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Cue ‘simple but bold food’ at Cordilleras Mirador

Caramie Schnellcschnell@vaildaily.comCordillera CO, Colorado
HL Mirador 01 TS 10-26-08
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CORDILLERA, Colorado Call it Discovery Channel dining. Thats how Paul Rogers described a recent dinner at Mirador inside the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera. In clear view of our window-side table, two bucks locked their respective 8-point horns and wrangled for a few seconds before they parted ways.Too bad they dont have venison on the menu, my boyfriend half-joked as he watched the dueling deer.Though Rogers was happy about our serendipitous sighting, he wasnt all that surprised. In the year and a half hes been at Mirador (the past year as executive chef) Rogers has seen plenty of outdoor weddings at the lodges gazebo, some of which have included wandering wildlife as well as a rainbow or two.Were like, cue rainbow, cue deer walking in the background, said Rogers, a Cape Cod native who, after leaving the valley twice since he moved here in 91, swears hell never leave again.Its not the local deer that Rogers is talking about lately, though. The Lodge & Spa garnered top scores on Conde Nast Travelers Gold List in January, a compilation based on data collected from the annual Cond Nast Traveler Readers Choice Survey. The lodge received a score of 92 in the food category, outscoring every other Colorado resort, including four local runner ups the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (78.4), the Pines Lodge (75), the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch (84.1 points) and The Sonnenalp Resort in Vail (86.3). See the full list, including scores on service, rooms, location, design and activities, at http://www.concierge.com. Conde Nasts Top 100 list in Novembers issue, which hit newsstands last week lists The Lodge & Spa at No. 38. A group of reporters from Conde Nast came and stayed at the hotel a few months back, Rogers said. They dined at Mirador for breakfast, lunch and dinner.I didnt even know we were part of a poll, Rogers said.Hotel employees asked Rogers if he planned to serve the group something special, he remembered.The answer was a simple nope.I dont care who comes in, they get the same food, the same experience, he said.

The deer were quickly forgotten as soon as the food began arriving at our table. The pan-seared sesame-seed crusted shrimp with fresh kim chi salad and Thai peanut sauce were a highlight, as was the blackened buffalo sashimi. The tender buffalo, served with jicama salad, chipotle-hazelnut aioli and cilantro oil, came with an unexpected pair of chopsticks.The Colorado rack of lamb is pure comfort food, perfect for a fall evening. Its served with brioche stuffing made with linguisa (a sweet, Portuguese-style pork sausage), seasonal vegetables and a rich herb lamb jus. Much like the contestants on The Next Food Network Star, Rogers has a catch phrase for his food Simple but bold.I like to take old classics and give them a new twist, Rogers said, gesturing to the pumpkin creme brulee dessert on our table. The rich custard was served in a hollowed out miniature pumpkin, complete with candied pumpkin seeds sprinkled alongside.You have no idea how many of those things Ive eaten today, Rogers said, pointing at the small seeds.I love to eat. I love food and I especially love good food, he said. I only cook the things I like to eat.That philosophy made it easy when it came time to create the fall/winter menu. Rogers, who spent more than four years at Alpenrose in Vail and most recently worked at Terra Bistro in Vail for five years, sat down with his sous chef, Sarah Kornfield, and a bottle of wine to plan the menu, he said. Well, what do we want to cook? he asked her. Im lucky, they give me carte blanche here to do what I want.The two chefs are working hard to recapture some of the Cordillera residents who no longer come to the restaurant because they didnt agree with the last chefs food, lets put it that way, Rogers said. Were off the beaten path a bit, Kornfield said, but if we can get the residents back in here, then we can get people to drive up here for dinner, too.And off the beaten path isnt a bad place to be, either. After all, it might mean youre in for a little dinnertime duel.High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.

What: Mirador at Cordillera.Where: The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera.Open: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fare: Contemporary American.Entrees: $23 to $38.Kids menu: Yes. Reservations: Recommended.Off-season special: Two-for-one entrees, 25 percent off selected wine list, through the fall. Contact: Call 970-569-6361 or visit http://www.cordilleralodge.com.Must-try: Pan-seared sesame shrimp with Kim Chi salad and Thai peanut sauce ($15) Mirador Caprese salad with house-made mozzarella and Serrano ham roulade, grape tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, basil pesto and aged balsamic syrup ($13) Colorado rack of lamb with linguisa and brioche stuffing, seasonal vegetables and herb lamb jus ($38)


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