traMonti imports nuova cucina
During the course of its 13 years of residence in the Charter at Beaver Creek, traMonti has changed chefs ” and cooking styles ” twice. Cynde Arnold held court between 1991 and 1996 when the kitchen was taken over by her former sous-chef, Curtis Cooper. In June of this year, traMonti moved into a new era and a new style of cooking under the hand of chef Peter Carl.
“I think we started with more of a classical, traditional kind of Italian menu,” says proprietor Jerry Weiss. “When (Cooper) took over, he had a big background in Hawaii, and so he added a kind of Pacific Rim aspect to it, just a little bit of a Pan-Asian influence.
Very minor, but I always thought that was the way I wanted to take the menu. And more fresh ingredients, ingredients you might not see in a classical Italian menu. And Peter certainly fits that bill, but also has a creativity level of his own that goes beyond my expectations.”
Carl, a native of Little Falls, N.J., and graduate of New York’s prestigious Culinary Institute of America, was working under Rick Kangas at the Grouse Mountain Grill when he caught word of the opening at traMonti.
For Weiss, the fit was ideal. Mere months earlier, Carl had returned to the United States from an eight-month stint cooking in Italy. During his tour of the country, he participated in a masters course for professional chefs, an in-depth study of regional specialties offered by the Istituto Superiore di Gastronomia of Jesi, based in the Marches region of central Italy.
Slow Food, the international organization behind the program, advocates the protection of regional produce, including cheeses, wines, meats, from the homogenizing effect of modern fast-food culture, a practice Carl believes will soon take over the leading edge of gastronomy in the United States.
“I think the shift really is for there to be more of a working relationship between farmers and chefs,” says Carl. “I want basically for the guy to bring what he dug up this afternoon to my back door , still warm.”
Carl’s approach to food in traMonti’s kitchen is grassroots and hands-on. TraMonti cures its own meats, from duck breast to prosciutto. Produce arrives uncut, uncooked, unprocessed.
“Basically we’re ordering raw materials and from there we’re assembling the pastas, the filled pastas, the sauces,” says Carl. “We get very little ready-made. Basically, as much as possible, if we can do it with our hands we will.”
But Carl’s culinary education goes well beyond the grassroots regional. In addition to many regions of Italy, he has worked at Tra Vigne in the Napa Valley and in New York City under the aegis of award-winning executive chef David Burke, famed for his wild gastronomic creativity, at the Plaza Hotel’s One CPS.
Hence, the expert playfulness evident in Carl’s dishes. Take the champagne sausage stuffed chicken breast with sweet corn, whipped potatoes and sour cherry sauce.
TraMonti’s new menu is complimented by Carl’s daily specials, including a changing risotto, fish, soup and pasta. This is where Carl really gets to play with local seasonal produce. His macaroni and cheese with black truffle shavings takes advantage of porcini, morels and chanterelles while the wild mushrooms are in season.
Right now, Carl is excited about sun-chokes, the root of a summer sunflower, which he throws into a leek risotto special with applewood smoked bacon and arugula.
Among Carl’s regional favorites is the Colorado lamb, larger than a European lamb, he says, and milder, with a flavor he calls “just amazing.” The standard menu includes a roasted Colorado rack of lamb with rapini, feta scalloped potatoes and blueberry madeira jus.
Carl aims at the traditional culinary excellence of Europe, where people will drive hours out of their way to have lunch in an “important” restaurant. He also understands the essence of staying creative and dynamic.
“I like how our diners (in the Valley) are very well-educated,” he says. “They’re worldly. And if you’re not contemporary, you’re not up-do-date … you’re not wowing them. If people come out here and spend $800 on a hotel room and $50 for lamb, they’ve gotta be wowed. You can’t just count on their business because they have reservations.”
For Tramonti reservations, call (970) 949-5552.
Maia Chavez and Mike Larkin are freelance writers based in Vail, Colorado.