Food for Thought: A Review of Telluride Bistro

Food for Thought: A Review of Telluride Bistro

Telluride-BistroIn some Boomer circles, the words “pink” and “green” twin with the name of socialite/designer Lilly Pulitzer, whose minidresses of green peacocks dancing with merry seashells were designed for the really rich, those who could afford bad taste. (And golfers – or am I being redundant?)

Fast forward to the present and “pink” and “green” take on a whole other meaning. A signature cocktail made with prickly pear and lime. A salmon carpaccio served with a papaya relish, creme fraiche and dill with a touch of lime. A golden beet goat cheese and pink tomato terrine served with a red beet cream, curry oil, and a fried basil leaf. The opposite of bad taste.

Telluride Inside… and Out is ramping up our food coverage to include reviews, commentary and more recipes – with a little help from our new friend and professional colleague, Marla Meridith, founder, editor and photographer of the fabulous food blog, (You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook: Food, Facebook: Lifestyle, Pinterest, and Instagram.)

Our first review was of the New Sheridan Chop House. Last week, we had dinner at the Telluride Bistro.

Telluride Bistro is a buzzy watering hole you will find yourself telling family and friends about. (Which is why the restaurant – which does not take reservations – is always full, but well worth the wait. Ask any local.)

The Bistro is owned by Marta Unnars, who took over the eatery in October 2009. Marta is a show-stopper: a stunning, statuesque redhead, cultured and with business savvy, who runs a tight ship. Her chef is Sergio Gonzalez.

And yes, Sergio is Mexican-born, but he really knows his way around an Italian kitchen.

Stay tuned for why…

Know what Sergio does in his spare time?

He paints.

Know what Sergio does when he is on duty?

Same thing. He paints on the platter. Beautifully. That night (as every night) his savory, colorful plating looks ready for its coffee table cookbook closeup – Marla will expound – all the more impressive if you consider the fact he produces his masterpieces out of a 350-square-foot kitchen, where he supervises a staff of eight.

Sergio Gonzalez grew up in the small mountain town of Ajijic (pronounced Ahi-hick”) in central Mexico. He describes the place of his birth as a “tourist town very much like Telluride, except we also have a lake.”

Doted upon as the only boy in a family of three sisters, Sergio left his country at age 15 to help support his mother and sisters after his parents’ divorce. After a brief stint as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Canola Park, California, he moved to Orange County, California, where he met the Luhans, owners of a bistro, What’s Cooking, where Sergio became a prep chef.

A family friend was none other than the Italian chef and cookbook author Marcella Hazan, Lucia Luhan’s partner in a cooking school in Tuscany, where –  you guessed it – Sergio would later travel and study. Before Italy, however, the Luhans sent Sergio to the Culinary Institute of San Francisco. He returned to Newport Beach to take over the bistro’s kitchen and became a pioneer in the 1980s restaurant craze for fresh everything, welcoming a parade of celebrity guests to his tables.

Paolo Cincline of Telluride’s Rustico was once a manager at What’s Cooking. Thanks to Paolo, Sergio wound up in Colorado, working with him in Aspen, then Telluride, before opening his own restaurant. No, not the Bistro. It was Tellurice, which served Asian fusion cuisine. (While living in Calfornia, Sergio also studied Chinese and Japanese cooking. But that’s a whole other story.)

I would be remiss not to add one more name to our story, that of our server, Michael Kennedy, who has worked with Marta and Sergio at the Bistro from the get-go. Michael is one more reason to eat at the Bistro.

A waiter for 14 years, Michael made it his business to learn all he could about food and wine. As Bistro regulars, we have learned to listen to his suggestions. (And relish his wry humor.) Michael rocks. Literally. When he is not at the Bistro, Michael’s band the Blissters plays bars and nightclubs.

The ambiance? Matches the carefully thought out, unpretentious simplicity of the menu.

The Telluride Bistro is open for lunch at 11:30 a.m. until they feel like closing. Dinner service begins at 5:30 p.m.

Susan Viebrock signing off.

Take it away Marla….


Sergio, Marta & Mike

Sergio, Marta & Mike

Recently I had the opportunity to enjoy a lovely dinner at the Telluride Bistro. Finally! I have heard excellent reviews about this quaint European-style restaurant for quite some time now. You know an Italian restaurant is superb when your folks from New York give it the ALL thumbs up. (New Yorkers can be really picky about their eats ya know.)

Last year I was in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Although the Telluride Bistro is famed for Northern Italian cuisine, it gave me the same warm fuzzy feelings the Swiss restaurants did. The outside patio chairs are draped in soft, cozy scarlet blankets, the perfect welcoming touch. All around St. Moritz they did that kinda thing. Often Telluride is referred to as “Little Switzerland” and dining at the Bistro takes you to the hillsides of Europe…in Telluride!

The offerings at the Bistro are plentiful and well priced. In the Spring, Summer and warmer fall days you can dine outside (if you get a chill just grab one of those cozy blankets.) In the winter there is a charming rustic dining room that seats 36 people. Get in line early though as there is a no reservation policy. There is also a darling country-inn style bar. Enjoy libations as you wait.

To start the Bistro wowed us with a Prickly Pear Martini. It was as beautiful to look at as it was to sip. The perfect way to begin our meal. Then Chef Sergio came out and introduced himself, a grin from ear to ear as he explained the fine nibbles we were to partake in.

Our starter was a light Salmon Carpaccio. Perfectly thin smoked salmon was served over a papaya relish with green onion & lime. A little bit of creme fraiche balanced the flavors nicely.

The whole meal was filled with vibrant colors and flavors, so everything was as pleasing to the eye as to the taste buds. Each course was paired with wine selections chosen by our waiter Michael, who introduced each bottle with fun facts.

Second course was a Golden Beet Goat Cheese Roma Tomato Terrine. I have never had a dish quite like that and was pleasantly surprised at how well the flavors went together: turns out creamy goat cheese with earthy beets is a lovely combination. Again, the presentation was styled perfectly and eye catching.

We sampled two main courses as well. The first was an exquisite Black Squid Ink Risotto with Garlic Lemon Calamari & Lobster. A true treat to have this fine level of seafood in Telluride! The flavors were so fresh you could imagine yourself sitting on a terrace in Valle d’Aosta, sipping the finest wines (which we were) and dining on local catch. The dish was that fresh. That sensuous.

The second main was the most tender Kobe Beef medallions imaginable, served with Basil Hollandaise laid on a bed of Parsnip Puree. The dish was garnished with a crispy fried basil leaf & sauced with a bit of demi glace. Transforming flavors!

For dessert we were wowed with the most stunning Tiramisu I have ever seen. It was a layer cake with Raspberry & Chocolate Sauce. A chocolate “wing” crowned the top. Some day soon I need to head back in the afternoon for that cake and an espresso! We were served a lovely dessert wine to complement the sweet treat.

Dining at the Telluride Bistro combines the magic of Telluride with European flair. Owner and hostess Marta (of Icelandic descent) has a knack with food, presentation and for managing a respectful, very professional, appropriately warm staff.

You will be greeted with smiles and leave thrilled that you dined there.

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