The valley welcomes Spago |

The valley welcomes Spago

Carolyn Pope
Carolyn PopeJeanne Reid-White, Wolfgang Puck, John Garnsey and John Giovando.

Last week, an Austrian with a different talent made his local debut in Beaver Creek, but with equal applause and accolades (though nary a cowbell was heard).

The renowned chef Wolfgang Puck opened his signature Spago at the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch. The new addition is the piece de resistance; a sparkling feather in the toque of our already remarkable culinary community.

Wednesday night, the restaurant was booked with supporters of the local charity First Descents, with 50 percent of the evening’s proceeds going to the organization that creates programs that empower young adult cancer survivors through kayaking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing and other outdoor activities.

Steven Holt, the Ritz Carlton’s public relations director, said more than $16,000 was raised for First Descents that evening. He said he was extremely pleased because the Ritz is so committed to local community programs through its company-wide Community Footprints Program, under which First Descents is a part of.

Each course of the evening was paired with wine that accentuated Puck’s fresh, natural ingredients. The meal started off with a sauteed Maryland crab cake and winter vegetable salad, followed by an autumn pumpkin and mascarpone agnolotti with shaved Alba white truffles. The entrees served were a pan-roasted turbot and a Côte du Boeuf with Swiss chard and Armagnac-green peppercorn sauce, both paired with French wines ” a Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Monthelie and a Chateau la Nerthe, Chateuneuf-du-Pape. Sticky toffee pudding with warm butterscotch caramel completed the amazing dinner.

Thursday night, lucky locals and media were greeted with Dom Perignon and an assortment of finger foods, including Puck’s signature smoked salmon pizza and my favorite, spicy tuna tartar in a sesame-miso cone.

Helen Mayer brought along her “Ma Maison” apron from when she helped hone her cooking skills in Puck’s kitchen when he ran Ma Maison.

“He’s always been creative and fun to be with; his classes were always filled with women,” she said.

Puck not only brought along many involved with the Wolfgang Puck enterprise, he also brought along his wife, children and friend Franz Weber, who has been a skiing companion for many years. Puck delighted in sharing many “cliff-hanger” stories about their skiing experiences. His focus for the week, despite the odd powder fun, was making sure the opening was memorable.

“The first thing I told them is that if we do something, we have to do it completely. It needs to be new and different,” he said of the initial thought of opening a Spago at the Ritz.

Well, Wolfgang, it is new and different. And we’re happy you’re here.

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