Vail dining: Splendido at the Chateau
Vail, CO Colorado
Naming a restaurant “splendid” is a gutsy move. To be splendid you need a beautiful room, warm service and marvelous food – all the time, without fail. Chef-Owner David Walford clearly knows how it’s done, for Splendido at the Chateau is a marvel of consistency, service and fine food without even a hint of stuffiness.
Splendido’s artichoke salad is the final word on artichokes, salads and maybe sustenance, period.
“It’s your grandmother’s food,” Chef Walford says, and I wish I could believe him. Because that would mean my grandmother lived in Italy or France, probably with her own artichoke bush out back and certainly rows of vines in the distance. It’s one of those dishes that are so down to earth and straightforward you’re inexplicably transported. Fresh artichokes are roasted in the same wood-burning oven that also cooks the rack of lamb and lobster. The high heat forms a savory skin on the artichokes, keeping all of that sweet flavor inside. They’re served with mixed greens and manchego shavings.
The Press-Pot Mushroom Soup symbolizes some of the chefs’ concepts. It’s fun, dynamic and delicious. A wide-rimmed bowl with a little mound of garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms and parmesan cheese is placed front and center. The broth comes in a French press, with herbs and mushrooms where the coffee grounds usually go. Whoosh goes the filter, and then the broth is carefully poured over the garnish. Laced with lovage, the soup’s bold flavor has a mouth feel that’s as sexy as some of Sommelier Scott Yenerich’s wines.
Following the sun
“We feature seasonal products. We don’t do tomatoes in January,” says Walford. “We try to buy as much from the local market as we can. Of course we have classics and standards like the rack of lamb and Dover sole – people keep coming back for them.” There would be riots if the pomegranate-marinated “lamb-sicles” weren’t available, but venturing away from the classics and experiencing what he and his chefs have discovered at the Edwards Farmers’ Market or from Wolf the Mushroom Man is no hardship.
Along with Walford, Chef de Cuisine Brian Ackerman and Sous Chef Quintin Wicks are adept at pushing products to their limits, extracting as much flavor as possible.
This summer Chef Walford has a special for every night of the week, from Wednesday’s Paella Night – you know it’s authentic – to Sunday’s (Dover) Sole Searching. Live music with Pat Hamilton and Peter Vavra occupies prime billing on Saturday nights. The specials will probably change over the course of the summer. As a seasonal restaurant, none of the chefs likes to be tied down to a particular menu for too long. And that’s what keeps it fresh.