Chef de Cuisine Maxwell Robbins’ Divine Tasting Menu at the Broadmoor’s Romantic Penrose Room!
Maxwell Robbins, Chef de Cuisine at The Broadmoor‘s award-winning fine dining signature restaurant, the Penrose Room, has impeccable credentials. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Robbins interned under culinary legend Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, and subsequently spent almost seven years honing his skills at world-renowned restaurants Per Se in New York City and French Laundry in Napa, the two top establishments of Thomas Keller, the only U.S. chef who has ever earned two 3-star Michelin ratings in the same year. Awesome training, with a strong focus on classic French, seafood, and contemporary innovative cuisine.
Denis and I recently met Chef Robbins in the magnificent kitchen of the Penrose Room where he served us house-made charcuterie and pâtés, accompanied by fresh figs and house-made chutney and breads along with local and imported cheeses and wines. Superb!
After a fascinating conversation about his passion for cooking, we readily understood that this passion encompasses an intense devotion for the finest of ingredients, local, domestic and imported. The Broadmoor’s own gardens and greenhouses furnish Chef Robbins with a huge assortment of fresh vegetables and herbs while he relies on the talents of the many local purveyors he has cultivated for his fish, meats and dairy products. So, when he invited us to come the next evening for a tasting menu at the Penrose Room, we knew we were in for an unforgettable experience!
Before I relive the glories of Chef Robbins’ tasting menu, let me set the stage for you … The only Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond restaurant in Colorado, the Penrose Room offers the authentic evening-on-the town experience which Denis and I love. Imagine an elegant and spacious restaurant in a beautiful, old-world setting, which, despite its size, has a charming and romantic ambiance and produces superior haute cuisine while offering superbly attentive service, a large dance floor, and live entertainment featuring a singer accompanied by a pianist, a guitar player and a drum player. Another rarity these days, as too often for a romantic evening out, we have to choose between first class entertainment or first class food and service. Plus, the music selection is as impressively suited for dancing as it is for background music to create an ideal ambiance for guests who wish to converse while savoring a fine meal.
Envision windows lining the walls on two sides of the restaurant, featuring truly awesome views of the Colorado Rockies. Spectacular to behold with the sun still shining, but even more dramatic during the glorious sunset. We sat and sipped our champagne and oohed and aahed over these breath-taking views of the “purple mountain majesties”.
Once the sun set, our viewing pleasure continued as we turned to admire the magnificent art collection on the walls, a Broadmoor special feature which we enjoyed throughout the entire resort. Of course, we also were enchanted as we watched the couples enjoying themselves while dancing, as undoubtedly, the live music is a major attraction for the clientele who readily arise from their chairs and take to the dance floor, entertaining us spectators while they clearly enjoy themselves. Truly delightful, from the quickstep and swing to cha cha and mambo and more. Of course, from time to time, when the singer and musicians hit upon one of our favorite songs, Denis and I moved happily from the table to the dance floor. Even more delightful!
Now, for the culinary action, and the skills of Chef Maxwell Robbins take center stage …
Our tasting menu began with an amuse-bouche. Traditional you might say, but “simply traditional” is not in Chef Robbins’ vernacular. After all, first impressions can make or break an experience.
This amuse-bouche of Horseradish Panna Cotta with confit chicken leg, pickled onion gelée, pearl onions and Dijon mustard presented an explosion of flavor and texture in my mouth. Simply heavenly. Truly divine.
And I was just beginning to ponder what would follow for the appetizer when, much to my surprise, a second amuse-bouche appeared, this one a delicate Potato Custard with Chives to embolden the dish, and home-made potato chips for the always exciting crunch and pop of salt in the mouth. OK, I am smitten.
As the sun began to set, our sommelier presented us with a Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut Champagne, a smooth velvety blend of pinot meunier, pinot noir and chardonnay. Just dry enough to harmonize perfectly with our appetizer of four Canapés … Crab Toast with avocado mousseline, Select Osetra Caviar Parfait with smoked salmon pudding, hen egg mousse, hard-boiled hen egg, capers, pickled red onions, and a horseradish mousseline, Deviled Egg of egg terrine with black summer truffle egg mousse, and Citrus-cured Wild Atlantic Striped Bass with lime gel and marinated Broadmoor garden cucumbers.
We toasted the Broadmoor and our extraordinarily talented chef, and we dove in. Message received. Our Chef’s passion permeates his food and inspires extremely innovative creations with heavenly textures and divine flavors. Our favorites from this amazing foursome? Mine was the Caviar Parfait, while Denis’ was the Crab Toast.
Chef Robbins continued to surprise and enchant us throughout the rest of the evening. Our soup course featured a light and fresh take on the traditional Provençal soupe au pistou … “pistou” being French for the Italian “pesto”. Robbin’s refined & elegant interpretation of Soupe au Pistou put the emphasis on fresh basil purée infused with a generous amount of saffron and olive oil and featured a mirepoix of garden vegetables, including celery stalks and leaves, baby squash and leeks in a light tomato and saffron bouillon with a hint of roasted garlic and fresh baby basil leaves. A magnificent tribute to basil & saffron … Soupe au Pistou à la Max!
Accompanying the soup was a full-bodied, refreshing and elegant Pinot Gris from Villa Wolf in Germany with fresh herb and floral notes that paired perfectly with the basil and saffron highlights of the soup.
Our fish course was a spectacular Ahi Thon au Poivre, which once again reflected Chef Robbins classic French training as well as his personal, innovative style. Seared with orange & lime salt and accompanied by naval orange supremes, red veined sorrel, citrus sabayon sauce and naval orange mostarda … essentially candied fruit with mustard seeds and horseradish to provide just the right touch of sweetness and heat … this dish is a panoply of tastes and textures that totally satisfies.
With its great minerality and herbaceousness and bright and refreshing components such as lime zest, the Hippolyte Reverdy Sauvignon Blanc from the Sancerre region in the Loire Valley accentuated the pepper components of the tuna as well as the citrus components of the sabayon sauce.
Next was an extraordinary rich and decadent pasta dish. We savored every last bite of the Hand-cut Tagliatelle with its creamy Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce and sublime Australian summer truffles. Yes, “Australian”! Chef Robbins explained that the Australians have been perfecting their cultivation of these magical mushrooms so that now, Australian truffles, priced very favorably, are strong competitors to those from France. Impressive! A full-bodied 2014 Napa Valley Far Niente Chardonnay provided just the right amount of acidity and toasted oak undertones to complement the woodsy essence and balance out the richness of this divine dish.