The elegant Penrose Room at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs has become the state’s first and only restaurant to be awarded Five Diamonds from AAA. This is a very big honor. Only 57 restaurants in all of North America and Bermuda were on the previous Five Diamond list; the Penrose Room’s announcement (and celebratory lunch) took place just yesteday, and the full updated list has not been published yet — or at least I have not seen it. However, I don’t imagine there will be many more retaurants on this year’s roster than on the last one.
The AAA Five Diamond criteria are rigid, and the anonymous evaluators are merciless. They are not inclined to overlook even the smallest flaws in the culinary, hospitality or service aspects of a fine dining restaurant — the things that elevate a restaurant (or hotel) from a very commendable Four Stars to a rarifed fifth. In addition to the established objective criteria, seamlessness and consistency are taken into account in evaluating a restaurant for such a high honor. It is said that the leap from Four to Five diamonds is one of the most difficult for a restaurant to achieve
Bertrand Bouquin (right), executive chef both of the Penrose Room and Summit restaurant, has been there before. He came to The Broadmoor from the Masionette in Cincinnati, which held AAA’s Five Diamond award for a record 41 years until it closed in 2005. I fully expect the Penrose Room to reach such longevity as one of AAA’s top-shelf restaurants. After all, in the hotel category, The Broadmoor has earned Five Diamonds from AAA for 31 years, Five Stars from Mobil for 48 years and top honors from other organizations and magazines that publish annual lists of “bests” and “favorites.”
In addition to being a tribute to Bouquin, the Five Diamond Award, by extension, honored Broadmoor president and CEO Stephen J. Bartolin, food and beverage manager Craig Reed, Broadmoor executive chef Siegfried Eichenberger (below, far right), and the Broadmoor wine director Tim Baldwin. Specifically for the Penrose Room, Bouquin’s culinary and service teammates are headed by executive restaurant pastry chef Rèmy Frünfrock (near right), general manager/maitre d’ Duane Thompson and sommeliers Wendi Walk and Evan Faber. The whole team — from top toques to busboys — came out after lunch for a well-deserved ovation.
The Penrose Room was totally remodeled less than two years ago, and like other Broadmoor makeovers, it was done so perfectly that one would think it has looked just that way since the hotel opened in 1918 (90th anniversary coming right up!). In fact, today’s interpretation of early 20th-century style is much more opulent and elegant the the original, and in another fact, the Penrose Room opened “recently” — in 1961. It crowns the South Tower, with stunning westward views toward Cheyenne Mountain and eastward overlooking Colorado Springs and the Plains beyond.
During yesterday’s celebratory luncheon, the kitchen and wait staffs demonstrated why the Penrose Room earned its fifth diamond. Perfect, discreet service. Perfect attention to detail. Exquisite presentation. After drinks and beautiful passed hors d’oeuvres in the lounge, the following lunch was served in the Penrose Room:
Black Truffle Gnocchi and Wild Mushroom Fricassée
A Tasting of Penrose Room Appetizers
Foie Gras Ballotine with Caramelized Apple Butter
American Kobe Beef Tartare with Harissa Relish
Golden Beets Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios
Dungeness Crab Bisque
Ahi Tuna Carpaccio and Crispy Sweet Bread “Virtello Tannato”
Wine: C. von Schubert, Maximum Grünhäuser Herrenberg Riesling, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany, 2005
Halibut Slowly Cooked in Black Olive Oil and Roasted Maine Lobster
Baby Root Vegetables with Lovage
Wine: Ghislaine Berthod, 1er Cru Les Véroilles Chambolle-Musigny, Burgundy, France, 2004
Venezuelan Chocolate Parfait with Cocoa Nougatine
Pear William Ice Cream
Wine: Royal Tokaji, Aszú 5 Puttonyos, Hungary, 2003
Coffee, Tea and Chocolates and Mignardises
While the lunch was swank and swell, the welcome was warm and genuine — which is another element that AAA’s full-time evaluators consider. What an honor for the Penrose Room. What an honor for The Broadmoor. What an honor for Colorado. What an honor for me to have been among the guests who celebrated this award.