Getting there: Our Rockies restaurant route starts at the Picasso Room of the Lodge at Cordillera, near Edwards, at the west end of the Vail Valley and heads east along Interstate 70 to Loveland Pass.
It ends at the Keystone Ranch at Keystone Resort, east of Dillon, on U.S. 6. At its farthest point (Cordillera), it's about a three-hour drive from Denver when roads are free of ice.
Picasso Room, Lodge at Cordillera, near Edwards. Contemporary French menu changes daily. Open daily. Lunch, noon to 2 p.m. (fixed price $16 to $24); dinner, 7 to 10 p.m. (fixed price $48-$68). Reservations recommended. Telephone: (303) 926-2200, (303) 949-7112 or (800) 548-2721.
Columbine Bakery, Beaver Creek Place Shopping Center, Avon. Calories go up with the altitude. Open daily, 7-11 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch. Carryout stews and casseroles sold until 6:30 p.m. (303) 949-1400.
Sweet Basil, 193 E. Gore Creek Drive, Vail Village. A la carte menu budget choice: appetizer avocado pancake with duck and wild rice filling ($6.50). Open daily. Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Reserve for dinner well in advance. (303) 476-0125.
Blu's, 193 E. Gore Creek Drive, Vail Village (downstairs from Sweet Basil but different management). Eat hearty for under $10. Open daily, 9:30 a.m. to ll p.m. (303) 476-3113.
Booco's Station and the Saloon, Minturn, about seven miles southwest of Vail Village. Popular gathering spots for Vail's working class. Booco's has smokehouse barbecue; the Saloon, Mexican food. Entrees at either start at about $8.95. Both open daily, 5 to 10 p.m. Booco's Station, (303) 827-4224; the Saloon, (303) 827-5954.
Poppyseeds Bakery, West Vail Shopping Mall, next to Safeway, bordering Interstate 70. Soup, muffins and granola at penny-pincher prices. Open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed Saturday. Open 6 a.m. to noon Sunday. (303) 476-5297.
Pesce Fresco, Copper Mountain shopping mall, ski area exit off I-70. A must is Chocolate Fitz, a mousse cake so rich it's served with two forks. Open daily, 6:30 to 11 a.m. for breakfast, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. lunch, 5 to 10 p.m. dinner. Call (303) 968-2882, Ext. 6505.
Silverheels Southwest Grill, Ltd., 81 Buffalo Drive, Wildernest Development, Silverthorne. Exit 205 from I-70, turn left on Colorado 9 to the traffic light, then turn right into the Wildernest entrance, follow road 1 1/2 miles to restaurant. Open daily, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations taken. (303) 468-2926.
Keystone Ranch and Back Ranch at Keystone Resort, U.S. 6 at west base of Loveland Pass. Rocky Mountain cooking in six-course, fixed-price menu for $38. Two seatings nightly, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Reservations necessary. (303) 468-4161. Back Ranch, reached by 20-minute sleigh ride, has fixed-price steak menu for $39. Reservations required. (303) 468-4130.