Colorado’s New High Country Restaurants
By Amiee White Beazley
Colorado mountain cuisine is changing. Fading away are are the rustic, antler-chandeliered dining rooms serving up slabs of beef, bison and elk, making way for more modern menus influenced by everything from the Colorado craft brewing industry to the High Country’s developing Latino culture.
The Pullman, Glenwood Springs
There was little gastronomic attention paid to Glenwood Springs until The Pullman opened its doors last year. This is the third restaurant crafted by celebrated Colorado chef, Mark Fischer. His first two – Six89 and Phat Thai (both in nearby Carbondale) – have long held the favor of regional foodies with his “random acts of cooking.” The Pullman is no exception. Fisher and chef de cuisine John Chad Little create a casual experience with changing menus that have diners eager to try lunch items like braised rabbit enchiladas with melted fontina cheese and dinner entrees such as bosc pear and bourbon “BBQ” Berkshire pork with chorizo, spaetzle and melted cabbage. The innovation and energy at The Pullman has just about everyone taking notice, including Esquire magazine, which named The Pullman one of 2011’s Best New Restaurants in America.
Cima, Beaver Creek
At the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Beaver Creek there is Cima. It is latest concept by Chef Richard Sandoval who operates 30 restaurants in several states – four others in Colorado – and three foreign countries, including the award-winning Raya at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in California.
Cima’s dinner menu is dubbed “Latin” cuisine, but it’s not a traditional Latin menu. Yes, Sandoval often adds spices and moles typical of Latin food, but he uses these to accentuate, rather than overtly define the diner’s experience. What is surprising is the great Asian influence in his “Latin” dishes at Cima. In Central and South America, particularly in Peru, there is large and historic Asian population and thus epicurean influence. He uses this combination boldly, mixing in vinegars and Asian vegetables to make dishes that when served are often lighter and brighter than what one expects.
Block 16, Vail
Block 16 demonstrates fine dining in the mountains at its best. Located at The Sebastian, a boutique hotel in Vail, Block 16 creates seasonal dishes with a Mediterranean influence. One of Chef Sergio Howland’s signature dishes is “Mar & Montańa,” features Maine lobster and braised veal cheeks with salsify purée and a merlot reduction. Interpreting a more traditional favorite, “Duck & Orange” features duck confit and pan seared breast with a Grand Marnier reduction, couscous and vanilla bean-carrot purée.
For those curious about the name, “block” refers to the specific lot of a vineyard sourcing the most pristine fruit, and the wine at Block 16 is an important part of this restaurant’s experience. The small but uniquely planned dining room features a beautiful 1,000-bottle wine silo central to the room. Featuring about 400 labels and 10,000 bottles in total, the wine list focuses strongly on varietals from California and France, with depth in White Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Amiee White Beazley is the editor of edibleASPEN, founding contributor of Aspen Peak magazine and food columnist for the Aspen Daily News. Her food and travel writing has been featured in Yankee Magazine, Coastal Living, 5280, Aspen Magazine and The Providence Journal among others. A mother of two, her first children’s book, Snowmastodon! Snow Day Adventure was published by People’s Press in 2011. www.awbeazley.com