Katie Coakley

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July 21, 2014
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The peak of perfection: Spago at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch

The saying goes, “you eat with your eyes first, then your mouth.” In the case of Spago at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, the saying may be amended to “your meal begins with the sense of arrival; then your sense of sight, taste and smell take over.” From the drive up to Bachelor Gulch to disembarking at the porte cochère to the first glimpse of the modern bar, it seemed as every detail was considered, leading up to the main event: the meal.

Being very eager to begin the experience, we arrived slightly before Spago’s 6 p.m. opening, but decided that getting a cocktail at the bar wouldn’t be a hardship. A Dragon’s Fire (a sweet and spicy tequila concoction) and a Xiang Li (“fragrant pear”) in hand, we were soon led to a table that overlooked the mountains. As the sun started to slip behind the mountain, we toasted with a glass of bubbly selected by sommelier Jason Hunter and settled in for the show.

Chef Jared Montarbo has created a menu that celebrates the very best of spring and summer. The corn soup tastes like waiting for summer feels — the black truffle crème fraîche is savory and perches on the crab and corn soup, creating a delicious anticipation before the sweet soup hits your tongue. The Palisade peach salad is like noon on the mountain, all bright and crisp but just a hint of chill from the Ice Wine Vinaigrette. The agnolotti, whose filling changes each season, is stuffed with lobster, mascarpone and Parmesan cheeses and dotted with English peas, fresh and light pillows of pasta.

It just continued from there, each course creating layers of texture and flavors that cause my mind to stutter and accurate description leave me.

Chef Montarbo is not a chatty chef; he seems to prefer to let the food speak for his style and passion. As a result, a meal at Spago is one of cuisine carrying on cultured conversation, a murmur of witty banter and deep discussion. As for Chef Montarbo, the best way to get him to open up is to put your evening into his hands and ask for a tasting menu or attend one of the Wine Dinner series. Then you’ll be treated to a slow smile and a look of pure joy because that what he seems to love — a chance to play.

When dessert arrived, it was almost too much to handle, but we managed to find a few nooks and crevices that had not yet been filled. Wolfgang Puck’s signature dessert, the Kaiserschmarren, was the winner in my mind, all fluffy soufflé pancake and sautéed strawberries; a few bites and I felt as if I had been tucked into my bed.

It was an evening to remember. Dinner at Spago is a show that is constantly changing and evolving, but it’s always a smash hit.


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The VailDaily Updated Aug 27, 2014 02:07PM Published Aug 27, 2014 10:17AM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.