Watch out Vail Restaurants; Cloverdale Restaurant and Farm is Serious Competition
Cloverdale Restaurant and Farm opened in 2017 with the intention of putting Colorado on the culinary map. In March 2018 we read a review of Cloverdale Restaurant and Farm in the NY Times and we decided to try the chef’s tasting menu. During the first week in May, four of us traveled from Vail, CO to Steamboat Springs and experienced Patrick Ayers’ magic.
We talked to Patrick about the dining options on the phone before arriving. We all decided to have the 10- to 12-course tasting menu ($135 each). We were thrilled we did and each of us relished every morsel offered.
Cloverdale is in a totally renovated craftsman-style 1918 house in downtown Steamboat. The dining room is small with large windows; it is a breezy open room with clean lines. The focus is definitely on the food. Jazz was playing and it was pleasant. Our table was close to the bar but there wasn’t much choice that evening. Steamboat locals were savoring the special spring 3-course menu.
As soon as we sat down, Julia Churchill, our server for the evening, brought 4 flutes of a sparkling rosé blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. She was offering them to us to celebrate our arrival from Vail and to welcome us. Boy, we were impressed. We ordered a bread course to go with the rosé. The pastry chef brought it to us and explained that it was a salted brioche bread. It was delicious and we devoured it.
We asked the sommelier about wine pairings for our chef’s menu, which would be ten courses that night. The standard pairing menu was not available but we could have had the special cellar pairing at $200 each. We decided against that and in favor of two bottles of wine: one white to start, followed by a red. With Cody’s, the sommelier’s, help we ordered a fabulous (and fabulously priced) Ferdinand Albarino 2015 from California ($45). Our red was a Groom Shiraz 2015 from the Barossa Valley in South Australia. It was more expensive ($72) but very good.
Our first appetizer was sea bass skin puffed and crisped—just the way we love fish skin. It was served with tiny macaroon-looking radish discs delectably filled.
We knew that Chef Patrick also runs a farm but, until the salad course arrived, we didn’t know just how amazing the farm is. After a freeze during the summer of 2017, four 75-foot low tunnels were constructed next to the greenhouse. The tiny and exquisitely tasting vegetables in the spring salad were served with a crumble made from baked molasses. The combination was inspired.
Our third appetizer was a cucumber gimlet gazpacho with a buttermilk pudding and pickled cucumber. It was refreshing and intensely flavored.
The meal definitely showcased the farm’s produce and our fourth course was no exception. It was simply described as Rye, Lettuce, Beets but it was so much more. The lettuce was crisp; the beets were flavorful and it was creatively presented.
The four of us were having great fun critiquing everything and enjoying the whole experience. Chef Patrick came out to chat from time to time and we even got a snap with him and the four of us.
Our next three courses were our mains and we were then happily drinking our Barossa Valley Groom Shiraz. The Colorado Striped Bass was served in a deeply flavored bass bisque that we loved.
Our second main was a rabbit ravioli with roasted radish and spring onion. It was beautiful but for Dimitri and Audre, too salty.
Our final main course was a gorgeous lamb chop. Maybe we were getting too full but we didn’t think that the meat was tasty enough.
Our three desserts followed. The second one, the rhubarb zucchini was the most exotic. It had a zabaglione-type of sauce that was wonderful
The last of our desserts was simply called fermented oats, chocolate.
Our third dessert was followed by an offering of mignardises—3 different tiny chocolates. Kathy makes delectable chocolates herself and she pronounced these delicious.
We didn’t leave Cloverdale until 10 p.m.—a 3 ½ hour meal. There was no question that by the end of the meal we had eaten and drunk more than we ever do but the meal was a dining experience that we wouldn’t have missed for the world.
We were offered Steamboat-roasted coffees and teas by the barista on a tray of saucers.
The bill was delivered in a custom cigarette case bearing a golden bee; we were told it is a nod to the farm’s hives.
Overnight it snowed and the drive back on Hwy. 131 was gorgeous with the new snow (and the totally clear road). We were all very glad we made the excursion; the ambiance was delightful, the service was outstanding and the food was worth traveling for. We Vailites truly hope that Cloverdale starts a trend that migrates to Vail. Bravo Chef Patrick!
Audre Engleman and Dimitri Moursellas, Vail, CO
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