A very small part of that plan was realized this week, with the opening of the Telluride Ski Resort’s newest restaurant, Bon Vivant.
To be sure, Bon Vivant is no behemoth lodge cafeteria. It’s small. Only 1,500 square feet, with seating for just 50, to be exact. And in the eyes of the Telluride Ski and Golf Company, it’s the ideal size restaurant – even though a much larger dining establishment could have been built there.
“It’s a fantastic place for a restaurant,” says Dave Riley, Telluride Ski and Golf Company CEO, as he scans the 360-degree panorama that frames the ski area’s newest, petite-sized restaurant. “Tres fantastique” aptly describes the setting for this French-themed restaurant, with its inspiring views of Uncompahgre Peak, Gold Hill, Palmyra Peak, and the Wilsons, coupled with its easily accessible location at the top of one of the resort’s most popular intermediate chairlifts.
Bon Vivant takes full advantage of its picturesque milieu by removing any impediments to its diners’ views. Bon Vivant boasts entirely outdoor deck seating, made viable at the restaurant’s nearly 10,500-foot elevation thanks to a 38-foot wide, 6,000-pound Austrian umbrella and wrap-around heaters.
But Bon Vivant is more than just a quaint, umbrella-covered outdoor deck restaurant, auspiciously positioned at the head of the table of the San Juans’ delectable visual spread.
Heavenly setting notwithstanding, the restaurant’s food, seeped in the French Haute-Savoie country tradition, actually stands on its own.
Like its sister restaurant, Italian-themed Alpino Vino (located near the top of the ski mountain on Gold Hill’s Upper See Forever run), Bon Vivant boasts a fine dining experience for discerning, ski boot-wearing epicures. Telski Executive Director of Culinary Services Jake Linzinmeir and Bon Vivant’s Chef de Cuisine Jackson Locklear have remained generally true to the provincial, hearty recipes of France’s Savoie region, infusing them with Colorado-inspired twists to create alluring dishes. The Lamb and Chimay Ale Stew with Pommes Dutchess is made with local Fox Fire Farm lamb, while the Duck Confit and Elk Sausage Cassoulet, draped in savory bread crumbs and served steaming in an authentic Staub cast-iron casserole, blends the best of old French cooking with hearty Colorado flavors. It also could quite possibly qualify as the most satisfying dish any muscle-tired skier could wish for to fill an empty belly on a winter afternoon.
Bon Vivant’s dishes aren’t all rich and meaty, however; its menu also has a lighter side. Highlights include an aromatic French Onion soup; Alpine Wild Mushroom Soup en Croute (served beneath a pillow of baked puff pastry); Quiche Lorraine; and a selection of made-to-order crepes whipped up on the spot at the restaurant’s crepe station.
Bon Vivant’s house-made Foie Gras Torchon and Duck Rillete, conversely, are as rich and blissfully calorific as a meal can be (and even received a nod of approval from a born-and-bred Savoie local, living in Telluride for the winter. The French can be quite persnickety about their foie gras – this I learned during my winter in the Savoie ski town of Tignes.)
Bon Vivant’s culinary escapade continues with a number of delectable desserts (try the Poached Pear stuffed with sweet soft cheeses and drenched in a syrupy-sweet wine sauce, or the downy Chocolate Mousse), and D’Hiver Chaud – aka “Winter Heat” cocktails – like the French 105, a vodka-and-champagne potion served with a wisp of lemon, named after Telluride’s 105mm Howitzer; or its Lucky Pierre, a layered concoction of Bailey’s, Kahlua and Rumplemintz.
Continuing in the footsteps of Italian wine bar cousin Alpino Vino, Bon Vivant boasts a heady wine list, comprised mostly of French favorites and a few California standouts. Sue Berger is general manager and sommelier of the new restaurant, and after seeing the “superb success” Alpino Vino has generated since its opening in 2009 (she was that restaurant’s GM and sommelier as well,) Berger says Bon Vivant is equally capable of capturing the imagination, and adoration, of its customers.
“Alpino Vino is over-the-top, and this is perfectly positioned to follow that up,” she says.
Bon Vivant has, indeed, pursued Alpino Vino’s goal of conceiving a new dimension for on-mountain dining in the ski industry. Simply put, that trend promises to keep its culinary experiences small, quaint, and high-quality. And while Riley envisions building another structure at the Bon Vivant site, it won’t be a brown tray-toting, cafeteria-style establishment that has become ubiquitous to the American ski country.
“We’re going in a completely different direction with our culinary services,” Riley says, noting that Telluride Ski Resort owner Chuck Horning was instrumental in supporting the development of Bon Vivant. “He believes in our culinary team and has helped shape the vision to establish Telluride as the top culinary destination ski resort in North America.”