Love of fare
VAIL – There’s one ingredient Thomas Newsted cannot cook without.It’s what makes his foie gras at once subtle and satisfyingly rich. It’s what makes his prime rib consistently tender and moist. It’s what makes his chocolate terrine as soft as velvet and irresistible beyond the last bite.Come Tuesday, Game Creek Restaurant’s executive chef will be sprinkling a little more than usual atop his creations as he offers a special Valentine’s des Gourmands.
His secret ingredient: love. And since it is my personal belief that you are what you eat, I went to the snowy chalet perched high on top Vail Mountain and tested my theory over dinner with Newsted.What I discovered was, it’s not just in the food. At Game Creek Restaurant, passion is all around you, in every sunset vista, in every champagne toast, in every exchange between mouth and fork. While some restaurants boast spectacular scenery or superb atmosphere, others may provide world-class cuisine and exceptional service. Nowhere does the experience converge so seamlessly than at Game Creek.Valentine’s dining
Executive Chef Thomas Newsted spends his nights dreaming, inventing, conspiring all things culinary and his days cooking, creating, producing his dreams in his 10,200-foot-high kitchen. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, he allowed lovers to inspire his latest menu des gourmands – an aphrodisiac feast, meant to stimulate love and desire”The ingredients were chosen based on what society has dictated throughout the years as an aphrodisiac, which is the sensation the food provides, the emotion,” Newsted said. “I think it’s a playful menu. I think it’s great for those that don’t dine often and also appeases those that do dine often.”First on the lovers’ menu, Newsted concocted an oyster shooter with orange vodka and uni emulsion, horseradish, shiso and saw leaf. The chilled oyster sits in its leafy shell like a fresh pearl waiting to be uncovered in a sea of savory vodka and sea urchin broth finished with fresh, mild finely grated horseradish. The bitter character of the shiso helps cut through some of the richness in the uni and oyster but the orange Grey Goose vodka pulls it all back together with a citrus complement.
“The sensation of eating an oyster allows you that playfulness. It also has a high protein content and minimum carbohydrate,” the chef said. Raw oysters are very high in zinc, which boosts libido, as well as a source of dopamine. It is said Casanova ate 50 raw oysters a day. The sea urchin also enhances the sensual experience.”Uni is also one of those unique ingredients that’s edible but it’s like eating butter from the sea,” Newsted said. “If you enjoy real butter, you’ll enjoy sea urchin the mouth feel.”The chef’s passion spurs creativity with ingredients, but he never puts anything on the menu he wouldn’t eat himself and words it accordingly.
“We eat a lot with language,” he said. “If we’re familiar with a nomenclature or we’re familiar with a descriptor, we’ll be more inclined to try it even though I can lie to you and say, ‘This is what this is,’ and you’ll say, ‘This is the best asparagus I’ve ever had.’ That has a lot to do with how we perceive things. When I have descriptors on the menu I try to keep it fun and unique. I try to avoid using terms that are too far-fetched that are going to drive people away because they aren’t familiar with it.”As I take a sip of bubbling champagne, the sunset steals my attention. Electric streaks of pink, orange, yellow and purple are carved into the large waxy sky. The light has left the looming peaks in the distance. The open door lets in a light breeze meeting the warmth of crackling fire behind me, and I am refreshed, ready for what awaits my senses. Our waiter, James Holmes, always seems to appear at the perfect moment.The second course, sweet ginger ale froth dancing over La Belle Farm’s Foie Gras with dill brioche French toast and arugula and hearts of palm ragout, comes from the heart.”Part of the dish comes from the heart of a palm tree, so it’s literally the heart of a palm,” Newsted said.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Newsted paired delicate, semi-sweet hearts of palm ragout to support the rich foie gras and spicy arugula to finish the flavor. The French toast adds comfort and crispness to the supple protein as the balance of sugar and acid in the ginger froth, cooked down with aromatics and then whipped, cuts through its intensity.Incredibly sensuous, the delicious, buttery foie gras melts on your tongue. Liver is also said to boost libido.The final course, grilled Harris Ranch’s prime beef tenderloin macerated with garlic and herbs, a delicate white asparagus potato torte and rich truffle honey-carrot tuile, lures tastebuds with a combination of red meat and asparagus.”It’s a meal that appeals to me and 95 percent of people,” Newsted said. “The green asparagus has a garden characteristic. It takes you outside, lets you play. At least I hope it gives you those sensations.”
Newsted is diligent in knowing where his products come from. The key to cooking any fine meal is quality ingredients. He speaks with his vendors several times a week to ensure he gets only the best. The tenderloin comes from Harris Ranch, a small family-owned farm an hour and a half north of L.A., producing a consistent product. “Does it cost more, sure,” Newsted said. “Is it worth it? Absolutely.”The sun has turned in for the night and the moon peeks out in the dark sky as we move on to my favorite course, dessert, a decadent molten lava cake filled with a sweet brandied cherry compote. Digging into the soft layers, the syrup spills over the sides revealing a perfect cherry in the center. I can never resist chocolate. What’s not to love.”This is why you’re living,” Newsted said. “Enjoy it.”
Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14641, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado