Telluride’s Best-Kept Secret
by Maribeth Clemente
The West is known for its “great rooms,” but perhaps there is none greater in Telluride than the great room at Mountain Lodge. When this lodge first opened over two decades ago its spectacular great room, replete with a soaring cathedral ceiling and awe-inspiring views, was only open sporadically to service a small bar. Today, it’s a vibrant place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, après ski, and dinner.
A favorite among locals, The View at Mountain Lodge has become a popular place to gather for all kinds of fun events such as the annual snow dance and luau, drag brunches, special food and wine dinners and first-rate meals. All of these doings highlight the culinary talents of Chef Perse Vordokas and Sous Chef Isaiah Davis-Toledo as well as the expertise of Food and Beverage Director and wine aficionado par excellence Chance Van Cleef.
None of this, however, would have been possible without the vision of Steve Togni, General Manager of Mountain Lodge for almost two decades. He introduced the dining element to the lodge back in 2008 when he asked Paolo Canclini (of Rustico and La Piazza fame) to set up a kitchen and serve up pasta and wine in this glorious space. All was off and rolling buono for a number of years and then eventually Mountain Lodge adopted its own culinary identity, one that reaches beyond the Italian roots of Steve, or Stefano (who was born in Italy), and the Rustico/La Piazza imprint. “With one of the best rooms in Telluride, I knew I needed to fill it with unique dining and entertainment experiences,” says Steve. “It has been great to see how The View has evolved over the years and I look forward to seeing what’s going to be served up next.”
Under the direction of Chef Perse and Chef Isaiah, today The View menus boast a fusion of flavors highlighting Latin American, Mediterranean, French-Canadian, African-American, and Puerto Rican influences. That’s not to say that offerings such as their Smash Burger composed of double 4 oz. patties, cheese-braised mushrooms, rosemary aioli and house fries won’t woo the most discriminating American-styled meat eaters in your group. Their elk chili served with house tortilla chips also delights, perhaps due to the touch of harissa added to the stew.
Indeed, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi with much of what is served up at The View these days. It’s that special ingredient that makes the food and drink stand out from many of the other restaurants in town. Cocktails, such as the bucatini, a potent elixir fashioned from Hendrick’s Lunar, Bols Genever, pasta water and olive brine, will set you up good after a brisk day on the mountain. Yes, I said pasta water. (It’s like a dirty martini and the pasta water replaces the Vermouth.)
At breakfast, you can revel in thick slices of hearty Blue Grouse bread slathered in butter and Colorado honey with your eggs. Products from other local purveyors such as Tomboy Butcher, Vicki’s Fresh Food Movement and Steaming Bean Coffee are also featured throughout.
Service is good, here, too, which is why at lunchtime the restaurant might be partly filled with ski instructors and their clients. They know that it’s easy to ski in and ski out of the Lodge for a good meal that will still leave you plenty of time for those last precious runs.
It might be hard to leave The View though because the vistas are so incredibly spectacular and the fire from the big stone fireplace is oh-so warm. Transformed into a magical place in the evening, the great room offers both a romantic setting and a cozy spot for families to gather while savoring good food and drink.
Steve Togni had a vision many years ago. And it’s lovely to see how it has evolved into a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike for a variety of occasions.
Note that Fresh Horses, a slopeside bar/eatery, stands out as the latest iteration of Mountain Lodge’s creative addition to the food and drink scene in Telluride. Ski up for some empañadas and a margarita and take a break in one of their Adirondack chairs off of lower Double Cabin. Chance and Perse have also conducted wine tastings and culinary events these past months at the Ah-Haa School for the Arts; keep your eyes out for more to come. Check out the Mountain Lodge Facebook page for details on other upcoming special events, including a fun Drag Brunch on March 4th for Gay Ski Week.