stanley 3What: A series from Hush Concepts that invites up and coming chefs to show off their culinary skills in an intimate setting.

Where: The iconic Stanley Hotel, 333 Wonderview Avenue in Estes Park

When: Dinners are served on Friday and Saturday evenings with a different chef in residence featured each weekend. The series runs for six more weeks (through April 19th). Read on for the complete list of dates, chefs, and availability.

Cost: Dinner a la carte is $100/person, but go for the overnight packages starting at $400/couple. A portion of the revenue from the dinner series will be benefit victims of the Northern Colorado flood.

Pros: A memorable meal complete with scenic views, great company, and plenty of wine. Being able to talk with the chef as he prepares a meal for just you and twenty or so of your soon to be friends is a unique experience. And enjoying it in a setting like The Stanley makes this weekend getaway into a mini-adventure.

Cons: If there’s any, it’s having to choose which weekend to attend. Each chef brings their own style to these dinners, leaving me wishing I could try out all the menus.

“Welcome to the table.”

With the glassware set and the first glass of Prosecco poured, I settled in for a meal prepared by Chef Ryan Leinonen of Denver’s Trillium, a restaurant known for its modern take on American cuisine with a strongstanley 4 Scandinavian influence. Before I even tried the first bite, a tangy scallop ceviche in a light mustard sauce, I was swapping stories with my tablemates and soaking in my surroundings: the recently remodeled Lodge, the building next door to the main Stanley Hotel.

Run as its own small, self-contained inn by innkeeper (and pastry-maker extraordinare) Midge, the Lodge at the Stanley offers guests the chance for a getaway free from the tours and novice ghost hunters in the main building. If you opt for the dinner and stay package, be sure to come down early to dinner for a sunset view from the Lodge’s quiet and comfy wraparound patio.

While a stay at the hotel is a welcome way to spend any weekend, these dinners are the ultimate highlight.

stanley 6Each weekend brings the chance for a totally unique experience as these talented chefs get the opportunity to show off their skills in a small group setting. Chef Leinonen prepared some favorites from Trillium like the Lemon Wood Smoked Salmon Steelhead Trout Raaka served in a sealed mason jar that, when opened, lets the smoke escape for a dramatic presentation.

There were also new, playful creations like the soul-soothing Cauliflower Soup served with a sharply flavored blue rye crouton that gave the dish balance. The star of the evening, though, was the Seared Scallops, perfectly cooked and served with plump rosemary Havarti dumplings, roasted mushrooms, and kales sprouts along with an orange juniper powder. My only regret is that I was too full to clean my plate.

Each course is paired with a different wine, giving both wine-lovers and wine-novices the chance to explore their palettes and discover new favorites. The “Steak and Eggs,” a creative spin on the classic that paired paper think beef carpaccio with a Havarti cheese custard, was served with Leitz Dragonstone Riesling, a slightly sweet wine with nice acidity that I will be sampling again.

The entire evening was filled with conversation and culinary delights, topped off by the fact that the staff at the Stanley does hospitality right.

I highly recommend a night cap (if you can!) at the whiskey bar in the main building. With hundreds of whiskeys in their collection including many made in Colorado, you can sip and swap ghost stories with the bartenders late into the evening.

It’s impossible to make the drive from Denver to Estes Park without thinking about the tragic losses the floods brought. This dinner not only offers the chance for a memorable meal, it also shows off the spirit of these communities and a portion of proceeds from the dinners directly benefits those impacted by the flooding.

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With only a few weeks of the series left, book soon to secure your seat at the table:


March 14/15: Chef Jeff Osaka of Twelve Denver

Limited seats available Friday night only

March 21/22: Chef Chad Scothorn of Cosmopolitan Telluride

Limited seats available both Friday and Saturday night

March 28/29: Chef James Mazzio of The Edge Restaurant Snowmass

Sold Out

April 4/5: Chef Hosea Rosenberg, previous winner of Bravo’s Top Chef

Sold Out

April 11/12: Chef Ari Kolender, formerly of 2 star Michelin restaurant Providence & Red Medicine in Los Angeles

Limited seats available for Friday night only

April 18/19: Chef Caleb Shriver of Dutch & Company in Richmond, Virginia

Limited seats available both Friday and Saturday night

All photos by Jackie Collins