Every night, Bob Scherner strives "to make food that's better than the view." This is not an uncommon challenge for high-country restaurants, whose windows frame stunning mountain scenery. But Allred's, where Scherner is chef de cuisine, sits mid-mountain at 10,500 feet. Through a wall of glass, diners have views of twinkling Telluride, from almost all of the 110 seats.
Scherner is undaunted. In fact, it's the location of the restaurant that first intrigued him. Scherner was cooking in town when the president of the resort brought him up the mountain. "We tromped to the foundation in knee-deep snow, and there was nothing but steel beams," the 37-year-old chef explains. "When he said, 'Imagine a restaurant perched 30 feet above us,' and asked me to be part of it, I couldn't refuse."
That was three winters ago. Since then, Scherner has had his hands in every aspect of the wood, stone and glass restaurant, from the design of the 8,000-bottle wine cellar to the selection of imported tableware to the positioning of a six-person chef's table near the open kitchen.
Then there's the food. Calling on classical training at the Western Culinary School in Portland, Ore., not to mention time as Charlie Trotter's sous chef in his native Chicago, Scherner prepares a menu that changes daily. "Each dish goes through an evolution," he says. "No matter how good it is, it can always be improved."
If Scherner has a signature dish, it's his house-smoked salmon. This winter's version is a sesame-smoked Napoleon with avocado salad and tangerine coulis. You can also discover lavender honey-cured foie gras with orange confit, cinnamon oil and cherry-wood balsamic vinegar, braised Colorado lamb shanks with herb-chevre polenta, and Muscovy duck seared with Asian spices and served with butternut ravioli.
The quintessential experience? Dining at the chef's table, eschewing the menu, and letting the food and wine come "until the white flag waves," Scherner says. "The response has been tremendous."
Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
1/4 cup raisins; 3 eggs, beaten;1 1/4 cup sugar; 1/4 pound butter, melted; 1 loaf French bread;1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract;3 1/2 cups whole milk
Tear bread into bite-size pieces and place in a 4-by-8-by-2-inch pan. Pour milk over the bread and refrigerate for at least one hour. Combine other ingredients. Remove bread from refrigerator, pour egg mixture over. Cover pan with foil; bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Remove foil; bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Serve warm.
1/4 pound butter; 3 egg yolks; 1 cup sugar; bourbon to taste (at least 3 tablespoons)Melt butter in the top of a double boiler. Add bourbon, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until mixture thickens slightly and registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Serve warm over bread pudding.
-from The Cliffhouse, Buttermilk Mountain, Colo.
Another Reason to Love Winter
Want to take the chill off a cold winter night? Open a bottle of icewine. Our pick? Icewine from Inniskillin, an Ontario-based winery with vineyards in the Okanagan Valley, B.C. Inniskillin makes icewine-a rich, flavorful dessert wine-following traditions developed in the mid-1700s in the cool wine regions of Germany. It's a painstaking process. Unlike their warm-weather counterparts, icewine grapes are left on the vines well into winter. As the grapes freeze and dehydrate, the sugars and acids become concentrated, which intensifies the flavors. When they're ready to harvest, the grapes are picked by hand, often at night, and then pressed before they thaw. Any grapes that endure that kind of treatment and still produce such intensely sweet and flavorful wine simply deserve to be sipped.