Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: Salute to Escoffier weekend at the Broadmoor

Posted By on Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 6:24 PM

The always dapper folks at the Broadmoor were kind enough to have me as their guest at this weekend's insanely opulent, 9th annual Salute to Escoffier ... you know — so I could tell you all about it and get you thinking about saving money to attend next year (or something like that).

And when I say opulent — particularly in relation to Saturday night's grand buffet — I'm talking something on par luxury-wise with a Saudi prince's wedding party. (Not that I've ever been to one ... okay, I'm totally guessing, but you get the point.)

Just ask these fish how stylin' it was:

Whatcha doin? ... Nothin — just chillin — you?

Or, judge for yourself by watching my slideshow below (make sure to click the full-screen icon on the bottom right) or by clicking here.

And now for the only amount of analysis for which I presume you'll hang with me:

• Friday night's welcome reception from 6 to 7 p.m. in the hotel's main ballroom was casual on the whole, intended more as a brief stopover on the way to dinner (ideally at one of the property's eateries) than a full meal. Sure, you could knock back enough of the small plates — mini crab cakes, beef and tuna tartar and an array of smoked fish that included our favorite, a blackened Tasmanian salmon — to fill up. And that's just what we did prior to watching CC defeat DU down the street. Featured wines were actually very common, the likes of Ravenswood ; Jonathan Shankland from the Charles Court told me that they were saving the heavy hitters for Saturday's grand buffet.

• Saturday's 9:30 a.m. cooking demo with 11-year Broadmoor chef Justin Miller and assistant Ann Plum featured the three dishes we'd later eat during a noon wine luncheon in the Penrose Room. The techniques to nail the lobster carpaccio, veal and sweetbread over curry spaetzle and honey panacotta were fairly advanced. The culinarians treated the crowd as savvy foodies, not playing down to a 101-level.

Old fashioned, but timeless.
• Hungry from watching the demo, at the luncheon, I attack the amuse bouche when it arrives: a delicious green apple chilled soup with salsify and caramelized apple served with Stonestreet's 2008 sauvignon blanc. The pairing is spectacular and my favorite of the meal, with a sip of the wine after the soup bringing the apple's sweetness into sharp focus.
All of the four wines we sample from the winery are wonderful. I'm thrilled to sample the Christopher's Vineyard 2006 cabernet sauvignon, limited to only 224 cases — if that means nothing to you, then let's call it super limited. And a sip of that with the sweetbreads ... holy organ meat Batman!

• It's 2 p.m. and I'm sipping cocktails. Awesome. No, really, this "Art of the Cocktail" class is really fun, and the samples are delicious. Mixologist Kirsten Schopen makes me the best Old Fashioned (she calls hers a Fashionista) I've ever had, made with Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey.
Co-mixologists at the Summit restaurant, Robert Leavey and Dennis Schuler, deliver an interesting lecture on the cocktail's history, dating back to the advent of commercialized ice, as well as on micro distillation, which has opened all kinds of fun new doors in the world of spirits. Later, I swing by the eatery on my way to the grand buffet to sample their Saffron Blaze and Mojito Manzana Dulce — two brilliant drinks.

• At 6 p.m., the grand buffet begins, featuring more than 100 different dishes over six hours, set up as an enormous buffet around the perimeter walls of the International Center. A cold course features complex salads, seafood and an extensive charcuterie selection. I fall in love with the foie gras cuit sous vide with black peppercorn and port aspic.
A sorbet intermezzo prepared by highly accomplished pastry chef Remy Funfrock shifts my affection from the foie gras to an incredible smoked black tea chocolate flavor, which bests even the pineapple basil.
A hot course refreshes the buffet lines with everything from baked oysters to carved lamb and a lavish venison saddle adorned with bacon strips. Though satisfying, I return for more foie gras. A wine pouring station features around 50 fine wines of all origins and varietals. There's more of everything than you could possible sample. It's beyond an orgiastic feast. It's an orgiastic feast on speed, truly befitting Escoffier's legacy.
Surprisingly, nobody gives even the briefest lecture on Escoffier; after eight years of this party and food TV, patrons are expected to know the scoop.
And then dessert happens on the other side of a giant curtain. The room is cast in sexy red light; dessert pours flow. I try something called ChocoVine, a blend of Dutch chocolate and cabernet. I go back for more ChocoVine. Then I discover kaiserschmarrn, essentially a broken pancake, topped in — wait for it — bacon ice cream.
Pleasure centers burned out (did some one slip me ecstasy?) ... must ... drink ... mint tea ... and, focus.

Hi — Im bacon ice cream. Nuff said.

• It's 10 a.m. Sunday morning and we finish the weekend with brunch in the Lake Terrace Dining Room. It's a lovely spread, which I could only compare to Saturday's, but on a much lesser scale. Want bacon? They've got bacon. Want a chocolate fountain. They've got a chocolate fountain. Eggs, pastries, cheeses, cold cuts ... the list goes on and on.

Final notes:
I won't pretend that this weekend isn't expensive and that we weren't graciously allowed access. But know that the grand buffet is available on its own (for around $180) and if you've got the fortitude, you could probably eat and drink your money's worth. Also, the event benefits the Broadmoor Culinary Apprenticeship Program and the Colorado Restaurant Association Education Foundation and which funds ProStart.

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