Foodies in Frisco (okay, mostly Breckenridge, but I like the alliteration of Frisco)

July 2, 2011

We headed up to Summit County for the holiday weekend, and along with some dazzling views, fresh mountain air, biking, walking, and fireworks, we had some wonderful, and some not quite so wonderful food experiences.

Keystone

We found ourselves eating most of our dinners in Breckenridge, based on the results of our online survey of the resataurant offerings. Our first dinner of the weekend was at Modis in Breckenridge. This was one of those places where we didn’t seem to win whatever lottery entitles you to bread, although the tables around us were lucky enough to be winners. (Truth be told, unless I’m really hungry, I usually pass on bread in restaurants if it’s not a speciality, so as not to waste calories on a filler, and when we asked, they were happy to supply us with some).  We started with an heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad, which arrived with tomatoes of questionable heirloom heritage (and without a full, ripe summery taste), and could have used a bit more oil and basil.  The half-size Modis salad, however, was a wonderful combination of mixed greens and romaine, cucumber, red onion, avocado, sweet corn, grape tomatoes, watermelon radishes, croutons, quinoa sprouts, buttermilk bleu cheese and honey mustard vinaigrette. It seemed on the edge of having too many components, but I didn’t find it to be too overwhelming, just very fresh and enjoyable. For entrees we had the salt and vinegar potato chip encrusted halibut, with six grain and pea shoot salad, bella cerignola olives, and caper aioli, as well as the seared jumbo scallops with miso broth, rice noodles, jalapeños, sugar snap peas, carrots, baby bok choy, daikon sprouts, mint, cilantro, and hoisin. The halibut was excellent, and the other components on the dish (especially the six grain and pea shoot salad) worked very well to add flavor dimensions. The scallop dish was a tad too umami for me, I think due to the miso, but my husband really enjoyed it.   After having just spent two and a half hours in heavy traffic ascending 5000 miles in altitude, I didn’t have the presence of mind to take photographs of any of our dishes at Modis.

Our second dinner was at a divine discovery called Ember, also in Breckenridge.  The food  was visually stunning, and although all of the items we ordered had elements that might seem disparate, they worked together well to create some wonderful, harmonious dishes. For the ‘kindle’ course (leading up to the ‘blaze’ course — get it?), we had the calamari with sriracha pea crunch, green curry coconut tapioca, and peanut soil and the fava bean salad with roasted cauliflower, pickled mushrooms and lemon cocoa-nib sorbet. The salad definitely sounded like an odd combination of things, but the sorbet provided a cool, citrusy counterpoint to the cauliflower and fava beans as it melted over the salad, and it all worked really well together.

Calamari appetizer at Ember

Salad at Ember

For the ‘blaze’ course we selected the creole rubbed venion (medium rare) with cornbread pudding, rainbow chard, and jambalaya, as well as the escolar with green tea rub, yuzu marmalade risotto, spaghetti squash, and pear-wasabi coulis.  The first dish was outstanding, especially the venison and cornbread pudding. Everything on the second dish was also quite good – our only qualm was that we felt the pear on the escolar was a bit too discontinuous from the rest of the dish.

Venison at Ember

Escolar at Ember

Our third dinner was at Hearthstone in Breckenridge. We started with the trio of berry gazpacho, which unfortunately just didn’t work well for me. Consisting of three small dishes of berries (strawberries, blackberries, and rapberries) with cucumber, tomato, serrano peppers, and cilantro and lime juice the only discernable spicing, it just didn’t seem to be a harmonious dish. The attractive and tasty roasted beet salad had both yellow and red beets, wonderfully house-pickled onions, basil, and buena vista goat cheese. The spinach salad had some very flavorful mesquite-smoked Hazel Dell mushrooms, as well as grape tomatoes, roasted nuts, vidalia onion, and an aged basalmic vinaigrette.

Trio of berry gazpacho at Hearthstone

Beet salad at Hearthstone

For entrees, we had the cornmeal crusted, pan seared walleye with sherry tomato sauce, vegetable quinoa, tomato basil ‘accompaniment’ and roasted asparagus. The quinoa was rather disappointingly bland, but the walleye was nicely complimented by the sauce. Our other entree was the garlic granola crusted elk with orange butter sauce, scallions, coconut basmati, and fresh snap peas. Everything worked very well together on this dish.

Walleye at Hearthstone

Elk at Hearthstone

Strangely, breakfast seemed to be challenging – we like to do pancakes or waffles a couple of mornings on vacation, but we had a tough time finding a completely satisfying breakfast place.  One of our breakfasts was at Sunshine Cafe in Silverthorne, which got favorable reviews on yelp and other sites.  We ordered huevos rancheros and wheat cakes.  The waitress warned us that the cakes were very thick and baked in the oven, and she held her fingers an inch and a half to two inches apart to demonstrate, but we thought, hey, we might as well splurge.  I was taken aback and actually speechless at the sheer mass when our food arrived.  The huevos rancheros was so large that it hung over the dinner-sized plate all around the rim. The wheat cakes were two giant three-inch tall pieces of breakfasty cake with accompanying syrup.  A quarter of each dish was more than filling enough.  Neither selection was particularly memorable, and I definitely like my huevos rancheros spicier, but neither of them was bad by any means.

Our other breakfast out was at the Log Cabin Cafe in Frisco. This was a very popular spot, and we had a wait of 25 minutes to get in, even on a Tuesday at 10:45.  The food took nearly half an hour to arrive, and wasn’t very remarkable once we got it.  We had a short stack of wheat pancakes, with disappointing blueberries mixed in the batter, and a fruit, yogurt, and granola bowl which required an extra trip to the kitchen for the granola.  The biscuit on the side was okay, but not up to the standards of our favorite biscuit in Boulder, at Turley’s.

Lunches were a lot less formal – we did stop at Carlos Miguel’s in Frisco for one lunch after a hot, thirsty walk that was longer than we intended, and although it wasn’t ground-breaking by any means, I found it to deliver just what I expected, and to be pretty satisfying.

For dessert one night we decided to try one of Mimi’s fried pies (Breckenridge) after reading glowing reviews, so we took home a peach variety of the Hostess pie-shaped dessert, and gave it a minute in the microwave about an hour later. It was good, and granted, may have been better had we eaten it immediately, but it wasn’t quite the exquisite treat we were hoping for.

One highlight for dessert and pastry was La Francaise French Bakery in Breckenridge.  The slice of opera cake we took home for dessert was a gorgeous and delicious cake with multiple thin layers. The flattened almond and chocolate croissant we saved for breakfast the next day was a wonderfully flaky, richly almond-flavored piece of pastry.

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