Some people look at Colorado’s ski resorts and see, well, skiing. And snowboarding, hiking, sledding, gondola rides, etc. Me? I see restaurants. “What’s the restaurant scene like?” I ask while other people are asking how many inches of powder there are. That’s okay. Afterall, all those skiers have got to eat so I may as well be looking at how well they can do that!
Recently, I had a chance to get a taste (pun intended) of Steamboat Spring’s restaurant scene, when several chefs brought a glimpse of their restaurants down to Denver. Besides providing a lovely evening of very great food and great company, it also made me want to go on a foodie excursion to Steamboat as soon as possible to experience these and additional restaurants in their native setting.
Chef Natalie Niederhofer from Table 79 started us off with Winter Greens with tart pickled grape, very flavorful apple and a warm pecan vinaigrette. The dressing was light and the apple, although just thin matchsticks, tasted of the best of summer and fall. This was paired with a fantastic cocktail, the Blush Cardinal with Bloom gin, Dolin blanc, Oloroso sherry, grapefruit bitters and a creme de violet wash.
Chef Kate Rench from Cafe Diva presented a Speck-wrapped Scallop served with a roasted Brussels sprout, persimmon and black lentil saute with a brown butter hazelnut vinaigrette. I loved the texture of the persimmon, firmer than baked apple or butternut squash. The scallop was delicious, benefiting, I’m sure, from the bacony infusion from the speck. The wine pairing here was a 2015 Liquid Geography mencia from Bierzo, Spain.
Oh, this dish! An unbelievably tender, Braised Bison Short Rib with sweet peas (those pretty dots), a creamy and elegant parsnip puree, glazed beets, pommes Dauphine and a blueberry gastrique, by Chef Steve Vanzelfden of Steamboat Resort. Sitting atop a slate plate, this dish looks very busy and had the potential for having too much going on to let the flavors shine. But they did. Each one wonderful on its own and even better together. It was paired with a 2012 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti from Rutherford, California.
I love a good pork porchetta, typically a roll of herb-stuffed pork capped with pork belly and brined and roasted long and slow so that the fat renders into the leaner meat, flavoring and tenderizing it. Chef Patrick Funk from Aurum, prepared this Yampa Valley Farms “Mountain Pig” Porchetta, a cross-breading that yields more flavorful meat. It was served with golden raisin and chili-braised kale, meaty runner beans and a cherry-pinot noir reduction. That sauce was the perfect accompaniment, as was the 2011 Sutcliffe Vineyards pinot noir from Cortez, created in conjunction with the restaurant.
Dessert may be last but it’s never least as Chef Kate Rench from Cafe Diva, provided another delightful item, this Apricot Creme Brulee with Biscotti. It was like unwrapping a present to crack through the fired crust, forcing candy shards into the soft custard…ahhhh. This was paired with a lovely, just slightly greenish 2012 Chateau Gravas Bordeaux from Sauternes, France.
Our chefs for the evening. Not only were they friendly and very good at talking about their dishes, but it’s flat out impressive that they brought all of this down from Steamboat, preparing and finishing it all off on the spot. They were not harried (or hid it well), were efficient and brought us all a really wonderful meal, down here in Denver. I can’t wait to go visit them up in Steamboat to see what else they are cooking up, on their home turf!