Beano’s Cabin celebrates 25 years with new chef, new manager, new menu
VAIL CO, Colorado
Beano’s Cabin, the restaurant tucked at the base of Larkspur Bowl in Beaver Creek, is celebrating its quarter century birthday this season. The “special occasion restaurant” you can only get to via snowcat in the winter, has more history than most establishments its age in Eagle County. It was named for one of the valley’s original homesteaders, Frank Bienkowski, or “Beano” who, among other things, grew lettuce in a patch near the original Beano’s Cabin, the remains of which can be seen just steps down the hill from where the restaurant sits today. Like the “quarter-life crisis” some 25-year-olds encounter during the transition from college to real life, the restaurant has undergone a slew of changes this year, and more – like a garden being planned for this summer – are still to come.
First, there’s Bill Greenwood, the young, red-headed exec chef who traded his surfboard for a snowboard. Greenwood gave up his gig as executive chef at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood in La Jolla, Calif. to move back to the mountains, something he’s been trying to do for awhile now, he said. (He worked for 12 years in Aspen, at the Little Nell Hotel under the guidance of his mentor and James Beard Award winner, Chef George Mahaffey, as well as at Hotel Jerome, Conundrum Restaurant and more). He started in mid-January.
There’s also a new general manager this season, the ever-polished Casey Kaut, who was most recently at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen. He calls the staff at Beano’s, many of whom have been there for more than a decade, “the most professional and polished service staff I’ve come across in 20 years in the business.”
And then there’s the menu, which is still prix-fixe – five courses for $109, this season – but is filled with new items, many of which revolve, literally, around the centerpiece of Beano’s Cabin open kitchen: a wood-fire rotisserie.
“Suckling pigs, ducks, sausage, salmon. I try to cook whatever I can on that thing,” said Greenwood, who was taking a break from preparing a whole acorn-fed Berkshire pork shoulder for the spit, which he planned to slice to order and serve over fava bean risotto with pan juices for dinner Monday evening. “That kind of rotisserie is a hard one to find and the fact that we have one, that was a huge draw for me. You don’t see a rotisserie like that everywhere.”
Not only does the rotisserie fill the restaurant with the saliva-inducing aroma of grilled meat, it serves as a kitchen centerpiece as well.
“It looks cool, with the meat turning and the flames coming up,” Greenwood said. “Right now we have our pork belly on it.”
The pork belly is from an Iowa-raised Berkshire pig, and is one of the appetizer options on the menu at the moment. Greenwood serves it with wild arugula, polenta and Catalonian stew, which Greenwood makes using butter beans. “The broth from the pork belly is added to the beans, with some of the trimmings from the pork and herbs, olive oil and fennel pollen. It’s really simple, and it’s selling really well,” he said.
Coming from a restaurant where Greenwood focused primarily on seafood, to a fine dining restaurant in the mountains, has provided a welcome challenge.
“When you hear ‘Colorado cuisine,’ all people think about is elk, lamb and trout,” he said. “You go to Texas and they have the best barbecue, and in the south, you get fried chicken and ‘southern food,’ but in Colorado people think of proteins and nothing else. I’m trying to figure out how to give Colorado cuisine some sort of identity people can identify with. There are good restaurants all over Colorado, with food that’s all over the map. What better place than a cabin up on a mountain to try and focus on that?”
There are a handful of items that Greenwood’s added to the menu that encapsulate what he’s trying to do at Beano’s, he said.
The Colorado elk chop, for instance. A towering spruce tree outside the kitchen door provided inspiration for the dish’s preparation.
Greenwood makes a rub out of the tree’s spruce needles, sage and rosemary. After de-boning the elk, he rubs it in roasted garlic and whole grain mustard, rolls it in the rub and sears it. He also cleans the bones, saws them into pieces, and sticks it back into the seared loin when the dish is plated.
The beautiful meat lollipop is served over apple and celery root puree and heap of “winter salad,” rife with toasted hazelnuts and dates. A spoonful of golden medjool date au jus finishes things off.
“The spruce crusted elk chop is fantastic,” Kaut said.
Greenwood also uses spruce to make the yuzu vinaigrette – a reduction of yuzu citrus juice, coriander, champagne vinegar, spruce needles and honey – in the Hawaiian kampachi tartare and potato croquette appetizer.
While Greenwood is looking forward to foraging for miner’s lettuce and edible mushrooms come summertime, the spruce is always in season.
“The oil in the spruce is really nice,” he said. “I use it in all my braising and reductions. The oils leach out and if you use the right amount, it’s really nice. There’s a huge spruce tree by the back door and I see it every day, so I thought I’d give it a shot.”
All of the seafood on the menu is sustainable, including the tasty Fanny Bay Oysters, which are served with a slightly sweet mignonette sauce made with lemon juice and Breckenridge Bourbon. The Loch Duart Scottish salmon, is roasted on the wood-fired grill, with the skin on, so it has a nice subtle smoke flavor that doesn’t overpower the dish. It’s served slightly undercooked with a broth poured tableside that Greenwood makes by smoking the salmon bones with juniper berries and pancetta and adding tomato confit oil to it, he said.
Diners are continually becoming more savvy about food, and curious about where their food is coming from, Kaut said.
“The changes we’ve made have been very well received and people like the way we’re heading,” he said. “They’re really digging the commitment to sustainability Chef Bill is into it. People appreciate that.”
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or email@example.com.