Food For Thought: "Cosmo" At Hotel Columbia

 

Collage, Marla Meridith, Family Fresh Cooking

Collage, Marla Meridith, Family Fresh Cooking

Telluride Inside… and Out has been ramping up our food coverage to include reviews and commentary – with a little help from our friend and professional colleague, Marla Meridith, founder, editor and photographer of the fabulous food blog, FamilyFreshCooking.com.  (Also find Marla on Twitter, Facebook: Food, Facebook: Lifestyle, Pinterest, and Instagram.)

Here’s how it works: We each do our spins on the dinner, Marla, a nationally known food photographer shoots all the images, then look for a second review on her website about 10 days – two weeks after our original.

Our first critique and overview was of the New Sheridan Chop House. Next came Telluride Bistro and then Hotel Madeline’s REV. (Without Marla, we also did a story about a magical Thanksgiving dinner at Jeff Badger’s Siam Talay.) Our latest review is of a dinner at another of our local picks, Chad Scothorn’s “Cosmo”(politan), located in Telluride’s Hotel Columbia.

The prestigious James Beard Foundation honored Chad Scothorn for his achievements as a craftsman and artist, featuring him as guest chef at the James Beard House in 2002. And Wine Spectator cited Cosmo 10 consecutive years in a row for its world-class wine list.

Chad’s reputation as a prime mover on the food scene in the Southwest has spread to the Front Range, where he will be a guest chef at the historic Stanley Hotel, appearing as part of a program called “Great Roads to Great Chefs,” Friday and Saturday, March 21 and March 22 (hot on the heels of another of our favorite chefs, Jeff Osaka of Twelve restaurant, Denver. (Our review of Twelve here.)

At the tippy top of the world’s culinary peak, these days anyway, are restaurants such as Noma in Copenhagen, Alinea in Chicago, Mugaritz and Arzak in Spain, each of which sells food preparation as a form of abstract art or experimental storytelling. As his colorful plating and diverse cast of actors on his menu would indicate, Chad also embraces theater on a platter – but he achieves drama with a whisper, not a shout.

Chad is all about is all about food preparation with “integrity,” not the latest flashy, self-conscious innovation.

By integrity, Chad means knowing more than what you just cooked up. Knowing how the same dish was made 100 years ago. Understanding the history of the recipe and the cuisine and culture that produced it. Lofty notions? Perhaps. But any great jazz musician would agree you’ve got to know the notes and scales before you can improvise.

The restaurant’s great reputation among locals –  the place is buzzy in the best possible sense of the word and regulars now vie for space with the growing number of destination-eating hordes and hotel guests – is built in part on the fact Cosmo is really four speciality restaurants in one, a mashup of American, French, Thai, and Japanese sushi favorites, served up with a contemporary spin – though Chad never mixes different countries on one plate – and artfully crafted from fresh, seasonal, often regional, whenever possible regional, often Indian Ridge Farm & Bakery ingredients at their best.

A menu that is quite literally all over the map. Ambitious? No doubt. But Chad’s homage to fusion means no one ever gets bored going to back to the well over and over again.

Cosmo can be an uptown, white tablecloth, continental experience one night. Choose sushi and a beer the next in the newly renovated Cosmopolitan Bar & Lobby and be equally, though differently satisfied.

Our group of four went way overboard, savoring it all in one collective gulp.

To start, the bread of the day, (our treat, a ciabatta with a dusting of salt), prepared fresh every morning by Chad’s virtuosic pastry chef Angela Heuman (who also makes fresh ice cream daily, our dessert.)

(Guests at Hotel Columbia know all about Angela’s bounty. They rave about her made-from-scratch pastries, quiches and granola, served every morning with fresh fruit and yogurt, sliced meats and cheeses, and a selection of beverages.)

Appetizers followed. A burrata, a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream plated with organic apple, prosciutto, arugula, spanish olives, and pumpkin seeds. In contrast to those understated flavors were the lobster corn dogs, a riff on the ever-popular corn dogs typically made with wieners. Chad’s answer to the Coney Island treats are prepared with lumped lobster flash-fried in cornmeal and served with a remoularde (very much like a tartar) sauce. Delicious, and definitely more subtle than a day at the beach with the Sopranos.

Our colorful sushi spread was like a great ensemble cast: not one star, but all stars. The plates were comprised of a hamachi volcano rolls, featuring yellowtail jack fish, tobiko (fish roe), avocado, served with both a biting wasabi sauce and a basil sweet and spicy sauce, and a spider roll of mango, avocado, lump crab, soft shell crab, cucumber, roe and kaiware (radish seeds).

The Caesar salad made with white anchovies and garnished with avocado may just be the best (and prettiest) in town.

Chad sent his sous chef Chuy Aymar to sushi school to broaden Cosmo’s market appeal and be able to offer more super healthy options on the menu. There are now three sushi chefs in Cosmo’s kitchen. We knew it would be difficult to upstage their presentation, but our main courses – BBQ salmon, wood-roasted duck breast, grilled beef filet, and a vegetable ragout – equally satisfied. Each dish kept our palates at attention with a dazzling array of contrasting flavors and textures: roasted smoked tomatoes with thyme and garlic to wake up the veggie platter; the smokey flavor of the wood-roasted duck mellowed out by the spaghetti squash polenta. And so on…

A Nebbiola with scents of tar and roses washed it all down.

And Angela’s aforementioned ice cream treat of the day – triple chocolate chip, mint chip and elderberry vanilla – brought our grand bouffe to a grand finale.

Typical in a resort town, our waitress was not originally trained to be a waitress. Casey Graves has a background in environmental education and once worked in advertising and event planning. Working as a server may (or may not) be a time out, but you would never know it: she was Jane on the spot and very well informed about ingredients in every dish and the wine list, answering our many questions with impunity.

More about Hotel Columbia:

Originally built in 1994, in 2007, three local families banded together to purchase the landmark property and completely renovated the interior. The freshly refurbished Hotel Columbia re-opened for the 2009 ski season and now boasts 21 luxurious accommodations ranging from studio-style guest rooms to a three-bedroom penthouse suite. Most rooms have balconies, gas fireplaces, and kitchenettes.

Hotel Columbia is a member of Condé Nast Johansens, an unequalled collection of luxury hotels, inns, and resorts. Each member is selected for its dedication to service excellence and is required to pass a rigorous annual inspection to maintain its membership status.

The hotel and restaurant fit hand in glove, sharing a similar commitment to high-end, but relaxed service with a smile in a warm, intimate atmosphere of understated elegance.

For reservation at Cosmo, call 970-728-1292.  http://www.cosmotelluride.com/index.html

For reservations at Hotel Columbia, call 970-728-0660  http://www.columbiatelluride.com/

TAKE IT AWAY MARLA…

Recently I had the wonderful experience to dine at Cosmopolitan in Telluride for a review dinner. (Read, we were guests.)

My husband  and I used to frequent the restaurant before we lived in Telluride full time. It was always a special occasion place for us. A unique dining spot that was well worthy of a scheduled “date night.”

“Cosmo” is the shortened name for this well-heeled establishment. I have never had a bad meal there, but this special dinner gave us the opportunity to try many flavors we had never experienced before.

This winter, I have been meeting my girlfriends periodically for the 1/2 priced Sushi & $5 Martini specials (you can do this as well, Monday-Sunday, 5-6 p.m. in the bar lobby) It is a fantastic deal for locals and visitors alike. It can be a full meal (depending on how much sushi you order) or a starter course for a more ambitious meal. The bar lobby is large enough to spread out and you can certainly score a table in there.

For starters, our group tried various cocktails. The Apples to Apples will be a new favorite. I can visualize the drink as an easy breezy summer cocktail. The flavors are fresh and bright. The Classic Cosmo is just that, always a hit! Another cocktail we explored was the Orange Cinnamon Margarita: my friend loved it so much, I kept my hands to myself and did not ask to share. Another cocktail on my hot list is the Kentucky Holiday ~ y’all know how much I LOVE bourbon. That cocktail has holiday infused bourbon, pomegranate juice and a cinnamon sugar rim. Yum! I was in a wine mood on this particular evening, so I decided to have a very nice Chateau St. Michelle “Eroica” 2012 Riesling, a wine with balanced flavors that is not too sweet.

We enjoyed a few apps that included the most fabulous food on a stick ever~ Lobster Corn Dogs! A chic rendition of the classic corn dog. Chef coats lump lobster in cornmeal and flash fries. I need to score a jar of his remoulade sauce these dogs came with. We also had Goat Cheese Filled Burrata. These folks make make their own Buratta cheese and it is phenomenally smooth and creamy. To wrap it around goat cheese is so creative! The whole thing is finished with toasted pepitas, apple and a side of prosciutto. The salt-cured meat brings out the creamy cheese perfectly.

Next up we had a giant sushi course. I have enjoyed all of  what was on the plate at the aforementioned Cosmo’s Happy Hour. But it was sure fun to revisit their sushi at this dinner. We had three rolls, which were were gone in minutes!

Susan made sure we had a Caesar Salad as well. And she had high praise for the classic dish and personally I’m so happy she insisted on it. We four shared one salad, but it could easily be a meal in and of itself. Chunks of perfectly rip avocado add body as do the white anchovies (these are by request and I highly suggest you request them!)

We each ordered an entree and made sure to order diverse dishes to get a cross-section of tastes and textures.

The Wood Roasted Duck Breast was smoked and braised. The flavor was full and the skin perfectly crispy. Great rustic mountain food. The BBQ Scottish Salmon is my usual order (LOVE that dish),but this time I went with the vegetarian plate for variety. A Vegetable Ragout with arugula, quinoa, brussels sprouts, spinach, cippolini onions, wild mushrooms and burratta was a pleasantly filling dish with big flavor. A smoky tomato sauce on the plate brought all the ingredients together. There was also an order of the Grilled Beef Filet, a well-flavored steak cooked to a perfect medium rare. Herb butter put that dish that over the top!

Dessert was a true treat! A trio of  Homemade Ice cream thrilled all of us. The coolness was paired with a crusty Wild Blueberry Pie. There is something about a pie that belongs in a ski town. That with a steamy cappuccino makes for a wonderful aprés ski snack. I know I’ll be back to enjoy just that!

Thank you to the chefs & servers at Cosmo for giving such a tasty and unique dining experience!

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