I had the short ribs with porcini risotto and Marta had the roasted tofu with roasted vegetables, which raises an obvious question.
Can this marriage be saved?
Now, I wouldn’t say that dining at Allred’s is the kind of thing to awaken us to our differences. We’re already all over that, after (how-many?) years of wedded harmony. But Allred’s did offer us choices that made both of us extremely happy.
I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater, but how adventurous am I really, since I rarely pass up the chance to order short ribs? As for Marta, her tofu, to my taste, had little taste. But it was dressed in an extremely flavorful pesto, was roasted so that the outside was crunchy and the inside was wonderfully creamy, and was just plain fun to eat. The short ribs, on the other hand, packed a powerful punch of complex flavors, a little salty, mushroom earthiness, rich beef jus, and papadew peppers as a garnish, at once sweet and sharp.
On the gondola on the way home, Marta sighed: “I loved my vegetables.”
I did not rejoin that I loved my short ribs, though I did love them, thinking it best to allow her pleasure to linger on a bit unchallenged. The gondola does, after all, make for a gentle return to earth after dining so high; at over 10,551 feet, Allred’s is surely one of the highest fine dining restaurants in the world.
I usually think of Bob Scherner, who is back at Allred’s for the second time for the last year, having been there from 1999 to 2004, and who has worked in a number of other Telluride fine restaurants, as doing complicated dishes, but he certainly proved with Marta’s roasted tofu ($28) that he does simple awfully well, too.
He told me that the current Allred’s menu is just a bit more approachable than previous menus, with a little more emphasis on comfort and a little less on haute, but no less refined; a menu that “promises less and delivers more,” with the likelihood that there will be something surprising on the plate, with the vegetarian tofu entrée a case-in-point.
I’ve read that there are restaurants in New York now that compete to make the creamiest, most delicate tofu, and I read an article in the New Yorker about artisanal tofu makers in Japan who go to extraordinary lengths to acquire just the right water, salt, and other ingredients to produce an otherworldly soybean curd. OK, now I get it: Tofu can be transcendent.
Not that it would be the first thing I’d personally order at Allred’s, or even the second, so long as Marta allows me to steal a taste of hers.
On a couple of recent visits to Allred’s I’ve had the good luck to sample most of the starters on the current menu, but only a few entrees, and while my short ribs ($36) were beyond reproach, other items beckon. We’ll have to get back to Allred’s this summer to sample Scherner’s Bouillabaisse ($48) and also the steaks and chops, which include an 8 oz. filet ($44), a 12 oz New York strip ($39), and a 22 oz. rib eye ($59), which would be my personal choice providing there was someone willing to share it with me. Some of the other people at our table the other night ordered steaks and chops and I found myself coveting a bite of the gorgeously browned potato gratin that accompanied them. It’s funny how steaks, no matter how perfect, are somehow elevated more than other entrees by the sides they’re served with. Scherner, a perfectionist, has it dialed in.
With its expansive glass wall overlooking a view equal to what any restaurant in the world could possibly offer and its ambition to serve cuisine second-to-none, and not just locally, Allred’s is at the high end of Telluride’s high end, literally and figuratively. It doesn’t have to be off-limits barring a special occasion, though. The bar offers the same views and food as the dining room, but is more casual. Sipping a fine wine and nibbling on apps as you watch the alpenglow spread across the Telluride valley below, with Bob Israel at the ivories, is a delightful way to start an evening.
A friend and I shared the trio of bruschetta ($12) in the bar just this way during Bluegrass weekend, and suffice it to say that mashed fava bean with garlic makes for a delicious topping on bread crisps. You can’t argue with a topping of olive with peppers or tomato with mozzarella, either, because Scherner does not skimp on the quality of ingredients.
Heirloom tomatoes may be one of the very best things to have happened to eating in America in the last decade, and Scherner pairs them artfully with classic tomato garnishes of sweet garlic, goat cheese and basil oil ($16).
I would also recommend the Kobe beef carpaccio ($19), dressed in musky truffle oil and served with a parmesan crisp and mache a dollop of mustard. Because I had the good fortune to sit at a table where appetizers where generously shared, I got to sample the tender smoked quail that garnishes a salad of endive, radicchio, sour cherries and pistachios ($22). This is a salad that would make for a perfectly satisfying light dinner, all by itself.
Allred’s, named for the developer of Mountain Village and former owner and CEO of the Telluride Ski and Golf Co., occupies a critical niche in Telluride. Given its location at the high point of the Telluride-Mountain Village gondola and its equally lofty culinary ambition, Allred’s strives to embody a particular Telluride aspiration, to be a remarkable destination in its own right, no less an essential part of the mix than world-class hike-to ski terrain or a well-preserved historic district in town. It is not to downgrade any of the other exceptional dining options in Telluride and Mountain Village to say that Allred’s is one of our signature restaurants.
It is, of course, dangerous, a form of hubris, to reach so high, to reach for the stars, for four or five of them, perhaps. A high flying chef could be burned. For now, though, Bob Scherner has got it firmly under control.