$$$ Dinner seven nights a week in season and Thursday-Monday during shoulder seasons. Lunch is served Friday-Sunday in summer.
Picture your fantasy of an alpine restaurant, maybe a repurposed barn, a refuge, located high in the Swiss Alps. No need to dream it or book an intercontinental flight: just head out to La Marmotte in Telluride. The restaurant is housed in a structure that was built 125 years ago during the mining era to hold ice collected in winter for use in summer, hence the name of the adjacent hotel: The Ice House. But La Marmotte doesn’t come by all of its charm from its historic authenticity. Inside, proprietors Mark and Mairen Reggiannini have kept it rustic and warm, sophisticated and casual – yes, a refuge – and this is a restaurant that oozes romance and the French inspired cuisine fits the setting. A recent dinner started with appetizers of Ahi Tuna Carpaccio and Beef Tenderloin Tartar, both tasting of impeccable freshness and tangy on the tongue (ginger orange soy on the tuna, lemon and capers and pickles with the beef), followed by Slow Roasted Salmon with Israeli couscous seasoned with crispy leaves of sage and almonds, the salmon perfectly roasted to a gorgeous brown on the outside yet meltingly soft on the inside. Chef Mark Reggiannini deploys classical technique and bright accents to update traditional recipes. A roasted quail, served as an appetizer, is crispy on the outside, stuffed with creamy risotto, and served with tart lingonberry sauce; French onion soup is described a creamy because the Gruyere doesn’t sit on top of an onion-laden consommé but is blended in, as are the onions, making for a familiar flavor in a smooth new form. The menu changes seasonally, but with some items that are apparently too popular to remove: Braised Lamb Shanks, Coq au Vin, Grilled Hanger Steak. The menu is a three-course prix fixe, for $49 ($39 during shoulder seasons). Items may be ordered a la carte and some items come at a modest supplement. You could finish with Molten Chocolate Cake with espresso ice cream, or another appealing dessert that won’t sound wildly original (lemon tart, crème brulee, sorbet), but that would mean you would have passed up the Caribbean Rum Soaked Fried Bananas with caramel sauce and pistachio ice cream.
BEST FOR: Apres ski or après hike because you need to rest your weary bones and warm up after a day of San Juans recreation so that you can go out and do it all over the next day. If you are single, snag a seat at the small but convivial bar and you are likely to make a new friend or two.
PARTY ON: Book the upstairs room for your larger party of 6 to 12 for an intimate semi-private gathering.