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Summit at the Broadmoor shifts to contemporary regional cuisine under new chef de cuisine 

click to enlarge Stay gold, Summit: The Chocolate Palet d’Or impresses at dessert. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Stay gold, Summit: The Chocolate Palet d’Or impresses at dessert.
When the Summit opened just over a decade ago, the Broadmoor eatery earned its way onto Esquire’s Best New Restaurants 2006 list, which commended Adam Tihany’s Rocky Mountain-inspired design, composed partly of I beams, expansive glass, stone accents and a commanding wine turret behind the bar.

Chef Bertrand Bouqin helmed the kitchen then, later to become the resort’s fifth executive chef as part of a long, well-awarded history. When Bouqin took the director of culinary operations posting earlier this year at Scottsdale, Arizona’s Desert Mountain club, Executive Sous Chef David Patterson stepped up to become big Number Six. That inspired more internal moves, such as then Summit Chef de Cuisine Mark Musial’s move to the same title at Risorante del Lago and Play. And in turn, Luis Young’s arrival as chef de cuisine at Summit.

With the new blood — Young’s only 30 years old — also came quiet news of a modest style shift, mostly away from Summit’s French bistro foundations into more “contemporary regional cuisine with classic twists,” says Young, noting he’s drawing from international cuisines but not aiming for traditional versions of classic dishes. He’s also pulling from his own travels and experience in some of the world’s most lauded kitchens.

Raised in both South Carolina and Panama, he did culinary school in both Miami and Spain before interning at Chicago’s Alinea, the molecular gastronomy wonder-house, and Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Catalonia’s three-Michelin-star restaurant that’s repeatedly been awarded the Best Restaurant in the World (no pressure). Later, he earned a chef de partie position at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville, California.

It’s difficult to think of making a culinary resume stronger than that, and though he concedes he had little interaction with Alinea’s Grant Achatz, he says Keller appeared every weekend to check-in with the kitchen. “It all taught me something valuable,” he says by phone a day after our meal, “but French Laundry marked me the most, not just the cooking, but the philosophy, how to treat people and the product.”

No question we’re in skilled hands (as we always are at a hotel adamant about defending its Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond rating) with Young’s nightly five-course tasting menu ($75), co-coordinated by accomplished sommelier Sophie Oppelt. Add $40 for a regular wine pairing or $60 for a premium pairing, which we did, because hey, when you’re going big for a special occasion, you may as well go a little bigger. Oppelt doesn’t just follow Young’s lead, he says, noting how sometimes he’ll craft a plate specific to a special wine she’s excited to pour.

Throughout our tasting, we experienced that pinnacle of dining wherein the wine improves the food and vice versa, affirming the benefit of not just acidity but subtle aromas and the gifts of terroir, be it from a chili pepper, heirloom tomato or patiently nurtured grape varietal.

Accounting for some à la carte items before I delve into those courses, we start with cocktails ($14, in case you forgot you were inside part of Philip Anschutz’s kingdom). A Harvest Old Fashioned with Leopold Bros. apple whiskey and cinnamon bitters tastes like the joy of fall’s arrival, a naturally sweet, fruit-forward refreshment I want a Thermos of next time I’m chopping wood. The Desperado bites with lemon and blood orange citrus up-front, smoothing into reposado essence and an herbal hint from vermouth before concluding with the surprise lingering of clean vanilla bean flavor via vanilla bitters.

That drink plays well with a strongly hickory-smoked beet salad appetizer, tempered by dollops of soft goat cheese mousse and florally highlighted by tiny cardamom wafers. And the Old Fashioned’s apple sweetness complements a kabocha squash bisque, which heads direct to Thailand with chili oil and toasted pepita garnish and a rich coconut milk body exuding galangal and lemongrass notes.

From the list of main items, Young takes a fluffy, pan-seared grouper to Spain, but replaces the traditional favas and lardons one might expect with Colorado-grown Anasazi beans and a lighter Iberico ham broth laced with paprika. Accenting boudin noir (salty, pungent, sexy blood sausage) nearly steals the show. Order a side of sunchokes — which deserve to be on more menus in town — here treated simply with brown butter and lemon juice, appearing as ginger-root-like halves charred to a crisp skin, garnished with coarse-grain salt that amplifies the sunchokes inherent sweetness. They’re divine.

Diving into our five-course, Oppelt launches us with a R. Dumont & Fils Solera Reserve Brut Champagne, chosen for a rounded unctuousness she rightfully says works well with (“acting complementary and opposite, playing with juxtaposition”) the sweet corn and truffle notes of Young’s pupusa, somewhat a hybrid of one and an arepa really, stuffing mozzarella and cotija cheeses into a masa disc that starts a bit dry before the cheeses moisten a bite. We weren’t as impressed as we were on the streets of Colombia recently, but that plateau in the meal only continued upward thereafter.

The Summit always delivers a pasta as a second course, and this evening’s comes at the hands of Young’s sous chef, Jesse Lupo. Spinach in the dough of folded, tortellini-like little purses of ricotta-mascarpone balanzoni pasta give it a green hue, followed here by a bright pea-green, velvety sage cream sauce. Shiitake mushrooms and fried sage leaf lend deep earth tones and a finale to the fireworks, for which we receive a mineral-y Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay to pair.
click to enlarge Ricotta-mascarpone balanzoni pasta glows many shades of green. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Ricotta-mascarpone balanzoni pasta glows many shades of green.
Third, a pan-seared, crisp-skinned snapper segment arrives, vibrant with watermelon radish slivers, jalapeño shavings and cherry tomatoes swimming in a sunflower colored tomato-saffron consommé. Young based it on a bouillabaisse (a Provençal seafood stew), he says, yet again he desired a lighter rendition. This one’s beautiful and delicate, but truly comes alive with the influence of a fantastic Argentinian Bodega Chacra Cincuenta y Cinco 55 Pinot Noir, which archives hot days and chilly northern Patagonian nights. Oppelt tells us it’s unlike any other Pinot and we can’t argue, finding no legs in our wine glasses (meaning lower alcohol) but faint berry signatures and a smoothness that enhances the entrée’s ocean undertones. It’s the best pairing of the night and we sip, stunned and delighted. It’s one of those moments I pen myself a dumb reminder note for the write-up, in this case: “This is like the difference between the regular carpet you walk on and one of those magic carpets that flies, like in Aladdin.” (Sophisticated, aren’t I?)

“I grew up eating grits,” Young explains of his time in South Carolina, by way of unpacking our fourth course, gorgeously pink, thyme- and garlic-seasoned hangar steak strips atop funky Swiss Raclette cheese grits. The story of his youth in Latin America continues with a roasted, cheddar-stuffed poblano on the side with garlicky chili verde relish, fusing cultures and adding a
welcome smolder to the affair. A fine Australian shiraz with a Saison beer’s nose particularly works well with the strong cheese, for an overall bully course.

Then comes dessert, a pistachio ice cream profiterole, whose puffy pâte à choux holds form under hot chocolate sauce that melds nicely into the clean nutty ice cream flavor. Our wine pairing climaxes with the Vinsanto Sigalas Santorini Grecian dessert wine, presenting a medley of dried fruit influence and appreciable non-cloying nature.

Gluttons to the end, we order a round of Lavazza decaf coffees, mild and not distracting from the pastry prowess at hand — credit to Broadmoor pastry chef Adam Thomas and team — as we sample two more à la carte sweets. (Perhaps I should note there were three of us sharing all this bounty.)

A carrot cake coupe (denoting its parfait-like presentation in a rocks glass) shows the only example of molecular gastronomy via a carrot “fluid gel” (via agar agar binding) as part of a deconstructed cake, featuring smoked raisins, lavish cream cheese ice cream and candied walnuts. A pastry cook arrives to pour warmed pineapple caramel through a white chocolate disc capping the glass (it quickly melts and drips down the filling), signaling the time for us to spoon in. Very fun, very pleasing.

A Chocolate Palet d’Or (Thomas Keller’s pastry chef Sebastian Rouxel’s published a notable version of the devil’s food cake-like construction) stacks a caramel-chocolate tuile (a moldable crunchy wafer) atop vanilla ice cream and a disc of chocolate-coated, gold leaf-adorned almond flour cake. That pretty much speaks for itself in its elegance and layered chocolatey-ness.

And, as a departing flavor, it easily sums up the Summit experience. As with mountain climbing, the view from the top’s nice, usually hard earned (in this case, monetarily speaking), and it tends to give perspective. Sometimes that’s the scenery that lies below, in this case an opulent setting and thoughtfully presented food and drink. Sometimes that perspective is something internal and personal, like the satisfaction of a goal reached. For us, this is special-occasion fare, a treat and reminder of just how far an elevated culinary experience, bolstered by fine wine, can go. The descent from the peak back into real life afterward is always bittersweet.

Cheers to Young, Oppelt and crew, to the great culinary masters and teachers who showed influence on this meal, and to the Patterson era of The Broadmoor.
Location Details Summit at The Broadmoor
19 Lake Circle
Cheyenne Mountain
Colorado Springs, CO
577-5896
Gourmet/eclectic

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