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Home cooking meets fine dining

Cassie Pence

BACHELOR GULCH – Great food doesn’t have to be pretentious food – even when dining at The Ritz-Carlton. In fact, all a chef needs to create a spectacular meal is patience and the freshest ingredients.Chef de Cuisine Ed Connors believes this and runs his kitchen accordingly. He’s the man behind the new winter menu at Remington’s, the fine-dining restaurant located in The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.”We’re not pretentious,” Connors said. “Our food has a country feel, but we have high Ritz-Carlton standards. And my own standards are very high.”Connors creates home cooking with a fine-dining finish to it, like his pan-fried crisp Colorado brook trout. The fish is stuffed with winter greens, roasted tomato and bacon, and then topped with green lentils in a sherry vinaigrette. Its elegant presentation is unmistakably Ritz, but its ingredients will stand up to the most discerning of “from-scratch” purists.”All of our dishes are made correctly – no short cuts – using all the freshest ingredients,” Connors said. “You’ll find no bases in my kitchen, because everything is made from scratch.”When building a menu, Connors said he first considers seasonality, which helps to keep ingredients at their prime. He serves glazed root vegetables, for example, which are winter ready, with his bacon-wrapped elk noisettes. Next, he thinks about location, where he’s cooking the food. Connors wanted his menu to match the mountains and the warm, lodge feel of the restaurant. Nothing says Colorado like smoked rack of lamb. Connors slow-roasts his with a rosemary polenta cake, confit of shallots and Madeira lamb jus.”What you want is the best product,” Connors said. “We stay away from processed meats. We buy organic, and we buy local products.”In addition to Colorado fare, Connors incorporates French and Italian cooking into Remington’s menu. It’s a nod toward Connors’ melting-pot background and the many European chefs he has worked under. He said the grilled vegetable tart – offered under the small plates section of the menu – as a good example of his French provincial cooking.”It’s a simple tart, but what makes it is the chick-pea crust,” Connors said.Inspiration and patienceIt was Connors’ stepfather, a culinary instructor, who first inspired him to become a chef. The creativity involved is what really appealed to Connors, and the fact that the culinary field is ever-changing. Connors said he’s constantly updating recipes and reading about what other chefs are cooking around the country and the world.”I also like the overall experience you’re creating for the guest,” Connors said. “I like to see the guest light up and ooh and aah about the food pleasing the taste buds.”As chef de cuisine, handling all the day-to-day operations of Remington’s, Connors is also the teacher, training all the young cooks. The one lesson he instills is it takes patience to cook.”You have to have patience when seasoning, from start to finish, constantly tasting and feeding the dish as it cooks along,” Connors said.The braised veal shank entree, Connors said, is a perfect example of patient cooking. He said he teaches his cooks to let the veal simmer and watch the sauce consistency develop, adding more herbs as needed.”Patience is what separates the great chefs from the mediocre cooks who call themselves chefs,” Connors said.Four Diamond AwardThe American Automobile Association (AAA) recently awarded Remington’s Restaurant in The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch with its Four Diamond Award. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner opening at 7 a.m. daily and serving dinner until 9:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Call 748-6200 for more information.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14640, or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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