Fruit Salsa

I’m still working through the gift basket of ripening fruit and so whipped up the following salsa to bring to another party. Boulder continues recuperating from a major snowstorm (see the December 20 and 23 entries on my travel blog), so by the time I got to the supermarket, the shelves and produce bins were bare. Had I been able to buy fresh cilantro, I would have done so just in order to add it to this easy recipe. I bought Terra brand Sweet Potato and Beet Chips and Stacy’s brand Cinnamon and Sugar Pita Chips to dip into the salsa.

Fresh Fruit Salsa

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 ripe kiwi, peeled and diced
1 ripe pear, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 half fresh lemon
Grated lemon peel (I grated the peel off half a lemon, the pressed out the juice)
1 tbsp. +/- Balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sea salt

Combine and serve immediately or chill, covered, until ready to serve.

The Alpine Epicure

Earlier this month, I joined a group previewing three European mountain resorts in three countries in three days that are being offered by a tour operator called Baobab Expeditions. Problem was, there was hardly any snow. The skiing ranged from pathetic to non-existent, but the food was first-rate. I promised to share some of those meals, and I am finally getting around to doing so. Most hotels offer a half-board plan that includes breakfast buffet and table-service dinner in each room charge, so people tend to eat in a lot. Here are a few highlights:

Dinner at the Hotel Schweizerhof in St. Moritz, Switzerland, was a tad formal — starched white linens, immaculate flatware and glassware, a candle on each table, a very young but very correct waitress — and I note this as a comment, not a complaint. A slice of venison sausage with goat cheese came out as an amuse bouche. The scallop carpaccio consisted of sliced scallops atop a mixed salad with red and yellow peppers and eggplant on the side. A long-braised beef dish called Tafelspitz is a Viennese specialty popular throughout central Europe. The Schweizerhof’s version consisted of two generous slices beef with parsleyed potatoes, spinach and a pitcher of smooth horseradish sauce on the side. The black potato gnocchi was braised, along with a touch of greens and moist prawns. the assemblage was mounded into a pyramid shape, napped with mild pesto and garnished with whole basil leaves and finely chopped tomatoes. We sipped Schloss Salnegg 2002 chardonnay with our dinner.

The mountain known as the Corvatsch provided the only even vaguely decent skiing of the whole trip on a handful of runs accessed by the first stage of the cable car. The second stage was also operating just so that guests could take in the grandiose views and eat lunch in the Stuebli Panorama Restaurant. Warm bread and sweet butter were the prelude for and accompaniment to the local air-dried beef that is known as Buendnerfleisch in Switzerland and bresaola across the border in Italy. it was followed by a choice of a hearty vegetable soup with barley or a tomato soup with croutons and a float of olive oil and cream. The entree choice was fabulous spaghetti either Bolognese or marinara, each with a pesto frill around the rim of the soup plate. Dessert was a to-die-for chestnut cake (photo top right) with
sliced star fruit and Chinese gooseberry as garnishes.

The Chesa Veglia, now in the heart of chic St. Moritz, was built
as farmhouse in 1770 — six years before the Declaration of
Independence. It is now an stylishly rustic restaurant where a dozen of us sampled a procession of specialties, encouraged by flowing Malanese pinot grigio. Every single offering was well prepared, so I present only a list — those items that I managed to jot down, in any case.

To start: Arugula salad. Sliced Salmon with artichokes. Tomato-mozzarella caprese. Polenta with wild mushrooms. Buendnerfleisch.
Pizzas (hand-tossed and cooked in a wood-fired brick oven,
photo, center right): Margarita (tomato-mozzarella-basil,
photo, bottom right). Cheese and black truffles (not as photogenic as the margarita but about the best pizza I’ve ever
had; despite the bounty, I ate two slices). “Napolese” with
mushrooms and anchovies. Quattro staggione (cheese, mushrooms, olives, sausage). Vegetarian (eggplant, zucchini, yellow peppers). Entrees: Entrecote. Grilled lamb chops. Small roasted chicken. Side dishes: Baked potatoes with rosemary. Roasted vegetables. Dessert: Tiramisu. Panacotta. Fresh fruits. House-made ice cream. Little baked things. Burp!
The next day, because it was raining in St. Moritz and wet snow was falling in the mountains, three of us who opted to stay in town had lunch at the Cafe Hauser, a classic European patisserie, confectionary shop, coffee house and restaurant. Soups, sandwiches, light meals and children’s selections dominated the lunch menu. The fennel soup was rich and creamy. Roesti, the classic Swiss specialty of pan-cooked slivered potatoes, cannot be considered a light dish, even with warm sliced salmon on top (photo left). Round ricotta- and herb-filled We shared a charming little stainless steel dish of panacotta for dessert. Most of our selections weren’t light, nut the cafe did have light fare for those who wanted it.

Livigno, just across the border in Italy, not surprisingly puts more emphasis on Italian classics and no Austrian specialties — and Buendnerfleisch has become bresaola. We ate a big square table at the Hotel de La Posta’s dining room, where the food was house-made and simple but quite good. The salad bar was outstanding, with an array of produce and condiments and a fleet of olive oil and vinegar bottles so that every diner could select his or her favorite combination. No bottled French or ranch dressings here! The skiing in Livingo was so marginal that the lift company didn’t charge for the three little lifts and two short runs that were open. The intrepid skiers and snowboarders toughed it out on that one run, barely covered with hard snow, with a occasional drizzle. I wandered around town and met my colleagues for a casual al fresco lunch before heading across another border to Austria.

I knew that dinner at the Hotel St. Antonerhof would be extraordinary when I saw the table covered with a lace cloth and illuminated by white tapers, and each place set with four forks, four knives and two spoons (photo left). My documentation compulsion failed me somewhere along the way. The dinner began with an appetizer of sushi-grade tuna, chopped and sliced, with horseradish sauce served on a glass plate with a frosted rim. It finished with an obscene tower of dark chocolate filled silky mountains and surrounded by delicious nibbles.
Throughout, the Austrian wines flowed, the conversation hummed, and my notebook, pen and even camera didn’t see much action. In hindsight, I wish I had taken more notes and more pictures. I guess I’ll just have to return.

Winter Fruit Crisp

Problem #1: Eating a generous holiday basket of delicious fruit before it spoils.
Problem #2: Making a quick good-enough-for-company dessert.
Solution: Combining the fruit filling from an old Bon Appetit recipe for a Rustic Pear & Apple Tart (October 1992) with the Any Fruit Crisp recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Here it is, complete with my customary tweaks. The most time-consuming part was peeling and slicing the fruit, and even that took less than 10 minutes.

Apple & Pear Crisp

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 large Macintosh apple, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch slices, halved
1 large Delicious apple, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch slices, halved
1 large Bartlett pear, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch slices, halved
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. ground mace
grated peel of one lemon
1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Whipped Cream:
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. brandy, liqueur or schnapps (I used Amaretto, because the original Bon Appetit version called for slivered almonds, which I didn’t have)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and egg in the food processor fitted with a steel blade until well combined but still crumbly. Place sliced fruit in a large bowl. Mix sugar, mace and grated lemon peel in a small bowl. Combine sliced fruit and sugar-lemon-mace mixture. Butter a square 8-inch pan. Pile fruit into pan and top with flour-sugar mixture, spreading to the edges of the pan. Pour melted butter to cover topping. Bake 45 minutes to one hour, until top is brown and crisp. Whip cream until medium-stiff peaks form. Beat in sugar and booze. Serve warm crisp with flavored whipped cream.

Serves 6.

Spicy Stuff

I’ve been meaning to stop at Savory Spice Shop at 1537 Platte Street in Denver’s booming Platte River Valley for months (turns out, the store has been open for more than two years), but kept saying, “Next time.” Next time came this afternoon, en route back from the REI Flagship. Just walking in the door provides an enticing sniff-feast — a mix of coordinating, competing, and altogether complimentary aromas that made me want to sniff everything, taste everything, buy everything.

Simple shelves are lined with bulk spices — some whole, some ground — and an impressive array of custom blends of herbs and spices. I restrained myself and bought only a few — mole seasoning plus three with Colorado names to send out as stocking stuffers (Four Corners Peppercorn Blend, Summit County Salt-Free Seasoning and Mt. Eolus Greek Seasoning — 14,083 feet. I’d already paid when I tasted the addictive air-dried corn — and immediately picked up a couple of baggies. It’s a little crunchy, a little sweet, and a lot of tasty. I felt I had to leave before I overloaded on one of everything. Next time, I’m not counting on self-restraint.

A Simple, Smart Idea

This morning, at breakfast in The Sleigh Restaurant in the Hotel Park City in Utah, the waitress presented me with a black napkin, while the other four people at my table had white ones. I wondered out loud what made me so “special.” The waitress said that they always give a black napkin to anyone wearing black pants or a black skirt so that white lint doesn’t slough off on black garments. What a simple and elegant solution to a potential problem. It is such thoughtful — and well thought-out — touches that qualify this as a member of Leading Hotels of the World.

The Culinary Gap Closes

When I first started traveling far from New York City to ski, I would fly east to Europe for great hotel services, fabulous food, spectacular scenery and an energizing, engaging dose of Continental elan, and west to the Rockies for wonderful snow and comforting Americana. The Alps had the better ambiance and the Rockies had better skiing. I was in Europe last week and am now in Park City, Utah, and am struck by how much more similar the resort experience has become. Not identical, but similar.

Once upon a time, American ski areas mostly had American-designed lifts (Hall, Riblet, YAN/Lift Engineering), served predictable food (burgers in the base lodge at lunch, steaks and such in sit-down dinner restaurants), and provided nearby but not slopeside lodging (made-over farm houses, ski lodges, motels, etc.). Internationalism came from imported instructors, usually from Austria, who taught skiing. In Europe, Austrian resorts were 100 percent Austrian in all those aspects, French resorts were totally French, Italian resorts were completely Italian, and Swiss resorts were very Swiss, and hotel and food service (in town and on the mountain) were exemplary. I could tell where I was by the meals set before me.

Nowhere are the growing similarities between European and American resorts more evident than in food. Most European hotels operate on a half-board basis, with breakfast and dinner included, without any compromise in quality becase the eating audience is a captive one. Fine hotel restaurants of Switzerland and Austria now regularly serve such Italian dishes as gnocchi, pasta and Parmesan cheese-graced specialties. Swiss and Italian chefs are whipping up such Austrian classics as Wienerschnitzel and Tafelspitz. Fondue has crossed borders. Quality remains high, and service remains impeccable, even in fairly modest establishments.

Cuisines from the world over are now represented in American resorts, whether it’s a breakfast burrito in the cafeteria or Asian, European or Mexican restaurants, as well as the occasional American steakhouse. in the resort towns. But most of all, both independently owned and resort-operated restaurants offer an abundance of fine, creative fare. Sometimes it’s a pure rendition of a particular cuisine, and sometimes it’s a contemporary melding of international influences, fresh European-quality ingredients and fertile minds and high skills of excellent chefs. Such creativity, I might add, is still less accepted in Europe than technical excellence and classical perfection.

Nothing here in Park City better exemplifies the transition from standard American food to true culinary sophistication than The Cabin, the signature restaurant at The Canyons’ Grand Summit Hotel. The last time I ate there, it was essentially an upscale steakhouse. Now, the new chef Joe Trevino has introduced far more rarefied and creative cuisine. Our party of eight enjoyed the chef’s choice selections, which ranged from an amuse of a New England clam and chorizo with chorizo oil perched on a nest of basil sea salt to an exceptional two-tone creme brulee in a martini glass (photo, right) that actually had the consistency of zabaglioni rather than creme brulee. Appetizers, salads, entrees and three wines filled the “gap” between the amuse and the dessert. Jeff LaBounty paired desserts with each course. I have to say that the Weinbach Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Mambourg Cuvee Laurence from Alsace was in my mind, that dinners best in show. Then again, Iam very fond of Gewurztraminer.

Last night, I went to the famous Seafood Buffet at Deer Valley. It defines opulence and choice: two soups, two salads, two kinds of oysters (Washington State and East Coast), three kinds of sushi, two kinds of steamed crab, tiger shrimp, house-smoked salmon, and scallops served one at a time in an Asian soup spoon with a touch of sauce. I ordered a sampler of the hot entrees: seared ahi tuna with basil foam, shrimp-crusted bass, glazed halibut and other dishes that I’ve forgotten and didn’t manage to write down. The cook sears the tuna to order, so you can request it any way you want it. Carnivores can go to The Carvery station for prime rib or roast duck, but with seafood so fresh, it seems a sacrilege to do that. There are desserts, of course, and a decent wine list.

On-mountain lunches have been terrific as well. On our way into town from the Salt Lake City airport, we had on-the-road lunches from Wild Oats Market at Kimball Junction. At Park City Mountain Resort, we had soups, sandwiches and such at Legends Bar & Grill, a slopeside pub, and Deer Valley, we ate at the also-slopeside Royal Street Cafe, which has both self-service and table-service components. If you go, order a blue pisco to start, then graze on yellowfin tuna tartare with herb chips, the shrimp and lobster “margarita” layered with papaya salsa and guacamole, and the crawfish bisque — and perhaps another starter if there are several in your group. Consider the salad, sandwich, hot entree and/or dessert as a bonus. For my part, the unusual berry-mint-booze beverage and the apps were just fine.

Deer Valley really raised a high bar on ski resort fare when it was established a quarter of a century ago, it set a high bar that other resorts have fortunately followed. Now, the food, ambiance and service of our best are on a par with Europe. As I noted, we are growing more similar.

Cook’s Fresh Market is Back!

When I was researching Culinary Colorado, Cook’s Fresh Market was a bright spot in and near the Denver Tech Center. It was all things to all foodies: a gourmet grocer, produce market, cheese shop, butcher and fish purveyor; a place where hungry people could go for house-made soup, good sandwiches and more to eat in or take out; an on-the-way-home stop for high-quality prepared foods; caterer, and even a place for cooking classes. Then, landlord problems caused owners Ed and Kristi Janos to close the doors. The couple said they would reopen elsewhere, and Denver foodies held their collective breath. They can breathe again, though the Tech Center’s loss is downtown Denver’s gain.

Cook’s Fresh Market has reopened at 16th and Glenarm in the heart of downtown. If and when you are in Denver, stop in and take a look — and a taste. I never walked out of their old store empty-heanded, and I’ll bet the same will be true at the new location. Ed and Kristi are both graduates of the legendary Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, he in 1977 and she 15 years later. In 1993, Ed passed the grueling 10-day Certified Master Chef (CMC) exam, becoming one of only 68 such high-level culinarians in the United States.

In another unrelated development on the Denver gourmet retail scene, David and Kate Kaufman have sold The Truffle, a cheese and fine specialty foods shop at 2906 East Sixth Avenue, to Rob and Karin Lawler, well-credentialed on the Denver food scene. Rob is a chef and Karin has been a server and wine buyer. The Lawlers plan to shut down for a couple of weeks after the first of the year and reopen with a slightly broader selection of fine foods. Meanwhile, another local culinary couple, Pete Marczyk and Barbara MacFarlane, are still at the helm of Marczyk’s Fine Foods, their upscale grocery story and more at 770 East 17th Avenue.

Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.