Find comfort in Edwards bistro
EDWARDS – It’s comforting to know that the integrity of your French fries will withstand the length of a meal. The cooking experts at Frites know this. They had a special blade designed to cut their French fries wide but thin; the shape locks in the heat, so you can relax and nibble on your crispy-cut potatoes until the last drop of red wine touches your lips.The fries are symbolic of the restaurant’s philosophy: casual, comfortable bistro dining that won’t break the bank. The eatery’s name, Frites (French for fries), is a nod toward the French technique used to prepare all the dishes.
“It’s home cooking the French way. Everything starts from scratch,” said Roland Coulombe, executive chef, whose French culinary training makes the cook a perfect match for the Edward’s bistro. Coulombe originally hails from Quebec, where he first learned to cook from his mom. When he fell into an after-school job at a restaurant, Coulombe learned he had a real knack for the trade, and his mentors encouraged him to attend culinary school, which he did at the Culinary Institute of America. After years of manning kitchens in New York, he and his family moved to the Vail Valley to take a break from the fast-paced city life.”I was pleasantly surprised of the concentration of great chefs here,” said Coulombe.He mentions the onion soup au gratin ($5.50) as a good example of the way he runs his kitchen. Coulombe’s staff spends two days preparing a veal stock and then six hours carmelizing the onions. The result is a thick and savory French onion broth.
“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” said the chef.Grilled steaks served with frites are the specialty on the menu. Frites offers several different prime cuts of beef from a New York strip ($28.95) to a filet mignon ($27.95) each accompanied with an unique sauce, like caramelized onions and red wine demi glace, blue cheese sauce or a merlot butter. Coulombe recommends the steak classique ($17.95). He tenderizes the 9 ounce center cut top butt steak with a jaccard, a hand-held tool with tiny blades that softens the meat. It’s then marinated in herbs, cracked pepper and oil.”The steak is melt in your mouth,” said Coulombe.
Les Poisson, the fish, is also a house specialty. My top choice is the fish du jour grenobloise ($17.95), which is a white flaky firm fish, like mahi or skate, served with a classic French sauce of capers, croutons and parsley lemon beurre blanc. Coulombe likes the Dijon crusted salmon ($16.95), as well, served with sauteed spinach, caramelized pearl onions, mushrooms, crispy garlic potatoes and chive beurre blanc.Coulombe expands the menu with French “plates du jour,” daily specials native to the European country like bouillabaisse and cassoulet.”For a man who loves food, it’s hard to decide which is my favorite, but I’ll have to say the cassoulet, which is basically a French casserole dish,” said Coulombe. His culinary team spends four day marinating the duck confit for the cassoulet, which also can include lamb, smoke pork loin, garlic sausage and stewed beans.
Frites, located where Zino’s and the Riverhouse used to be in Edwards Riverwalk, opened three months ago. Owner Jon Walsh gutted the building, creating a elegant ambiance that belies the prices on the menu. It’s easy to be fooled by the high ceilings, dark wood work and dramatic burgundy drapes that dress the large picture windows in the dining room, but the restaurant’s friendly vibe, which includes an open-air kitchen diners can peer into, is that of a European bistro.”We want to be known for our inexpensive menu. Anyone in town, locals and tourists, can come in and be relaxed and enjoy great food in a casual atmosphere,” said Coulombe.Every Tuesday is mussel madness at Frites, serving up three different roasted mussel dishes in a hot iron skillet for $2 off the regular price, which ranges from $7.95-8.95. Saffron cream mussels with caramelized onions, lardons and wild mushrooms is a Frites favorite; the sauce is perfect to soak up with a warm baguette.
Walsh opened up the upstairs bar, designing an intimate setting for live music. Thursdays the bistro hosts local’s appreciation night with drink specials and Bluzilla, a local blues band. He’s working to feature more live music and has already booked Reid Genauer, formerly of Strangefolk, Feb. 11 and Bill Nershi of String Cheese Incident and Honky Tonk Homeslice with Hot Buttered Run String Band Feb. 19. For more information on Frites, call the bistro at 926-2151.Vail, Colorado