La Tour is like every first date gone right
Dinner at La Tour is like every first date gone right. From the buzzy awareness of playful flavors that flirt and tease, to the easy comfort of a friendly space that urges you to relax and be yourself — but always your best self — a night at La Tour leaves you feeling that life is good and full of possibility.
When Paul Ferzacca and his wife, Lourdes, bought La Tour restaurant 20 years ago, it was a dream come true for the young chef. Over the past two decades he’s turned what was a classic Vail restaurant into the iconic. The changing menu is always anchored by a seductive lobster bisque, Dover sole meunière with a spot-on brown butter sauce and, unbelievably, a crispy chicken paillard that is essentially a chicken cutlet pounded thin and cooked perfectly. But from there, influences can swing from across the sea to Japan to the meats and cheeses from Colorado.
This season, Executive Chef Sammy Shipman’s menu is a celebration of his craft. House-made pastas, fresh shellfish, prime cuts of beef and Colorado lamb — they are all treated to his exacting standards and creativity. For the seafood plateau, the idea is to buy pristine product — lobster, crab, oysters, scallops and a fish or two — and basically stay out of the way.
But the pastas, well, those require a bit more manipulation.
“The food that comes out of this teeny space is incredible,” he says of the La Tour kitchen.
The rack of lamb he’s serving is what’s known as the 13th bone chop. It has double the meat-to-bone ratio. Accompanied by cauliflower gnocchi, fava beans and a lamb jus, the dish is studded with the intense flavors of dehydrated olives and Meyer lemon marmalade. The secret to the gnocchi is cooking them once, and allowing them to dehydrate in order to retain their shape, and then cooking them again.
But his favorite dish of the moment is the butternut squash and hazelnut agnolotti, a free-form filled pasta. Served with maple and Aleppo-glazed pork belly, trumpet mushrooms and a salad touched by smoked olive oil, it’s got a lot of love in it.
“I like to tweak and tweak and tweak my dishes until they’re perfect — and then I get bored with them and want to try something else,” Shipman says ruefully.
Beverage Director Kai Gueron brings the same sort of attention to his lists. A certified sommelier, his cellar is deep with a major emphasis on wines from Burgundy, the Rhone and California. But his cocktail selections are almost over the top.
“On my most recent trip to New York I got inspired by ice,” he says. “Flavored ice, colored ice, so our focus for the season is to get our ice ramped up.”
He’s making cocktail-specific ices for four of the drinks on his list, including angostura-flavored ice (think bitters) and what he’s calling vertical ice — something that requires freezing the ice into the glass at an angle. It’s got serious wow factor, followed up by complex and delightful flavors. Not unlike everything else at La Tour.