New Orleans in the Rockies
Nov 27 2017

New Orleans in the Rockies

By: Josh Danzig

Our beloved city of New Orleans features a special vibe that translates across food, music, language, and more. It is an engaging culture that intoxicates the individual through eating, drinking, and friendly locals.

Telluride, Colorado, is the town in the Rocky Mountains that most embraces a culture similar to New Orleans. From fantastic food and cocktails to friendly locals, this charming town makes New Orleanians feel most at home.

One of the charms of Telluride is its isolation. A six-hour drive from Denver, its location keeps away the weekenders, a fact that makes lift lines virtually non-existent. The closest major airport is Montrose, which offers flights from five major cities. From there, Telluride is an hour drive with shuttle service available.

New Orleans in the Rockies

Cars are not necessary because of Telluride’s fantastic gondola system. There are two gondolas that cross the town, connecting the areas of Telluride and Mountain Village. These free gondolas run constantly with virtually no noise or air pollution. Another unique transportation aspect of Telluride is the “chondola.” The chondola is a distinctive chair lift/gondola combination that alternates a four-person gondola cabin every 10th chair. Thus, you can wear your skis straight from your lodging, which could be miles from the slopes.

Telluride offers a great variety of lodging options to meet any budget. From RVs and camping to bed and breakfasts and hotels, Telluride offers plenty of places to stay. Both Telluride and Mountain Village are just a short walk from a free gondola to the slopes. The town of Telluride itself offers better options for couples with affordable lodging and the largest variety of nearby restaurants, bars, and clubs. Mountain Village is better suited for families and large groups because of the villas and larger accommodations available.

In addition to a great layout, Telluride offers world-class skiing. From beginner to intermediate to expert, Telluride is a resort that features some of the best skiing in the country. With 18 lifts servicing over 2000 acres of skiing, Telluride Mountain has plenty of runs to explore. Some of the best skiing is for experts, and only reachable by hiking for over an hour. Telluride features an awe-inspiring, lift-serviced vertical drop of 3,845 feet.

New Orleans in the Rockies

Telluride is known for having the best mogul runs in the nation, so if you like bump skiing, then you’re in the right place. It also features fantastic back bowls including Revelation Bowl. In addition, there’s more than a dozen EX (Extreme Terrain) trails, some of which you have to hike to reach. Thankfully, Telluride has one of the best ski schools in Colorado. Group and private lessons are offered at prices that are affordable for families or individuals. The Telluride Resort website offers great expertise to make the right choice.

Whether you are learning the wedge stop of a beginner or the ability to go heli-skiing, Telluride Ski & Snowboard School covers it all. This includes traditional ski and snowboard lessons, as well as classes instructing all-terrain skiing and even snowbiking. The Telluride Ski & Snowboard School partners with Telluride Sports for all ski and snowboard equipment. Telluride Sports features a truly engaged, knowledgeable staff that will get you fitted for the proper boots, skis, poles, and more. 

Another highlight of Telluride is the incredible scenery. The mountain that you see pictured on cans of Coors beer is located in Telluride. While the scenery can be seen during skiing, perhaps the best way to enjoy it is via snowmobile. The leader in snowmobile tours is Telluride Outside. They offer both full and half-day tours through glades, forests, and parkland among some of the highest peaks in Southwest Colorado. Transportation is provided door-to-door from Telluride and Mountain Village. Telluride Outside provides a fleet of new-model Polaris snowmobiles that make riding comfortable and enjoyable.

New Orleans in the Rockies

While all of the tours are great ways to enjoy the beautiful sights, try to schedule a full day to partake in the Dunton Hot Springs tour. This 28-mile cross-mountain tour ends in the secluded mountain retreat of Dunton; there you’ll enjoy lunch along with a hot springs soak before returning to base camp.

Telluride is filled with fantastic spots to eat and drink after a fun day in the snow. One spot that feels particularly New Orleans is Smugglers Brew Pub. This is fittingly so, as the owners Josh and Melissa Klein are natives of New Orleans and veterans of the Big Easy restaurant scene, particularly at Emeril’s.

New Orleans in the Rockies

Located just a block from the free gondola, Smugglers is known as a dive with character, which, of course, makes it chic. The only brewpub in town, it features fantastic cocktails, a large selection of bourbons, and, of course, amazing beers like the Smugglers Christmas Ale. Ask for a sampler to get a taste of many of the offerings, and the seasonal special is always a great choice.

Smugglers has an amazing farm-to-table menu, presented in a family-friendly manner and atmosphere. The menu features kid-friendly pastas and burgers, as well as refined Colorado lamb and steaks. Smugglers is known as having the best French Fries in town—they go through over 300 pounds of hand-cut fries daily.

For a more sophisticated experience that’s perfect for couples at one of the hottest spots in town, don’t miss SideWork Speakeasy. Located right next door to Smugglers and owned by the Kleins, SideWork is the type of innovative spot that could be found in the Warehouse District—and no one under 21 is allowed! 

SideWork serves Telluride’s best cocktails, including a Sazerac that could stand up to any of the best in New Orleans. For original creations, try the Comfy Jeans, made with vodka and fresh grapefruit, or the Smoked Cherry Delight that features mescal and maraschino liqueur.

New Orleans in the Rockies

The menu is described as Mediterranean-American comfort food, but in reality, it is much more sophisticated without being pretentious. Head over with a group and order a number of plates to share. Highlights from their “Smalls” menu include the Blue Claw Crab Soup and Boiled Shrimp, which is much more complex than it sounds.

You haven’t had a flatbread like one from SideWork. The Fig Flatbread with house duck prosciutto is an inspired bite of nirvana. From there, no visit is complete without an item from the “Boards” menu. The House Sausage and House Weisswurst are two particular standouts.

New Orleans in the Rockies

The larger “Plates” are served in two sizes—one that’s a standard entrée-size and the other that’s smaller and great for sharing. The Shepard’s Pie, which features Colorado lamb, is a standout, as is the Beef Short Rib. And be sure to order any specials on the menu for that night. The Banana Fosters Ice Box Cake is a can’t-miss dessert.

For another Telluride hotspot, don’t miss 221 South Oak Bistro. Located in a refurbished historic home, 221 South Oak Bistro will remind you of home for more than just the décor. The intimate dining room is reminiscent of local New Orleans favorites like Bistro Daisy, Upperline, or other gems located inside a former home. In addition, the chef/owner Eliza Gavin has firm roots in New Orleans cooking. Having worked at Galatoire’s and Mr. B’s, the former Top Chef contestant understands the time, energy, and devotion needed for a top-notch meal. 

New Orleans in the Rockies

The menu is more nouveau Colorado than anything, with locally sourced ingredients leading the way. Everything from the pastas and beignets to the breads and cheese are made on premises. 221 South Oak is the perfect spot for a vegetarian to visit. The menu changes seasonally to highlight the freshest products. Don’t miss appetizers like the Buttermilk Fried Quail with Spicy Honey, Eliza’s Sausage Plate, or the Beef Tartare with Nicoise Olive Oil. 

For entrees, the Bison Cowboy Steak, Braised Rocky Moutain Elk Osso Bucco, and the Braised Colorado Lamb are dishes that you for sure won’t find in the Big Easy. The Rocky Mountain Trout is a delicious fish option, served with a duo of ravioli.

New Orleans in the Rockies

Desserts are another highlight of 221 South Oak, and some like the Bruleéd Colorado Chevre Cheesecake, featuring local influence as well. Don’t leave without a copy of Chef Eliza’s latest cookbook, Foreplay: A Book of Appeteasers. Your dishes from the book will be the highlight of your next NOLA dinner party.

For a meal at a classic spot that stands up to any of the top restaurants in New Orleans, make a reservation at the New Sheridan Chop House. Located inside the New Sheridan Hotel, this historic spot has been the social heart of downtown Telluride since 1895. The hotel features 26 boutique rooms and suites with modern luxury fittings. 

A classic steakhouse, The Chop House is all about mountain Western game allied with Western-aged beef and bison. Mix that with eclectic fresh seafood, creative daily specials, and arguably the best wine list in town, and you’re bound to have a meal that rivals that of any steakhouse in New Orleans.

Don’t let the telephone book-sized wine list intimidate you. The New Sheridan Chop House has a knowledgeable staff and friendly sommelier who will help you decide from their award-winning selection of wines. 

Start off the meal with a selection from their chilled seafood menu. The “Frutti Di Mare” is a seafood tower perfect for a group, with Alaskan king crab legs, oysters from the west and east coasts, and more. For more typical steakhouse selections, go with the Chop House Wedge Salad or the Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras.

New Orleans in the Rockies

For entrees, look to the locally sourced meats like the Prairie Harvest Bison Back Ribs or the Rocky Mountain Elk Short Loin. From the grill, don’t miss the Colorado Lamb Chops or Dry Aged Bone-In Bison Ribeye. Sure, you can go with the 40-ounce Prime Dry Aged Porterhouse, but why not enjoy Colorado’s best while you’re there?

The Chop House has all of your favorite sauces, including Bearnaise, citrus beurre blanc, and the fantastic New Sheridan steak sauce. Top your meat with a selection of foie gras, Alaskan king crab legs, or wild mushrooms. Highlights from the Sides menu include Parmesan Pommes Frites & Truffle Oil and Mac & Cheese with Bacon Lardons.

If you still have room for dessert, the Mud Slide features chocolate pudding, toasted meringue, and pecans on a cookie crust. An order of that along with a nice port or scotch will have you ready for a good night’s sleep before hitting the slopes in the morning.

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