TABLE DINING in Estes Park
TABLE, is one dining experience I’ll never forget and you can participate too. The Stanley Hotel recently launched a new and fabulous culinary series, TABLE, Great Roads to Great Chefs for hotel guests and the general public. The name, TABLE, Great Roads to Great Chefs was born out of the floods that struck Estes Park, Colorado last year. With many damaged roads as result of the flood, the hotel supported the expedience of this project, hence the unique name that encourages travelers from all over to make their way up to Estes Park for this fine dining experience. The series is brilliant creative genius, in my humble opinion. It not only offers a rare opportunity for chefs to showcase their finest culinary talent at this historic hotel but it also promotes the restoration of this community.This series features several Chefs in Residence from Colorado and out-of-state, who gather to utilize their creative talent and culinary expertise for a small group of guests in an intimate dining setting. The event takes place in The Lodge at the Stanley Hotel. The event begins with a reception of fine hors d’oeuvres prepared by the chefs for a group of 20 guests who participate in TABLE. The hors d’oeuvres, to name just a few included Dill Salad on Cucumber, Kale Pesto & Speck on Endive and Handmade Mozzarella on Roasted Mini Pepper. The tasty Zenato Trebbiano di Lugana San Benedetto, Veneto DOC 2012 and hors d’oeuvres delighted the palate and I found myself awaiting anxiously for the next server to arrive, to see the next creation. I not only enjoy tasting good food, but equally enjoy the presentation of it. There is an art of enhancing a consumer’s senses in one experience (sight, sound, smell, touch & taste). I tend to measure certain experiences by this “sense” experience and I’d say these chefs and the TABLE experience provided the full experience from start to finish, lacking nothing. Guests mingle and enjoy the reception for about thirty minutes. Everyone eventually makes their way into a beautiful room where they are assigned to their table. Phil Armstrong, corporate food and beverage director at Grand Heritage Hotel Group . provides a warm welcome to the dinner by introducing the TABLE series and the Chef of the evening, Chef Alec Schuler of Tangerine Restaurant & Argula Bar e Ristorante. Both restaurants are in Boulder, Colorado. As I later learned, the courses we were served are also served at Arugula. I might find myself heading up to Boulder’s Arugula soon! Schuler is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Manhattan’s Natural Gourmet Institute. He worked for years in the restaurant business in a various positions but finally decided to pursue the dreams of opening his own restaurant, and did so in 2009 at Arugula Bar e Restaurante. In 2011, Schuler found an incredible opportunity right next door when a business went out of business. He decided to open another restaurant Tangerine, that solely serves breakfast. Schuler’s success has skyrocketed to new heights. In 2010, Schuler’s Arugula was listed in the Forbes “Top 10 Wholesome US Restaurants”. Honestly, I can understand his success. Let me tell you about this delicious five course meal. It started out with brown butter sauteed calamari streak strips with capers, almonds and more. This dish was paired perfectly with S’elegas Nuragus di Cagliari DOC, Sardinia 2012. It was the best calamari I’ve had. Seasoned and cooked to perfection. Ms. Shannon Bird was my guest and we were quite happy about TABLE, to say the least. Ms. Bird and I talked often throughout this meal about portion size and how Chef Schuler hits the mark perfectly. This could also be the result to his “starch-light” approach to healthy cooking. We never felt full, just very comfortably satisfied. We were simply, quite happy about this meal. Next in course was the carnaroli rice risotto with Longmont raised rabbit confit, Hazel, Deli mushrooms, carrots, peas and La Tur cheese. This rabbit was a delicacy, perfectly seasoned and delicious. It was much different than the rabbit I remember having as a child, and frankly, protesting. Schuler used just the right amount of rabbit combined with risotto so that it was tasty and received without protesting! This course was paired perfectly with Vietti, Barbera d’Asti, Tre Vigne, DOC, Piemonte 2010. Our next item was livornese fish stew with fresh dorado, mussels, shrimp, calamari, charred tomatoes, black olives, fennel and orange zest. It was paired with Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino DOC, Toscano 2008. The calamari and shrimp was the favorite part of this course. And next, “CO’s Best Beef” rib eye roast with cipollini onion jus, garlic seared greens and roasted sweet potato and winter squash topped with melted Asiago cheese. This course was divine, and quite possibly my favorite. The meat was tender and the combination of seasoning, greens and squash just did it for me. And nothing goes better with red meat than a good red wine. This course was paired with Zenato, Amarone della Valpolicella, DOC, Veneto 2009. And no meal is complete without a sweet. Fortunately for everyone at TABLE, Chef Schuler created a wonderful Rasberry tiramisu with savoiardi lady fingers and mascrarpone cheese. Paired with Bera, Sparking Brachetto DOC, Piemonte, this five course meal was completed with many happy, relaxed and totally satisfied guests. In addition to the incredible courses and wine pairing, I loved how the chefs interacted with guests through the dinner. They came out several times to speak about the wine and dishes. It was a very unique experience and everyone applauded their expertise. It was a truly spectacular and intimate gathering of culinary creations that left everyone blessed and highly satisfied. I would definitely recommend visiting TABLE if you can head up to Estes Park. It’s worth the drive and is a wonderful experience. Thanks Chef Schuler and TABLE. Joanna Want more information: TABLE at Stanley Hotel 333 East Wonderview Ave. Estes Park, CO 80517 970-577-4000 Disclosure: All or part of this visit was provided free or at reduced cost for review purposes. But, all opinions expressed are solely my own.