I was recently invited to join a number of food bloggers for a private dinner at Cascades in Estes Park. I had never been to the historic Stanley Hotel, nor had I heard about their restaurant, Cascades. I have, of course, seen The Shining, and have always been intrigued by that gorgeous white hotel sitting on the hillside in Estes Park that inspired Stephen King to write the haunted horror story. And, as I approach my seventh year in Colorado, it seems to be about time I step foot in The Stanley. Lucky for me, I got to enjoy a fine meal there as well as meander the enchanted hotel.
Cascades is known mostly as a steakhouse, but Executive Chef Richard Beichner demonstrated his modern approach to classic steakhouse fare. He told us that Cascades buys as much locally sourced foods as possible, and he presented us plate after plate of modern interpretations of classic dishes.
While we waited for everyone to arrive, cocktails were served. I started with a French 75, a gin martini with champagne and lemon juice. After the first sip I had great expectations for the afternoon because, in my experience, a good cocktail is often created in establishments that serve good food.
Our first dish was Pastrami Salmon on a cucumber slaw with 1000 Island Panna Cotta and Rye Croutons. This was a play on Reuben sandwich and it worked.
Garlic infused olive oil sat on the table. I couldn’t stop dipping my bread in this golden delicious temptation.
Next came a raw vegetable salad with radish, carrot, fennel, and honey mustard dressing. Again, a real crowd pleaser.
Our next dish was quite unique- zucchini spaghetti with rock shrimp in a San Marzano tomato sauce. I love zucchini noodles and this dish, which was really well done, inspired me to make some as soon as zucchini is in season.
Our next dish was a preserved lemon and rosemary roasted veal loin with a red wine demi glaze served over fresh corn polenta and orange scented carrots. I must say- I wasn’t thrilled to be served veal, but it was good. I definitely wouldn’t order it… probably ever from any where, but, after casting my anti-veal opinions to the side, I enjoyed the dish. I could have eaten a large bowl of fresh corn polenta and would highly recommend looking for that on the menu at Cascades.
We enjoyed thoughtful wine pairings throughout the meal, though I did not pay close attention to them. I have in my notes that a Pinot Grigio was served with the zucchini spaghetti and a Le Nez Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley was served with the veal. (My ears perk up when I hear Pinot Noir and Willamette Valley, so I made a point to write that one down). With dessert we enjoyed a Canadian Ice Wine, and if you’re not familiar with ice wines, they’re super sweet and have a concentrated flavor. I really enjoy them.
And then more sweet bites came out, or “mignardises,” if you’d like to be proper. We all sat and nibbled on a variety of delicious mini pastries for a while before venturing off to explore the haunted hallways of The Stanley Hotel.
If you’re a resident of Estes Park, Cascades offers you 20% off year-round, so I’d suggest treating yourself to a nice meal there at your local neighborhood restaurant. If you’re passing through Estes, you’ll see there aren’t as many dining options as we have in Boulder, so I’d give Cascades a try.
After purchasing a bottle of W & J Graham’s 2007 Vintage Port, I knew I had to get over to Cured for the quintessential port pairing: Stilton. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask owner and cheese connoisseur Coral Frischkorn for a couple other cheeses to enjoy with this fine port wine. She suggested Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and Cremont in addition to a nice piece of Stilton.
There’s one thing I’ve come to believe about Cured: They know their cheese, how to pair it, and will not steer you wrong. That’s why we also picked up some spiced nuts the sell there at Cured from the kitchen of Mateo, which is located a few doors down.
This made a delicious pre-dinner indulgence with a thinly sliced baguette. I also had Patti Miller’s port jelly and prosecco jelly , so we had fun “Spreading the Booze.”
So, for my 14 tastes of how much I care, tastes numbers nine and ten (Port and Cheese, respectively) were fun, interactive taste sensations. I do suggest you enjoy a wine and cheese pairing at home sometime soon. It turns an average night into a festive occasion. I’m already planning my next one…
So, it’s official. Cheese dinner nights are my new favorite nights and I sincerely hope to entertain a number of my friends over the course of the next few months (until forever…?) with unique cheeses I purchase at Cured in Boulder.
My buddy Joe came over to be “spoiled” with my cheese, bread, wine, and seasonal veggie dinner. I bought some beautiful golden beets, carrots, and heirloom tomatoes from Ollin Farms and got the beets wrapped up in foil and roasting in the oven at 400 degrees well before Joe showed up. I chopped the carrots into bite sized chunks and roasted them with a sliced onion drizzled in olive oil, salt, and pepper. While the root veggies roasted, Joe picked up my flip video camera. Here’s how the night got started…
I bought three cheeses at Cured: Fleur Vert (in the front), a French goat cheese covered in herbs de provence and red peppercorns; Délice (middle), a tripple cream cow’s milk cheese; and La Tur (in the back), an Italian cheese with a “trifecta” of milks: cow, goat, and sheep.
These three cheeses were nothing short of fantastic and I’m almost tempted to recreate this entire experience for all of my friends. But, that would really halt my exploration, now wouldn’t it?
As I look through The Murray’s Handbook and The Cheese Chronicles, it is becoming more and more clear to me just how many cheeses there are. Neither of the cheese-filled books talk about Fleur Vert. It is a goat cheese covered in herbs de provence and red peppercorns, and it’s not technically a chevre, but can be thought of as a slightly aged chevre (apparently chevre is a fresh cheese, not aged). It is spreadable, especially on warm bread, and the herbs and pepper combination is savory on top of the sweet, white goat cheese. This also went especially well with the roasted beets.
The Murray’s Handbook eloquently refers to Délice as” a tiny treat of pale buttercup” that is “rich and luscious, with the texture of whipped butter.” It is. It is. We spread this on the warm baguette and practically giggled like school kids at this experience. This is an amazing cheese with a mild flavor, like a European butter, and it is addictive.
The third cheese, La Tur, is also featured in The Murray’s Handbook. It says, “three milks and two textures merge into one cheese’s best approximation of ice cream.” Joe and I refered to this as the trifecta cheese- a power-house cheese made of three milks. It’s a must-try.
I bought a bottle of Pinot Gris from Elk Cove Vineyards in Willamette Valley, Oregon. As usual, this Oregon wine did not disappoint. It was crisp, just sweet enough, and refreshingly cut through the fat from all this cheese. And, Joe and I always appreciate that first sip… “once it hits the lips…”
Overall, it was a fantastic night. We had roasted golden beets marinated in Persian Lime Olive Oil and Peach Balsamic from EVOO Marketplace, roasted carrots and onions with cumin, fresh heirloom tomatoes that didn’t need even a pinch of salt, toasted bread, and cheese. By the time the second bottle of wine was opened, I started sautéing some local pears in butter. But… we devoured those before I even thought to snap a photo.
I was really excited to jump right in and write about the four goat cheeses I bought at Cured. But, that has to wait a bit so I can tell you how very happy I was upon leaving Cured. It felt like a movie, or like I was magically somewhere else- walking through downtown Boulder with a small brown paper bag full of wine, plums, cheese, and a freshly baked baguette. This baguette was teasing me with a freshly baked aroma as I ducked into Topo Ranch to buy a birthday present for one of my favorite people in the world. I had a great conversation with the girl working at Topo Ranch about the baguette I got at Cured, my blog posts about cheese, the aroma of the baguette… and more about how I could hardly keep myself from biting right into the tip of the bread that stuck out of that slender brown bread bag.
Ahh… the baguette- it changed things that day. After an unnecessary splurge on my new bracelet (which I justified since I was so excited about the fresh bread) in addition to the important bday gift, I kept walking towards my car. It started to rain. My umbrella saved the day as the most important thing was keeping the baguette dry. A woman asked me if I had bought the bread at Panera bread. Oh, no ma’am. I went to Cured because I’m a food blogger on a mission to explore cheese and wine. And this baguette- well, it’s freshly baked by some guy named Steve who uses a local restaurant space to bake breads. This is no Panera bread baguette.
And so, I got home and unpacked my brown bag.
Coral Ferguson, co-owner of Cured, sent me home with four goat cheeses (beautifully wrapped like little cheese presents), locally grown plums, a bottle of Spanish rosé, and my baguette. Time to explore some goat cheeses.
I had a taste of Capriago (bottom left), Garrotxa (bottom right), Covered Bridge (upper right), and Goat Cheddar (upper left).
But, before I even unwrapped the cheeses, I tore off the top of that baguette and stood in the kitchen, silently enjoying my bread. I didn’t even put on music yet. Just ate the bread. It felt so good to devour the beautiful section of bread that had been teasing me for so long. I poured a glass of Borsao Rosé made from Spanish Garnacha grapes. I’m Spanish wines’ biggest fan, and I really enjoy rosé, so this was perfect for me. It was also light and fruity, which helped cut the fat from all of my cheeses.
So, I just sliced right into those cheeses. A little cheese and bread, sip of wine, bites of plum here and there. It was fun.
Capriago comes from the Bohemian Creamery in Sebastopol, CA. It’s a moist cheese that’s just slightly sweet, and I had no problem eating slice after slice. Yum. I would get this again.
Garrotxa (pronounced ga-ro-cha) comes from Catalonia, Spain. It’s mild, despite a moldy rind, with a delicate goat flavor- so, it didn’t taste too much like a barnyard. However, I tend to enjoy the barnyard in cheese while others do not, so that’s something to keep in mind with goat cheeses. It’s also the only cheese from this sampling that I found in The Murray’s Cheese Handbook, so I’ll quote. “This aged wheel is a brilliant expression of goat’s milk at its best.” I especially enjoyed this one.
Covered Bridge comes from Pholia Farms in Rogue River, OR. This cheese comes from Nigerian dwarf dairy goats. That’s unique. There was something different about this cheese, and it might be because the milk comes from dwarf goats. I know of a number of people who would find it too farmy, or too barny. When I compared it to the Capriago and Garroxta, I didn’t enjoy it as much. A friend actually spit it out, but that’s just rude, gross behavior, now isn’t it?
And finally, Goat Cheddar from Avalanche Goat Dairy in Basalt, CO. This is one I’m still unsure of. I had a problem with the mouth feel of this cheese. I felt a sensation of wet chalk or something, but the flavor was nutty and sweet. This cheese was also spit out by my friend- not once, but two or three times. I kept insisting on trying things over and over to really get an opinion. We both agreed that the texture of goat cheddar was a bit odd for us that evening. I’m open to trying it again, or something like it.
And so, my adventures in cheeses have officially begun. I’m so glad Cured is in town.