Telluride Inside...and Out Enjoys A Date Night At The Peaks

It's looking like deja vu at The Peaks Hotel & Spa in Telluride's sister town, The Mountain Village. And that's a good thing.

Way back when The Peaks was Telluride Inside… and Out's next door neighbor, the joint was always jumping. The Peaks' Great Room was a go-to place for locals to meet apres-ski, a hang-out where conversation and drinks flowed unedited and friends applauded friends providing first-rate nightly entertainment. Then the bubble burst way before the bubble burst. Now it's all coming back, ahead of the curve – again.

Last week on a snowy night in January, the Great Room, fire crackling loudly in the fireplace, provided the perfect setting for an installment of the popular Fireside Chat series hosted by the Telluride Museum. Telluride Inside… and Out joined a rapt crowd of hotel guests seated in a circle around SquidShow Theatre's ubiquitous duo Sasha Cucciniello and Colin Sullivan. Their "Women in their Words" offered the crowd an up close and personal look at  plucky ladies such as Harriet Backus, the "Tomboy Bride," early skier Marjorie Perry, homesteader Katherine Garetson, botanist Ruth Aston, the Gloria Steinems of their day, and every bit as smart and determined.

After younging up our minds on brain food, it was time for the real deal: dinner at The Peaks recently opened Palmyra restaurant.

The attractive young woman behind the reservation desk didn't miss a beat when she saw us: "Mr. and Mrs. Viebrock, we have your table ready." And it was like that the rest of the evening. Absent was the eager beaver populism that makes me want to drop kick my waiter across the room. In its place, undecorated, appropriately attentive service.

Like the eponymous peak, the setting at Palmyra, the restaurant, is dramatic. We were told the theme of the room is "fire and ice," but this early in the game, the fire walls were not yet operating. The icicles played out in the lighting fixtures bore the thumbprint of Dale Chihuly, but turns out the they are imports from Italy. My guess: Murano, that country's glass-blowing mecca. I was familiar with just a few other names – Thomas Ostenberg, Adele Sypesteyn and Susan Block, all artists in the stable of the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art – but it's a fair bet there were other well known signatures throughout the decor. (No expense is being spared in the renovation of the hotel, Palmyra included.) Counter to the pop trend in hip eateries to replicate the inside of a cattle car, however, there is plenty of elbowroom and enough insulation to invite conversation.

If you are looking for a place to bring the kids, Palmyra is not a family restaurant – unless your family is strictly uptown. The air of rustic elegance suggests a watering hole for well-heeled diners – or splurgers – who cook of necessity, but love to eat. Our dinner, which we split down the middle, was great. For starters we had the soup special, a flavorful pepper soup laced with chipotle for kick. You could taste the ocean in our appetizer, hamachi tuna tartar, traveling with a muscular sidekick, a BBQ eel. At the end of the evening, there was nothing left of our main course  –  15 oz. bone-in dry aged bison ribeye with truffle chive mashed potatoes, melted St. Agur blue cheese, tempura onion rings and Bordelaise sauce – after we wiped our plate clean with crisp fresh bread except the bone. (And nothing left of the bone after Gina the Dog got her treat.) For auld lang syne, we washed it all down with a wine from one of our favorite wineries in Chile, La Postale, where locals Ed and Frances Barlow sell their grapes.

A postprandial chat with The Peaks' popular and talented Executive Chef Ross Martin revealed two important things about Palmyra. Martin has been so busy being an executive, he has had little or no time to be a chef – Kudos for the meal go to his executive sous chef, longtime local/CIA grad, Matt Gorman –  so a word of advice to those who lined up for Ross' cooking when the Sheridan Chop House first opened: Be patient. And don't get too hung up on the menu either: like the hotel, Martin assured us it too is work in process. Fondue? Little pizzas? Support for local farmers and ranchers? A trendy lively bar scene for those at least as interested in seeing and being seen as being fed? All is coming.

In the end, Ross Martin's Palmyra, like his Chop House has all the earmarks of becoming a pleasantly cultish place for locals as well as guests. The missing ingredient: time.

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