BEAVER CREEK — Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek opened for the summer season on Friday, with many longtime traditions and favorites in place, as well as a few changes, including the debut of longtime Splendido Chef de Cuisine Brian Ackerman as Splendido’s new executive chef-owner.
“I have the utmost respect for the restaurant and its first very successful 21 years, and I’m excited to lead the way for Splendido’s next decade,” said Ackerman, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked at local restaurants, as well as under notable national chefs during his career, including Ken Oringer (of Toro and Uni acclaim).
The restaurant’s new menu will look familiar to Splendido regulars, with a focus on seasonal food and high-quality ingredients.
Highlights include proteins such as Colorado lamb and beef and New Zealand venison, juxtaposed with lighter seafood fare for summer, including Idaho trout, Maine lobster, Alaskan halibut and Dover sole. There’s plenty of Colorado influence at play, but also a nod to Mediterranean flavors. The hamachi appetizer combines Marcona almonds, Spanish olives, Valencia oranges, piquillo peppers and bottarga, a dried, cured roe.
Another featured dish is the Jidori chicken — a mixed-breed, free-range chicken known for its robust flavor — served with morel mushrooms sauteed with vin jaune, a golden port, creme fraiche, haricot verts and Jerusalem artichoke.
The venison is crusted with a trio of seeds — pumpkin, hemp and sunflower — that lends the dish a nutty flavor and texture, while also protecting the lean meat from the heat, Ackerman said. Cabbage braised with local beer and Colorado cherries, as soon as the chef can source them, finish the dish.
“It’s a beautiful combination of textures and flavors,” Ackerman said. “I’m preparing dishes exactly how I like to eat them.”
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The staff will continue to forage for wild mushrooms, such as porcini and chanterelle, as they come into season, Ackerman said, and he’s working with two farms on Colorado’s Western Slope to buy much of the produce featured on the summer menu. All of the herbs are grown in the on-site garden.
New this season, Ackerman will buy ingredients from the Edwards Farmers Market to create the menu items on his evolving blackboard bar menu, which will be a little more playful and a less composed than the regular menu, essentially “clean, simple food you can eat every night,” Ackerman said.
“I understand you can’t have that rack of lamb every night,” he said. “We’ll offer things that are lighter and simpler, like a burger that changes weekly, and, once we have tomatoes in season, a tomato salad with minimal ingredients so the flavor really shines.
“This is such a beautiful property, we’d love for folks to come up and have a burger or sit down for a simple dessert. You don’t have to just come up for your anniversary — though you should.”
Diners can sit indoors or on the refurbished deck with views of Beaver Creek Mountain while sipping a cocktail from the new signature cocktail menu. The restaurant’s dining room is slated for updates in late fall.
Customers will recognize longtime dining room manager Brian Rhodes, sommelier Patrick Mildrum and bartenders John Marotta and Bill Davies, both of whom have been behind the bar for close to two decades. Pastry Chef Sebastien Schmitt returns to Splendido after a five-year hiatus spent in Sydney, Australia, at acclaimed restaurant Otto.
Four local piano players — Kathy Morrow, Peter Vavra, Bob Finnie and Taylor Kundolf — will entertain guests this summer.