Palace Arms, in Denver
Don and I settled for a drink at the Churchill Bar.
Entrance to Palace Arms & Churchill Bar
Traveling With a Cookbook
It was killing me to be so close to the Palace Arms dining room, without experiencing a meal. Don and I were traveling with our vintage, Ford (motor company) Cookbook and we had spotted the Palace Arms in the Colorado section. When the book was printed in 1954, The Palace Arms was a new addition to the (then) 62 year old hotel. I was curious to compare the Napoleonic decor of the illustration, to the dining room today. I pretty much doubted they still served French Pancakes!
Sneaking a Longer Peek
It was getting late, so I figured I'd dash over (with my book) to the dining room for a better look. The host welcomed me in, but he was way too young to be amused by the old cookbook. I noticed a woman, who was just getting ready to leave. She'd been dining alone, so I caught her eye and asked about her meal. "Did you have French Pancakes?" I added with a chuckle, as I pointed to the recipe in the book. She was my age, which was probably why she was intrigued by the cookbook. We chatted more and I learned that her son happened to be the executive chef.
Stories With Mom and Chef
Chef Kasper came out of the kitchen while we were chatting. His mom, Teresa introduced us, which meant I of course, had to share the book. He laughed at the recipe for French Pancakes. We talked about his culinary career, which was mighty impressive for such a young man. We chatted ourselves right into the Independence Dining Room with the historic mural/wallpaper. Kasper laughed at his memory of decorating the elegant room with dinosaurs, once. It was for a little boy's Make-A-Wish celebration.
Before heading back to Churchill's, I offered to use Teresa's cell phone to take her picture with Kasper. (We moms like pics with our sons) I wished her a safe trip back to Kansas and told her she should be incredibly proud of that boy of hers. Then both mom and son were kind enough to do the cookbook pose for my camera. They stood by the flag collection, which is shown in the book illustration.
Surprise at the Bar
Don had wondered why I'd been gone so long. Not long after I finished explaining my disappearance, Chef Kasper and few assistants, swooped in and surrounded us with some specially prepared dishes.
Kasper lingered briefly as he explained the dishes he'd created. Before darting back to the kitchen, he poured warm syrup on his spontaneous creation of French Pancakes, with feta and cherries with a flan-like lid! I was too stunned to absorb all his words! But the flavors were unforgettable! Garden fresh, cucumber and caviar salad... delightfully rich lamb with peas and mushrooms... I think! I so wish I could have recorded his descriptions!
Working Up An Appetite
Just steps from our room, we could see when the afternoon tea ended and the evening jazz quartet arrived. It was a lively Friday night and we were able to enjoy the festive atmosphere before heading to the Palace Arms, for some serious dining!
We started with a tomato and Feta salad, served on a salt block. The chilled block kept the veggies crisp and cold, only melting enough to add a bit of salty flavor! I might add, the bread that came before, was mouth watering. It was hard to hold back.
More and More and More!
The timing of our dishes added to the decadent experience. Four more courses came before dessert. Nothing felt hurried or overdone or uncomfortably formal. Kasper slipped out each time to squat down by the table and explain each dish. He and Harrison never intruded or lingered too long. We seemed to have enough time between courses to miraculously work up an appetite for the next. Everything from the food on the plates to the timing of the service, was totally balanced.
4 More Dishes
When the glass covers were lifted from our plates, we were hit with a poof of aroma... smoked beef and mushroom! Yum!
To the Finish
I still can't figure out what Kasper did, that created a sizzling excitement when he poured our tea! The dessert of rhubarb and pine berries, also had a story I can't explain. Mostly the balance of sweet and sour brought back my own childhood stories, of eating crunchy rhubarb, dipped in sugar, as a child! (Kasper's is much better!)
More Talk and Surprises
We talked about the places he has lived and we even talked about his dog. But mostly we talked about food and restaurants. My biggest surprise was learning that all the dishes he'd served us, he was trying for the first time! Kasper has a passion for creating and presenting food. He seems incredibly serious for such a young man. And he was incredibly generous when he sent us off with a bag full of jams, sauces and breads.
It's been nearly 2 weeks since our feast and I'm still trying to process how it all fell into place. We're back home in Texas now, but I'm about ready to go back and figure it all out!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.