Chimney Park Restaurant and Bar
When we decided to go out and celebrate New Year’s Eve, we expected our thoughts would be on the expectations, goals, and hopes for 2014. However, we ended up wanting to stay in 2013 forever. Thanks to Chimney Park Restaurant and Bar in Windsor, CO, and Head Chef/Owner Jason Shaeffer, we feasted on the finest cuisine in all of Colorado. Ordering off of their specially-designed holiday menu and their regular menu (although it feels like an insult to call it regular), led us to a variety of memorable tastes, textures, and smells that will have us returning as regulars for years to come.
The amuse-bouche, or complimentary chef-selected bite-sized hors d’œuvre, was smoked steelhead trout over a fennel and carrot slaw with a dash of dill – a brilliantly balanced bite that started the meal off right. Literally translated, amuse-bouche means “to amuse the mouth”, and this taste more than lived up to the name. We also sampled the freshly prepared celeriac blinis, topped with a chive crème fraiche, smoked salmon, and American Sturgeon caviar – elegant, delicious, and our third favorite dish.
Sandra ordered the New Year’s four-course dinner. She started with the pan-seared parmesan potato gnocchi with blistered cherry tomatoes, cremini mushrooms, and arugula in a truffle butter pan sauce. Each bite was savory and the gnocchi melted in her mouth, prompting her not to share much, but enough to make me jealous (it was then that I almost switched my entire order just so I could have my own bowl). This was our second favorite dish. We then enjoyed a warm lobster salad, consisting of a lavish serving of Maine lobster, celery, thin crisp apples, haricots verts, watercress, and pine nuts, with just the right amount of browned butter-tarragon vinaigrette. The bowl was literally wiped clean as this was one of the best warm salads we’ve ever had. Then came the Snake River Farms Wagyu beef New York strip loin, which was quickly seared and sous-vided to 140 degrees. Roasted red peppers and a foie gras emulsion made this dish rich and gave it luxurious depth. It was accompanied by caramelized onion-potato au gratin, which, because of the large portion of meat, was the only thing leftover, but not for lack of wanting.
I ordered the 1855 Black Angus Beef Filet of Ribeye. That night they were featuring what the French refer to as the calotte, or the ribeye cap – typically the most tender and flavorful cut. It was about an 8 to 9 oz. piece, which they usually serve on their creamy potato puree, blistered tomatoes, spinach, and roasted shallots. However, the Truffle, Thyme, and Goat Cheese Potato Puree caught my eye from their selection of sides, and they easily and cheerfully made the substitution. I probably could’ve eaten that as my main course. The acidity from the tomatoes married well with the smooth puree, and the perfectly seasoned spinach matched the rustic flavor of the shallots. The entire dish was tied together with a Madeira-rosemary infused demi-glace that had me salvaging every last drop from my plate with the freshly baked sourdough bread, served at the beginning of the night along with fresh butter dusted with black Hawaiian sea salt. This was perhaps the best single bite I’ve had in a very long time, easily becoming our favorite dish.
For Sandra’s favorite part of the meal, dessert, she ordered the chocolate cake with warm caramel, chocolate ganache, vanilla Chantilly, toasted coconut brittle, and macerated blackberries. The cake was rich and decadent, but surprising light and melted in our mouths with an almost mousse-like quality. The brittle was tasty on its own and is next up on Sandra’s “to try at home” list, but probably unnecessary in the already amazing creation. Needless to say, there was nothing left on this plate either.
There was even a little adventure as dinner wound down as our waitress, Kimberly, informed us of the kitchen’s challenge that night. We had to taste a trio of different crème brûlées and correctly guess two ingredients from each. We were right on when it came to the vanilla/almond and the dark chocolate/cinnamon servings (although I thought the smooth, mild burn coming from the chocolate brûlée was the cinnamon, it was actually from a dash of serrano chile – just enough to make us remember it). The third brûlée was the only imperfect taste in an otherwise flawless meal. It was an attempt of a white peach/black tea brûlée that was quickly scratched by the kitchen when customer reviews came back less than stellar. It is a testament to Chimney Park’s dedication to providing their diners with the best experience possible.
Overall, the experience was warm and personal, partly due to the modest size of the restaurant and partly due to the personal nature with which the staff took care of our needs. It’s nice to know they strive to source local, seasonal, and organic products and offer expertly picked wine tastings with each course on request. They are open and willing to work with your palette and specific dietary needs, providing a unique opportunity to have a truly intimate experience with inspired food.
The next time we go back, I’m eying the four-course chef’s tasting menu, where I will happily place my fate in the hands of the chefs, wondering what delight will come out next. If it’s anything like New Year’s Eve, I may not want 2014 to end either.
Jake McCollum, Editor, A Dash of Sanity
Chimney Park Restaurant and Bar
Head Chef: Jason Shaeffer
Location: 406 Main Street, Windsor, Colorado, 970.686.1477
Prices: Appetizers $13-$16; Soups and Salads $10-$14; Entrees $26-$34; Sides $7; Four-Course Chef’s Tasting Menu $60; Desserts $8-$14.
Details: Dinner Monday – Saturday 5:00PM to 9:00PM; Sunday 5:00PM to 8:00PM; Happy Hour Daily – 4:00PM to 6:00PM; Wine Sundays – 25% off all bottles of wine on their entire list.
Recommended Dishes: 1855 Black Angus Beef Filet of Ribeye; Truffle – Parmesan Potato Gnocchi; Celeriac Blini “Short Stack”; Truffle, Thyme and Goat Cheese Potato Puree; Warm Maine Lobster Salad; Vanilla-Almond Crème Brûlée.
Awards: OpenTable Diners’ Choice Top 100 Best Overall Restaurants in the US 2011; The Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, 2005 – 2008; Award of Distinction – Wine Enthusiast Magazine, 2006; our favorite restaurant in Colorado.