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Mouthing Off

Soup's on: There may not be much snow up in them thar hills, but things are still cookin' at Silver Creek Ski Resort--and they'll continue to as long as Seth Daugherty is in the kitchen at Paul's Creekside Grill (see review above). Daugherty's dishes are so delicious that it was hard to pick just one recipe to share, but with cold winter days inevitably ahead, I had to go with the carrot and ginger soup.

This healthful concoction is so inherently rich and creamy that the cream garnish isn't even necessary--and as Daugherty points out, omitting the cream makes it a vegan dish. Toss some chopped chives on at the end instead; the green looks great against the bright orange. And if you don't have a "fine chinois"--hardly a typical item in the average home cook's pantry, since it costs upwards of $80--you can use a regular strainer lined with cheesecloth.

Seth Daugherty's Carrot and Ginger Soup
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 white onion, diced small
1/4 cup extra-light olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8 large carrots, peeled and diced small
3 tablespoons chopped chives
8 tablespoons heavy cream, whipped (optional)

Place ginger, garlic, shallots, onion and oil in stockpot or Dutch oven over low heat. Add a small amount of salt and pepper. Cover and sweat (meaning: cook slowly until ingredients are soft but not brown). Add diced carrots and sweat three more minutes. Cover vegetables with water and simmer until carrots are tender. Puree mixture in blender or food processor and strain through a fine chinois. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chives and cream if desired. Serves eight as a first course and four to six as an entree.

Rocky Mountain highs and lows: If the food at Paul's is stunning, it's considerably less so at other restaurants in the area. Twenty miles from Silver Creek in Grand Lake, we stopped by EG's Garden Grill (1000 Grand Avenue), lured by the "Best Out-of-Town Restaurant" award the place had been given by Greg Moody--now the restaurant reviewer at the Rocky Mountain News--in 1997 while he was the critic for 5280 magazine. But EG's would barely be a contender for that nod from Westword.

The eatery is decorated beautifully for the holidays, with a stunning tree, an over-the-top light-covered fireplace mantel and plenty of poinsettias. And our kids thoroughly enjoyed the skinny French fries, grilled cheese and hot dogs from the kids' menu (all children's items are $3.50). But we adults were far from thrilled with the appetizer mussels ($8.50), which had been covered with so much red-pepper cream and bacon bits that we could hardly find the mussels, let alone taste them. And the phyllo-covered Brie ($7.25), while nicely browned on the outside and melted on the inside, was ruined by a mouth-puckeringly tart raspberry sauce and stale crackers.

Our entrees were more impressive, and the duo of porterhouse-cut pork chops ($16.50) was definitely prizeworthy. The chops had been stuffed with bread, golden raisins and caramelized apples and onions, all of which had cooked down into this marvelously sweet goo enriched by the pork's fatty juices. Although the two German potato pancakes on the side had an ideal texture, they also contained so much garlic that it was painful to eat more than two bites. We tried the other available side, wild rice, with the catfish ($11.25). The rice was fine, the fish was bland--but the crunchy breadcrumb coating was remarkable. Lightly seasoned with mustard, it was a welcome change from the unappetizing, thick, floury shell that covers most fried catfish.

Dessert was mixed, too. The cinnamon-covered sopaipillas with ice cream ($5) came drenched in a sweet strawberry sauce; it was really a Mexican sundae. But the Key lime pie ($3.50) was so sour it tasted as though it had been made with unsweetened limeade, and the consistency was strangely gooey, like it had been sitting in the cooler for a while.

Considering the sorry state of ski areas right now, of course, that's entirely possible.

Things were a bit busier in Winter Park, where I dropped by The Kitchen (78542 Highway 40) for breakfast. This eight-table spot has been slinging hash browns since 1974, so you figure it must be doing something right--and the lines and signs offer more proof. A note on the door announces that it's going to be a while before you sit, and the menu warns: "If you are in a hurry, eat somewhere else." Other signs in the restaurant proclaim "It's worth the wait"; still, it's hard to sit there smelling bacon for an entire hour while you wait for eggs, which don't take long to prepare. Unless, of course, there's only one person in the kitchen and every dish is made to order. Every dish, that is, except the green chile, really the best thing to come out of The Kitchen: Soft chunks of tomatillos, plenty of jalapenos, fresh (really fresh!) herbs and tiny bits of pork combined for a powerfully flavorful mixture that I poured over my crackly-crisp hash browns, my over-easy eggs, my thick-cut, heavily smoked bacon, and even the well-buttered raisin toast that all came with the #8 breakfast ($6.80).

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