Restaurant Critique: Timberline

Fall Line

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Crested Butte, Colorado

Frying chicken is not the most glamorous job in the culinary world. But, at age 15, the experience was enough to turn Tim Egelhoff into a chef for life. “I was a natural in the kitchen,” he says of his time at the Denver Drumstick. “The pressure never bothered me, and I was good at it.”

Over the years, Egelhoff, now 41, parlayed his skill and precocious confidence into a career that has taken him from the lowly fryer to the summit of California cuisine at Crème Carmel, where money is no object for either the customers or the chefs. Now back in Colorado, the affable (though only slightly humbler) chef has pushed his Timberline Restaurant to the summit of Crested Butte’s surprisingly sophisticated dining scene.

Obstacles that have sent many restaurateurs scrambling to lower elevations have simply served as motivation. “In 1989 when we opened, you couldn’t get a good tomato in the county,” he recalls. “I spent six weeks talking tomatoes with everyone from other chefs to local hippies who had an in with organic growers.”

When he’s not working his suppliers for quinoa or caribou, Egelhoff is in the kitchen of the 100-year-old Victorian that houses his restaurant. Diners who prefer to be seen clamor for the four coveted tables in the tiny downstairs dining room, which still has the original creaky wood floors, low barn-wood ceiling and multi-paned windows. Others opt for the intimacy of the well-cushioned banquets in the elegant upstairs dining room.

Conversation stops when plates appear. Slivers of rare ahi tuna rolled in black sesame seeds, short-cut lamb shanks over butternut squash polenta, and poached halibut with a coconut-mango rub are all testaments to Egelhoff’s dynamic style. As is his signature chocolate soufflé (served with a dollop of fresh cream poured into the steaming middle), which customers in-the-know order immediately upon arrival.

“We don’t cut corners,” he explains. “We go out of our way to find the right ingredients, and our food is more labor intensive to prepare. It costs a little more, but our clients eat in Italy, Switzerland and California. They are happy to find us and happy to pay for it.”What’s Cooking: Rising to the Occasion
When Debra Cole opened Casa Fresen Bakery in Taos, N.M., she didn’t know a thing about baking. She was simply “an Italian from New Jersey who couldn’t live a day longer without good bread.” Nine years later, her hearth-baked creations-calamata olive sourdough; focaccia with grapes, rosemary and honey; semolina flatbread-are the staff of life for everyone from skiers rushing to make first tracks to locals who stroll in with their dogs and linger over coffee and flaky croissants. On the way home, there’s always a sinful selection of pastries, cookies, macaroons and pies for the evening table. Casa Fresen is also the spot in the valley to pick up fine imported cheeses, homemade terrines and tortas, panino and fresh mozzarella and prosciutto sandwiched between crusty slices of Cole’s ever-lovin’ loaves. Dirty Miner Stout
@ High Mountain Brewhouse
Whistler, B.C. White Cloud Ale
@ Sun Valley Brewing Company
Hailey, Idaho Slickrock Lager
@ Wasatch Brew Pub
Park City, Utah Doggie Style Amber
@ Flying Dog Brew Pub
Aspen, Colo. Mesa Pale Ale
@ Eske’s Brew Pub & Eatery
Taos, N.M. Mountain Ale
@ The Shed Restaurant & Brewery
Stowe, Vt.

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