were vacationing again in the beautiful Rockies and I really don’t know how it happened, but everything fell together like a mosaic and we found ourselves with a unique opportunity: running a restaurant. We knew that this was our chance to expand into America not only our business, but also our lives, and we seized the opportunity.
In doing so, we began to realize a common family dream. One year of planning, organizing, rebuilding, and many overseas flights later with highs and lows that building up a new project in a foreign country has to offer , we are happy to announce the opening of Almresi just in time for Christmas.
We hope to bring a touch of romantic charm and European culture to the pristine and rustic village that is Vail.’ -Diana Thoma via Almresi-Vail.com
Two of their children have relocated to Vail to run Almresi, Alyssa & Joshua.
If you take nothing else from this article, make sure that you remember this, Alyssa and Joshua both are so incredibly passionate about what they do and view thier entire staff as family. Throughout our conversation, which ranged all over the board, from favorite foods, to what they’ve enjoyed the most about living in Vail, to what’s surprised them the most (which, for the record, is how much the entire village runs on ‘mountain time’).
In everything that they do, they make a point to share credit with thier entire time. These two have grown up in the industry, and it is so very clear that there is no “them and us” mentality when talking about the staff and team of Almresi, the staff is a family. Simple as that.
When I asked them what their favorite part of the whole experience has been the answer was two fold. For both it was being able to bring a part of their home to Vail, and being able to share what they hold dear. The second answer was the people.
Locals, regulars, and those on holiday are all welcomed as though they’d just left an hour ago, and people are respond to that. Both Alyssa and Josh have the talent of remembering (or least faking it, very very well) thier guests, and are able to draw on conversations that have been had to welcome thier guests back in.
The day that I was there, there was a line of fellas at the bar, who all but sang the praises of the Thoma’s. All were there having a meal and raising a glass before heading back out to the slopes, and all informed me that they were regulars, eating at least one meal a day throughout the winter season at that bar. (most, I’m told, on the same stools)
That first afternoon, we we shared the Brotzeitbrett, slices of ham, bundnerfleisch, prosciutto, salami sticks, selection of cheese, garden radish, grapes, and pretzels. Griebenschmalz, which is homemade bread with a thin layer of lard (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, because it is FANTASTIC) and minced bell peppers served on a wooden board. And beer. Lots of very good German beer. Also, toss back a few Zirben shots, which is a liqueur made from stonepine, which comes in a shot glass in the shape of a hiking boot. (check out the video on our Facebook page to see what happens after a few)
Later in the week, when I went back, I had the Almresiburger, which is the best sandwich I’ve ever had. Ever. It’s Nurnberger sausages, onions, homemade herb mustard served in a brezelbun and a side of homemade potato salad. (My mouth is watering as I write this)
Both the lunch and dinner menu have an array of soups and salads as well as a host of other amazing options. All are hearty, filling, and wonderful. I’m convinced that you can’t go wrong with anything you choose. Same goes for the cocktails.
I can’t wait to be back in Vail again, for many reasons, and a meal (or three) at Almresi will absolutely happen.
//THE MEANING OF ALMRESI//
I’ve tried to capture Alyssa’s words describing what Almresi means, and have failed, erasing everything that I’ve tried, so instead, I’ll again quote the Almresi website.
Up in the mountains for many years a story has been told. Resi was a beautiful and graceful farm girl engaged to the son of a woodsman, Florian. Their love and happiness ended unexpectedly when Florian was killed while hunting an exceptional large deer. After her loss the inconsolable Resi decorated the antlers with flowers and moved far away from the place that reminded her of her lost love. She not only found her inner peace but also her destiny up in the mountains in an isolated cottage, dedicating her time and heart to look after the travellers passing by. She catered to the hikers so well that her reputation as an outstanding hostess soon became legendary. When the locals felt spoiled, loved and completely at home somewhere they would say: “It is just as lovely here as it is at Almresi.”
They nailed it.