Category Archives: Chef

Eat! Drink! = Lunch Delight in Edwards


As I was recently researching hot restaurants in Colorado ski resorts, whenever I asked Vail locals for suggestions, the names Dish (upstairs) and Eat! Drink! (downstairs) in Edwards came up. I was in Edwards today on an assignment for Vail Home magazine and had lunch with Stephen Lloyd Wood, my editor there. When he asked where I might want to eat, I didn’t hesitate to ask about Dish.

Dish is open only in the evening, so we settled in at a window table at Eat! Drink! downstairs. This bright, imaginative establishment — with each wall painted a bright contrasting color — serves light fare and sells about 150 artisanal cheeses and other gourmet products in part of the space and displays some 600 wines in the other. Christopher Irving and Pollyanna Forster opened Eat! Drink! in August 2004. Both came from the restaurant business, so they set up the wine retail area like a restaurant wine list, grouping the wines by varietal and posting what Chris described as “tutorials” about each.

Steve and I started with an Olive Boat, half-a dozen kinds of green and black olives arrayed in an dish that must have been nine inches long. From the small lunch menu, we both honed in on the panini in general and the Provence in particular: fresh chevre, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped artichokes and mesculin on tasty toasted flatbread. He ordered his with Boulder chips; I ordered mine with a simple green salad. At $9 each, panini here represent a real Vail Valley value. Steve, a former bicycle racer who has chowed his way through Europe covering the Tour de France, kept saying this was the best panini he has had outside of Italy.

Chef Jenna Johansen partnered with Chris and Polly to open the upstairs restaurant and wine bar. She trained at Johnson & Wales and also in the heart of Italy’s Chianti area of Tuscany. She holds forth in a spacious open kitchen. We popped upstairs for a look while the prep work for this evening was underway. If I ever get there for dinner, I want to perch on one of the six stools at the kitchen bar and watch Johansen cook and plate.

The menu changes weekly (and is updated on the restaurant’s website). She specializes in small plates, carefully prepared and exquisitely presented — like the organic beet salad (above left). “I love to watch people enjoy the food,” she said. She also likes it when they ask about something she is preparing. Dish’s dishes are available a la carte or for $25 for a six-course chef’s tasting menu, which is an even more impressive Vail Valley value.

Dish Restaurant and Eat! Drink! are at 56 Edwards Village Boulevard, Edwards; 970-926-3433 (Dish) and 970-926-1393 (Eat! Drink!).

AAA Five Diamonds to Penrose Room


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:

Amuse Bouche

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

Entrée

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

Dessert

Venezuelan Chocolate Parfait with Cocoa Nougatine
Salted Caramels
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.

Two Chefs End Short Reigns

Before I went to England and Europe last month, a friend and I had a wonderful dinner at Montecito in Denver. Chef Adam Mali was there that slow evening, ordered for us and even joined us for part of the meal. It was a delicicious, delightful, enlightening evening. The dinner has been on my to-blog-about list, but I didn’t manage to do so before I left for three weeks. Mali intimated that he would not be staying in Colorado for much longer, and now, Jason Sheehan reports in this week’s Westword that he is indeed leaving Montecito, probably for California — and perhaps has already done so. Just this past Saturday, we enjoyed First Bite Boulder at Boulder’s Restaurant 4580. There was caginess when chef Eric Laslow’s name was mentioned. It appears that he too is leaving after just a few months at the kitchen helm there. I believe that this blog was the first to report on Laslow’s arrival at 4580, and if I had been swifter on the uptake on Saturday, I probably would have been the first to report on his departure. As it turned out, Sheehan scooped me.

Chef Ian Kleinman’s Culinary Alchemy

In 1995, when Charles Dale became the first Colorado chef to be named as one of Food & Wine magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs of the Year, he owned and operated Aspen’s highly acclaimed Renaissance Restaurant. Formal, pricey, highly regarded and multiply honored, the restaurant was the place to dine in Aspen for several years. Dale described his culinary approach as “alchemy of good food, where science and magic meet.” Renaissance is history. Dale first morphed it into Range, a restaurant serving the cuisine of the New West, then sold it and got out of the restaurant business. He founded Dale’s Kitchen, producing “stock in a box,” natural, professional-quality stock for chefs at restaurants, caterers and other large-order establishments. Dale moved to Savannah, GA, which is about as different a place from Aspen as you can find in terms of history, geography, arhcitecture culture, psyche, heat and humidity and still be in the United States.

Dale voluntarily relinquished his role as Colorado’s leading culinary alchemist, but Ian Kleinman, a third-generation chef and formidable culinary talent, is wearing the kitchen wizard’s cloak and has taken alchemy to a new level. Kleinman is chef de cuisine at O’s Steak & Seafood in the Westin Westminster, as unlikely a setting for cutting-edge culinary imagination and kitchen magic as one could find. While many other chefs, in Colorado and elsewhere, are opting for simple preparation and beautiful presentations, Kleinman is tinkering with ingredients and technique to remake them into dazzling creations and transformational tours de force.

Westword’s Jason Sheehan, a restaurant critic who takes the criticism part of his job very seriously, recently watched Kleinman do his alchemy (I won’t write, “cook”) and was uncharacteristically dazzled. He defined Kleinman’s cuisine “molecular gastronomy,” a term coined by a Hungarian physicist named Nicholas Kurti and a French chemist named Hervé This. Do they give a Nobel Prize for culinary inventiveness?

One of the scientists’ first acolytes was Ferran Adrià, the Spanish superstar chef who has been acclaimed as the best in the world by people who decide such things. Adrià’s El Bulli is virtually impossible to get into. It takes just a phone call to book a reservation at O Steak & Seafood, where Kleinman, who understands Kurti and This’s concepts of applying science-lab processes to ingredients, has brought them to greater Denver.

When Sheehen hung out with him, Kleinman prepared that week’s version of his exceptionally innovative tasting menu and other creations as well. The results blew Sheehan away with such magical creations as caramelized balsamic vinegar, grape-slurry caviar, smoked blueberries, gazpacho spheres, assorted foams and purees, “dipping dots” made of flavored ice cream base and dispensed through a syringe, his own bubble gum and “a tableside sorbet of Colorado peaches made with liquid nitrogen, frozen crème anglaise with mango and truffled popcorn, halibut encased in chicken skin.” Using frozen liquid nitrogen, in fact, is one of Kleinman’s favorite tricks.

I have read Sheehan’s review over and over, and I can’t wrap my head about most of what Kleinman does with and to food, but the word “alchemy” keeps popping into my head. The other thought that keeps coming to me is that Sheehan will never again be able to dine at a Kleinman restaurant without being recognized, but it is totally understandable that even a reviewer has to watch an alchemist work. Just sitting in the dining room like an average Joe, or average Jason, wouldn’t be enough. Some of the specials are prepared at tableside, so anyone ordering them can get a glimpse of the magic. Sure it is possible to go to O’s and order steak and seafood, but with all that creativity in the kitchen, why would you? O’s is is in the Westin, close to US 36, at 10600 Westminster Boulevard, Westminster; 303-410-5000.

In case you want more insight into Kleinman’s thinking and processes (I sure do!), check out his blog, Food 102. He also posts the week’s tasting menu and photos like the dessert (above right) of Strawberry Noodles with Chocolate Black Truffle Whipped Cream and Pop Rock Encrusted Blueberries and Black Walnut Bubble Gum.” He didn’t mention the mint leaves, if, in fact, they are really mint leaves.

RIP, Chef Tell

Television’s engaging Chef Tell died on October 26 of congestive heart failure the age of 63. Born Friedman Paul Erhardt in Stuttgart, Germany, he trained in Europe and became a pioneer television chef. He owned several Philadelphia restaurants, wrote cookbooks and was a spokesman for various kitchen products. He made his television debut in that city in 1974 on a local Philadelphia program called “Dialing for Dollars.” WFMZ-TV was his home station. He appeared on TV shows including “Regis and Kathie Lee,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” specials for QVC, and “Saturday Night Live,” where he displayed is comedic as well as his culinary talents. He had his own PBS program, “In the Kitchen With Chef Tell.” The Stuttgart-born Erhardt earned the nickname “Tell” after playing William Tell in a school play.

Keystone Chefs at the James Beard House

Yesterday, Colorado again cooked for New York at the James Beard House, where Keystone Resort’s top chefs produced A Taste of the Rockies. Here is menu:

Hand-Passed Appetizer by Steve Nguyen and Steve Vlass of the Keystone Conference Center
Colorado Fingerling Potato Salad
Rabbit and Olathe Sweet Corn Pierogi
Soy and Molasses Tea-Smoked Duck and Chile
Colorado Braised Elk
Accompanied by Soligo “Millesimato” Prosecco 2005

First Course by Jason Kassib of the Keystone Ranch
Tuna Toro with Matsutaki Mushroom
Orange Miso/Lobster Broth Udon Noodles
Paired with Chehalem “Inox” Willamette Valley, Oregon, Chardonnay 2006.

Second Course by Brian Baker of the Ski Tip Lodge
Colorado Pheasant Roulade with Caramelized Sun Dried Plums and House Cured Bacon
Sous-Vide Leg and Quinoa Ravioli
Paired with Arroyo Grande Valley, California, Pinot Noir 2004.

Entree by David Scott of The Alpenglow Stube
Petite Colorado Lamb Chop, Shepherds Pie with a Cherry Demi-Glace
Paired with Hurricane Ridge, Washington, Cabernet Franc 2004.

“Salad” Course by Scott Radek ot the Keystone Lodge & Spa
Fruit Salad” Made with Foie Gras Larded Buffalo Tenderloin with Creamed Spinach and Fall Turnips
Paired with Orin Swift Cellars, The Prisoner, Napa Valley, California 2005.

Dessert by Chris Brinkman and Eric Hall, also from the Keystone Lodge & Spa
Western Slope Pear Tart with Haystack Goat Cheese Ice Cream and Cajeta Caramel
Paired with Andrew Rich, Gewurtztraminer, Washington/Oregon 2006

Chocolate by Ned Archibald of the Keystone Conference Center
Mignardise – Colorado Ore Cart Truffle Selection

Anniversary Dinner at Black Cat Bistro

We celebrated our 14th anniversary earlier this week at Boulder’s Black Cat Bistro Métropolitain. We had loved chef Eric Skokan’s creations when he was at Gold Lake Resort high in the hills above Boulder and were thrilled when he opened his own restaurant just a few blocks from home. We also enjoyed the restaurant when we dined there late last year during the First Bite Boulder promotion and resolved to go back — a resolution we didn’t keep until this week. How time flies.

We made our reservation on-line through OpenTable, and in the special request section, noted that this would be our anniversary dinner. Our waitress brought not only menus and a wine list, but also two glasses of champagne to start off in proper celebratory style. Black Cat is a restaurant that will add something extra for a birthday, anniversary or other special event. When you are celebrating something, let the restaurant know. But please, be a sport and don’t fabricate one every time you go out!

We tried to be unobtrusive and not use the flash when we took pictures of the food, which while courteous, produced uninspiring images. The best of the photographic lot was dessert (above right) — and even the best doesn’t do justice to the lovely presentations. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So back to dinner. Fortunately, much, much better than the photography. Wonderful, in fact. An amuse morsel. The wine list. Slices of fine bread, offered with a choice of olive oil or butter. A nice touch, because most restaurants decide for you but will gladly bring the other if you ask. Back to the wines. Barbera for him. Chard for me. Now really back to dinner.

My husband started with Brillat Savarin cheese, a super-rich, semi-soft triple-cream served with roasted grapes and with two slices of fine bread. The cheese is from France and the grapes are from Eric’s neighbor’s arbor. I selected Eric’s Kitchen Salad, because when we there so many months ago, he said that he was planning to grow as many of his own herbs and as much of his other produce as possible. The intention of November was fulfilled this summer. Every bite had that undefinable summer-fresh quality. And the sprinkle of crushed hazelnuts atop the pile of greens provided a lovely contrasting texture. I wish I could make vinaigrette like that!

My husband’s grilled ribeye was perfection. Eric buys a steer at time from Frank Silva’s Highland ranch in Erie and develops his recipes for different cuts. Grilled only on the outside to seal in the juices and displaying the beautiful pink that is truly medium rare throughout the inside made this superior to many steakhouse versions that I’ve tasted — and though I am never tempted to order a steak or a prime rib, I always have a bite (or two) of his. The ribeye was perched on a foundation of truffle risotto and was served with roasted tomatoes and oyster and shiitaki mushrooms.

I was in a mood for gnocchi and I always treasure an opportunity to taste truffles (both the fungus and the chocolate variety, BTW), so I selected the Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Italian black truffles and braised celery. I love diver scallops, so I jumped at the opportunity to substitute them for the grilled Highland beef. It’s early for truffle season in Italy, so these didn’t yet pack the intense flavor punch that comes later in fall, but that is a small quibble on an otherwise outstanding meal. And yes, another glass of wine was nice too.

We shared a Pistachio Financier for dessert. I’m afraid that the photo does not really do it justice. It consisted of three cubes of light yet moist cake with poached peaches, a mantle of brandy custard and candied pistachios. Eric piped “Happy Anniversary” in dark chocolate on the rim of the plate. That fine dinner made it that much happier.