Local Flavors: Beaver Creek - #108

Every town in the world has a local flavor; a flavor that comes from the signature dishes of the place, from a group of preferred ingredients, or a type of restaurant that is popular in the area.  It is a flavor that comes from appreciating a particular piece of cooking equipment, or a technique.  There are dozens of influences, but to a great extent, the local flavor is always the result of history, geography and economics. 

This is the village of Beaver Creek, Colorado.  It is one of the most celebrated winter resorts in the world.  Set in the Gore and Sawatch Mountains, about 110 miles west of Denver, the terrain has been designed for a number of winter sports.  The alpine slopes offer downhill courses for all skill levels.  From the demanding world cup course known as The Birds of Prey, to a slightly inclined mound of snow for three-year-olds. 

WOMAN SKI INSTRUCTOR: Well done.  Keep going.

And there is a mountaintop shared by cross country skiers and snowshoers that sits in the magnificent McCoy Park.  It's an outdoor setting that will work out your body and work up your appetite.  So please join me, Burt Wolf, for a taste of the Local Flavors of Beaver Creek, Colorado. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  By the middle of the 1860s, the gold rush that had begun in California in 1849 was coming to an end.  The miners realized that the gold they were taking out of the creeks had been washing down from the mountains.  And they figured if it was washing down on the California side, it might also be washing down on the Colorado side.  And they began to move east.  The miners who came into Beaver Creek were unusual.  Most miners liked to live on their claim in the mountains.  These guys built small villages in the valleys.  As soon as they settle in, ranchers arrived.  They raised cattle, did a little farming; potatoes, spinach and peas.  A special relationship developed between the miners and the ranchers.  Every night, the miners would come back into town and have dinner in restaurants that had been set up by the ranchers.  They'd have a big steak dinner with side orders of potatoes, spinach and peas. 

The cast of characters has changed, but the theme is still the same. 

The part of the ranchers is being played by the restaurateurs.  The folks coming out of the mountains each night are played by the skiers.  The gold is still being played by the gold. 

Now when someone has been up in the mountains all day prospecting in the mines or plowing in the snow, they build up a colossal appetite and a mighty thirst.  And when they get down to the valley at night, they start looking for something good to eat.  It was going on here over 100 years ago and it's going on again today.  The eateries in Beaver Creek range from informal spots to restaurants with sophisticated cooking and prize-winning wine lists. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: In the three weeks I stayed in Beaver Creek I tried to eat in as many places as I could.  But you know, there are limits.  A man can do just so much.  And a pair of pants can be let out just so far. 

In 1881, George Townsend settled down in Beaver Creek and built himself a house.  And it's still here.  Today, it's the home of Chef Daniel Joley, his wife Nathalie, and the restaurant Mirabelle which has a reputation for serving some of the finest food in the Rockies. 

Daniel is from Belgium and trained with a number of the finest chefs in Europe.  Today he's preparing one of his favorite meals. 

The first course is steamed mussels with a julienne of vegetables.  The main dish was a seared Dover sole with vegetables and a creamy citrus sauce.  Dessert was a lemon tart.  I'll tell you how to get the recipes for those dishes and all the other dishes in this series at the end of this program. 

Another award winning restaurant is The Grouse Mountain Grill located in The Pines Lodge.  It is considered to be one of the top hotel restaurants in the U.S.  The executive chef is Rick Kangus who has a talent for taking very simple ingredients and turning them into great tasting dishes. 

His first course was a crisp onion cup filled with a bacon and spinach salad that has been tossed with warm maple vinaigrette.  The main course was a pretzel-crusted pork chop with an orange mustard sauce.  Rick starts by cutting one bone off a double-bone pork chop.  The chop is set between two pieces of plastic wrap and pounded with a mallet until it's about an inch thick.  Then the chop is seasoned with kosher salt and pepper, dredged in flour, dredged in beaten egg, and given a light coating of crushed pretzels. 

And it's pan-fried for five minutes on each side.  And finished off in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for ten minutes, or until it reaches the internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  A sauce is made by reducing some cream and mixing in some honey mustard and some teeny strips of candied orange rind.  The mustard sauce goes onto a serving plate, then the pork chop, and a few slices of orange.     

There were two side dishes with the pork; a white cheddar grit cake with smoked tomatoes and peppers, and pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with honey-cured bacon.  They were the best Brussels sprouts I ever tasted. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The Brussels sprouts are cooked in a sauté pan; comes from a French word that means to jump or leap.  And that's a pretty good description of what happens to food when you're sautéing it.  The pan moves up and back across the burner and the ingredients bounce up and down inside.  The action keeps the food from sticking or scorching.  When you're going to buy a sauté pan, there are a number of things to consider.  First of all, size.  You want to buy a pan that's big enough to fit all of the food that you're going to cook in one layer without crowding.  Think about the food you sauté most often and how big it is.  Buy a pan for that size.  And if you're going to have additional guests, do two or three batches.  The bottom should be perfectly flat so the pan will slide over the burner easily.  And straight sides will help when you're cooking a sauce.  The sides help reduce evaporation and spilling.  You want a metal that is highly heat conductive.  Of course copper is wonderful.  Regular aluminum is good.  But you want to make sure that there is a lining of stainless steel on the inside so the regular aluminum doesn't interact with your food.  Anodized aluminum like this is fine.  I am not a fan of non-stick surfaces on sauté pans.  I think they cut down on the transference of heat and you lose the crispiness that is so important in food that is being sautéed. 

It's important to have a comfortable handle made of metal that won't melt or burn when you put it in the oven.  It's nice to have an assist handle when you're lifting something heavy.  And a tight fitting lid so you can use this as a brazier. 

There were two desserts.  One was an apple bread pudding with cinnamon ice cream and a bourbon caramel sauce.  The other was a stir-fried strawberry banana sundae with candied ginger and brandy.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Beaver Creek's food history is not just limited to ranching and restaurants.  During the 1920s a group of farmers began experimenting with high altitude lettuce.  Because the temperature stays lower in the mountain valleys during the summer, farmers here could grow lettuce when farmers at lower and hotter elevations couldn't.  And the shipments arrived in the markets of the Midwest and the south at just the right moment.

The experiment was so successful that by the spring of 1923 Beaver Creek had become lettuce country.  The demand exceeded the supply and money came rolling in.  But not for long.  The Beaver Creek farmers were not experienced.  And within three years, the land was exhausted.  The lettuce years were over.  However, lettuce is making a comeback; but only on the local restaurant menus.  A good example is the Caesar salad at Splendido.

Splendido is another example of a restaurant that is elegant, but not stuffy.  The chef is David Walford who was born in England, raised in Colorado and trained by some of the best cooks in France, Napa Valley and San Francisco.  The local flavor that he has brought to Beaver Creek reflects that history.  When he came here, there was a wood burning oven in the kitchen.  So he began to tailor parts of his menu toward oven-roasting with oak. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: We started with Splendido's classic Caesar salad.  David begins by chopping and crushing garlic.  He always uses a chef's knife to do the work.  I'm going to chop the anchovies, but I am not going to use a chef's knife.  I'm going to use a mechanical chopper.  This one's called a Zyliss and I've used something like this for about 20 years.  Inside is a zig zag stainless steel blade connected to a plunger.  When you push the plunger down, the blade goes down over the food and chops it.  All the food is held in place by this circular disc on the outside.  And the more times you press it down, the finer the chopping.  This new model, which I didn't have 20 years ago, comes with a little cup so you can put your food inside there and when you finish chopping, it will be held in it.  And it also comes with a little cover so you can store it.  All right.  Anchovies. I love anchovies.  The garlic and anchovies go into a bowl.  Then an egg, which has been boiled in its shell for one minute.  It's known as a coddled egg and it helps the dressing emulsify.  A mixture of lemon juice, Worcestshire sauce, mustard, kosher salt and black pepper is mixed in.  Finally, olive oil is whisked in to complete the emulsion.  And that's the dressing which is added to the dried greens. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The key word in describing the greens is dry.  Oil and water do not mix.  So if the lettuce is wet, all of that wonderful dressing is just going to drain down to the bottom of the bowl and your lettuce is going to end up naked rather than properly dressed.  You can dry those greens by wrapping them in terry cloth, or in paper toweling.  But the easiest way is to use a salad spinner.  Salad spinner.

The spinners work on centrifugal force.  There’s an inner basket, and as it spins the greens in the water are forced out from the center to the sides.  The greens are trapped against a grid and the water flies out against the inside of the outer basket. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Choose a salad spinner that's big enough to hold the amount of salad that you normally use.  Make sure that the construction is solid, that the top fits on securely and most important, you have a dependable spinning device.  This model will let you push down with one hand.  The downward pressure and the ring of non-skid rubber on the bottom of the outer bowl, keeps the dryer secure on the counter.  It's a brake button on the lid that brings the spinning basket to a halt.  The pump knob locks down for easier storage and you're ready to continue.

The greens are dressed and tossed with grated Parmesan cheese.  A few homemade breadsticks are used to garnish the salad. 

The main course is Colorado rack of lamb that has been marinated in pomegranate juice and roasted in a wood oven.  But since I do not have a wood oven in my kitchen, David has been kind enough to tell me how to make it in a standard oven.

DAVID WALFORD ON CAMERA: This is the pomegranate juice, the base of the marinade.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: If I can't get pomegranate juice, what can I use?

DAVID WALFORD ON CAMERA: You could use a red wine or maybe try, uh, cranberry juice.  I haven't ever used that, but I always thought it might be nice.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Okay.  The marinade is made from pomegranate juice, olive oil, chopped lemon zest, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, rosemary, thyme and crushed black pepper. 

DAVID WALFORD ON CAMERA: You can marinade it for eight hours, 12 hours, 24 hours is the best, not more than that.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Then the lamb is drained and the bones are wrapped in aluminum foil.

DAVID WALFORD ON CAMERA: So we want to wrap the bones with foil because the wood oven is so hot they would go up in flames.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The rack is seasoned with black pepper.  At which point the lamb is roasted in the wood oven for 12 to 20 minutes, or browned in a hot skillet with a little oil and then roasted at a 450 degree oven.  The lamb comes out of the oven, rests for ten minutes, gets sliced and served with seasonal vegetables, a sheep's milk cheese soufflé, and a sauce made from stock and some of the marinade.           

For dessert we had a pear ginger upside down cake and an amaretto zabaglione.

The next valley over from Beaver Creek is Bachelor Gulch.  It was settled in the early years of the 20th century by five bachelors who were ranchers, farmers and timber cutters.  They often worked together to improve their property.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: To say the least, they were unique personalities.  Ed Howard used to keep his chickens in his bedroom.  Jimmy Howard, no relation to Ed, had retired from the railroad, so he got a regular pension check.  He would cash it, take part of it to go into town to the local bar, and give the rest to his neighbor with the instructions that no matter what he said or did, that money was not to be given back to him until he sobered up.  And of course a couple of hours later he would come back dead drunk screaming for his money.  But the neighbors, being good neighbors, would not give it to him.  And the Howards were two of the more normal guys.

Today Bachelor Gulch is part of the Beaver Valley ski area.  And the old Anderson cabin is now available as a private dining facility, which of course is exactly what it was when John Anderson lived there.

The guys in Bachelor Gulch liked the beauty and solitude of being alone in the mountains.  And if you'd like that experience on the most luxurious level, you can rent Trapper's Cabin.  

Set back in the trees at 9,500 feet, it's just what a trapper's cabin would be after his IPO.

It comes with its own full-time chef, cabin master, and housekeeper.  And let me tell you, this is the kind of house I'd like to keep.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: And no matter who's doing the cooking, they're going to be adjusting those recipes.  That's because most cookbooks are written for people who live and cook at sea level.  When you take those recipes up in the mountains, strange things happen.  The barometric pressure up here is lower.  That's because the blanket of air above you is thinner.  It's actually a pound lower for every thousand feet you go up.  And that has a strange effect on your cooking.

First, water and other liquids evaporate faster and boil at lower temperatures.  It's not your imagination if you think your coffee isn't as hot in the mountains as it is at sea level.  Second, rising or leavening agents used in baking, like the carbon dioxide in baking soda or yeast or the egg and whipped whites expand more.  At sea level, water boils at approximately 212 degrees Fahrenheit.  In Beaver Creek water boils at 203 degrees Fahrenheit.  Which means here, it takes longer to cook food in boiling water.  And more water must be added to make up for the greater evaporation.  As a general rule, for every thousand feet above sea level, you need to increase the cooking time by about ten percent.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: And above certain altitudes, some foods like dried beans won't cook at all without the help of a pressure cooker.  That's because the water boils at such a low temperature that it just vaporizes before the beans are cooked. 

And high altitude baking is the biggest challenge.  The reduced air pressure makes bread dough and cake batters rise too much or too quickly.  Bread and cakes just fall.  The answer is to decrease the amount of yeast, baking soda, or baking powder.  And if the leavening agent is the air and beaten egg whites, only beat the egg whites to soft peaks.  And speaking of peaks, allow me to introduce you to a couple that are still at the peak of their skills.

Helmut Fricker is well known in Beaver Creek.  Each afternoon he arrives at the center of the village and treats passersby to an alpenhorn concert.

Less well-known, but just as great a treat is his wife Ursula's cooking, especially her linzer torte. 

URSULA FRICKER ON CAMERA: And we start with 300 grams of flour, sifted jour.  Just regular flour.


URSULA FRICKER: And 300 grams of sugar.  And then we will add one egg.  And you just ...you know, like kneading.  It's like kneading the dough.  And then slowly put the butter in it.  That's also 300 grams.

BURT WOLF: It’s an easy recipe.  300 grams…

URSULA FRICKER: Everything is 300 grams.

BURT WOLF:  Making a basic pastry dough.

URSULA FRICKER: Making a basic dough.  Yes.  And now we will do the almonds.

BURT WOLF:  300 grams.

URSULA FRICKER: 300 grams of almonds.

BURT WOLF: I got this.

URSULA FRICKER: You got this.

BURT WOLF: Do you know if my slice will have 300 calories?  And if so, I'll remember everything.

URSULA FRICKER: Two teaspoons of cocoa.

BURT WOLF: One German knife tip of cinnamon.


BURT WOLF: Sure.  Everybody's going to love this recipe.

URSULA FRICKER: One to two.  Just a dash of ground cloves.

BURT WOLF: Cloves.

URSULA FRICKER: That I put in.  And then we have ...

BURT WOLF:  Cherry flavored brandy.

URSULA FRICKER: Cherry flavored brandy, but not sweet.  It's real Schnapps.

BURT WOLF:  Schnapps.  Two tablespoons, did you say?

URSULA FRICKER: Two tablespoons.

BURT WOLF: Ursula is using a very practical piece of equipment.  It's called a counter board.  You use one side when you're chopping onions, garlic, anything that would be strong.  You use the other side for pastry.


BURT WOLF: And your real counter surface, which in this case is marble, is always protected.  Now, the best of these cutting boards are made of laminated sugar maple and have two bars on the side.  One projects up, and the other projects down.  When you put the board on the counter, the front bar holds it in place and keeps it from sliding to the other side.  And the back bar keeps the ingredients from spilling over.

URSULA FRICKER:  And then it has to rest for at least an hour in the refrigerator. 

BURT WOLF:  Put it in the fridge for an hour.


BURT WOLF:  An hour later ...

URSULA FRICKER:   It has chilled.  And it's very workable now.  This will be the bottom.  So now we roll this out, if you can ... I like this rolling pin, it's very nice.

BURT WOLF:  That's called an American rolling pin.  And that weight does all the work for you.  You don't have to ...

URSULA FRICKER:  Very, very, very well.

BURT WOLF:  ...put any pressure on it.  It has ball bearings on the inside.  And so the barrel rolls independently of the handles.  I like these handles particularly because they are a full five inches.

URSULA FRICKER:  Yes.  Very good.

BURT WOLF:  You get a good grip on it, right?  Well…

URSULA FRICKER:  Best one I ever had.

BURT WOLF:  I brought along a French rolling pin so we could we could have a comparative roll-out.  It's longer than yours.


BURT WOLF:  It's much lighter and thinner.  The French chefs like this because they feel that it puts them closer to the dough and they get a better feel of the way it's rolling out. 

URSULA FRICKER:  And then you just take it and put it in your form. 

BURT WOLF:   That's a pretty extraordinary guess on what ten inches is.

URSULA FRICKER: It's that German guess again.  I put five heaping tablespoons of jam.  Raspberry.  It has to be raspberry jam. 

BURT WOLF:  Has to be.

URSULA FRICKER:  Not going all the way to the ... to the pan rim.  Yes.  And then I have made some cutouts that are little leaves.  And I make the rim with it. And then I form like flowers in the middle.

BURT WOLF:  That's so pretty.

URSULA FRICKER:  Then I go ahead and put some, egg yolk on it.  The crowning is those little balls that are ... the little center of the flower.

BURT WOLF: And then it's into a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 50 minutes.  The torte comes out of the oven, rests for ten minutes, and then comes out of the pan.  Ursula is using the ideal pan for delicate cakes like tortes and cheesecakes; it's called a spring form pan.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: On a spring form pan, the sides of the pan are separate from the bottom.  When you release the spring, the sides open up and the torte comes away easily.  The sides of the rim are symmetrical.  So you can use it if you're right handed, and then flip it, and use it if you're left handed.

All properly made models have a groove in the base where the side pieces rests.  But the best ones have an extra trough that circles the sides and will catch any drips that come off the base.  They're also coated with a non-stick surface.

The Linzer torte was named after the town of Linz in Austria where it was first baked.  It was shaped in a circle to celebrate the warmth of the sun.  Graham introduced his cracker in the 1820s.  Seventy years later, the ranchers of Beaver Creek began corralling their cattle.  And at almost the same moment, John Hershey was conching his first milk chocolate.  We needed the marshmallow. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: But once the hand of fate is in motion, it is impossible to stop.  And when the Hyatt Regency Hotel opened its fire pit in Beaver Creek, the world epicenter for s’moring was created.  There's even an official recipe.  Hershey e-mailed it to me. 

Place a half bar of milk chocolate on a half of a graham cracker and keep it at the ready.  Carefully toast a marshmallow and place it on top of the chocolate.  Place a second graham cracker on top of the marshmallow and gently press the sandwich together.  The Hyatt even sells a s’mores kit with all the essential components including a three-foot long stick for the marshmallows.  And you thought everything had already been invented.  In truth, there really is no end to America's ability to create.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Of course some creative undertakings are more significant than others.  It's obvious that the people who created Beaver Creek had a good understanding of what people want in a winter vacation, and what they want to eat during those vacations.  If you've enjoyed this edition of Local Flavors and you'd like some more, please join me next time.  I'm Burt Wolf.

If you would like free copies of the recipes from this program, or hundreds of other recipes from Burt’s programs, to read his special reports from around the world, and interviews with leading food authorities, or to order a copy of The New Cooks’ Catalogue, a critical guide that tells you what to look for when purchasing cooking equipment and utensils, with over 1,000 color photograph and recipes, just visit Burt on line at BURTWOLF.com.