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After forty years, the Flagstaff House is still a cause for celebration

"Eh." Over the two years I've lived in Boulder, that's been my standard response whenever anyone suggested driving up winding Flagstaff Road to the Flagstaff House Restaurant for dinner or drinks. The iconic, fine-dining restaurant has been owned by the same family for forty years and helmed by the same chef for 25. As a result, I suspected that winding drive would lead to stuffy service, outdated decor, boring food and astronomical prices — even if the views were good. There were just too many fresh, exciting things happening at other restaurants in the area to waste a meal, and a lot of money, on what I assumed would be a relic of the past.

Charged with choosing a restaurant for an early Valentine's Day celebration, though, I finally succumbed. If I was ever going to try the Flagstaff House, it might as well be on a Hallmark holiday that cries out for a lavish, multi-coursed affair. So up that winding road we went, sliding into the driveway and handing our car keys to the gracious valet.

My preconceived notions lasted exactly the number of seconds it took for the host to lead us through the golden foyer, past the richly appointed bar and into the glowing dining room to our table, which faced floor-to-ceiling windows looking down on the glittering lights of Boulder. At that moment, every assumption I'd had about the Flagstaff House was turned completely around.

So foie, so good: After forty years, the Flagtaff House still rises to the occasion. See more photos of the menu options at the Flagstaff House.
So foie, so good: After forty years, the Flagtaff House still rises to the occasion. See more photos of the menu options at the Flagstaff House.
The iPad wine list at the Flasgstaff House restaurant. See photos of the menu options at the Flagstaff House.
Submitted photo
The iPad wine list at the Flasgstaff House restaurant. See photos of the menu options at the Flagstaff House.

Location Info

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Flagstaff House Restaurant

1138 Flagstaff Road
Boulder, CO 80302

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Boulder

Details

Flagstaff House Restaurant

New York State foie gras $20
Morel mushrooms, asparagus, farm-fresh crispy soft egg $18
Consommé of duck $14
Ruby red trout $32
Whole loup de mer $48
Vintage Farms all-natural ribeye cap $45
Desserts $11
1138 Flagstaff Road, Boulder
303-442-4640
Hours: 6-10 p.m. Sunday through Friday, 5 p.m.-close Saturday

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The building was originally built as a cabin in the 1920s, then turned into a restaurant a decade later. When Don Monette purchased the place in 1971, he refined it into a world-class, high-end dinner destination, the stuff of legend. In 1985, his son, Mark Monette, fresh off stints at top spots in New York and France, returned to Boulder to become a partner and take over the Flagstaff kitchen, intent on creating a contemporary menu that reflected his culinary experience but also kept evolving. "It was all steak and lobster in those days," remembered Mark, when I called him a few days after my first meal there. "People didn't know what foie gras was. There were times when I would sit on $400 of white truffles that I couldn't sell."

About ten years after Mark returned, his brother, Scott, bought into the business. Together they've worked to keep the Flagstaff House relevant and forward-thinking, constantly finessing the 20,000-bottle-deep wine cellar and updating menus while preserving the homey charm of the old structure. And save for some outdated upholstery and waiter uniforms that feature '90s-era shiny gold vests, they've succeeded.

"Whoa, the future," my boyfriend said, impressed, as we took the wine list from our server that night. The waiter laughed.

"We just upgraded our list to the iPad and rolled it out," he explained. "Pretty fun for everyone." He left us to browse the electronic cellar, pulling up tasting notes and background information on various selections. Ultimately, though, we left it to our server to pair wine with the courses, an assignment he handled flawlessly. (On busier nights, the restaurant also employs a sommelier with an even deeper knowledge of the list.)

Even if you don't opt for one of the chef's tasting menus, which run five or nine courses, dinner at the Flagstaff House is a marathon eating event, complete with an amuse bouche, intermezzo, pre-dessert and whatever else the chef decides to send to your table. Splitting multiple appetizers is a good way to prolong the event (the kitchen will course them out for you) without resorting to gut-busting gluttony. And that's the route we took, nibbling on thick crackers adorned with light, velvety, smoked-tuna rillettes as we chose a few starters.

There was no way I was skipping the seared foie gras, especially because it came with crispy sweetbreads, making it a one-dish expression of why I could never be a vegetarian. The execution was flawless: a slice of griddled brioche layered with a decadent cut of sweetbread encased in a caramel-colored crust, then topped with a generous portion of soft, quivering, mineral-rich foie, lightly salted and melting with delicate fat. The taste spread cleanly across my palate and lingered there. We'd opted to pair this starter with the Monbazillac, a sweet, ambrosial white wine reminiscent of Sauternes (it employs the same grapes, though in different proportions), which further emphasized the flavors — and made me want to skip the rest of the courses, eating a whole fattened liver for dinner, even if it meant I'd immediately die of heart disease.

Luckily, I controlled myself, because our next choice was just as delicious. A bed of creamy polenta, infused subtly with a hint of white truffle, had been topped with rich, earthy morel mushrooms, thick stalks of tender asparagus that still offered a satisfying snap, and a lightly breaded and fried poached egg, which spilled a cascade of orange yolk when it was cut. I liked this combination so much that I ordered the polenta again on a return visit, along with a consommé of duck. Although slightly under-seasoned, the broth was aromatic and silky, swimming with al dente housemade ravioli filled with duck confit and sweet pumpkin purée.

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6 comments
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Nwerle
Nwerle

i hope you die of a heart attack this year

not becasue of what you eat , because you are a shitty writer

Guest
Guest

Wow. Wishing someone to die. Very classy, Nwerle.

If you are actually trying to make a valid comment on her writing, why don't you try and substantiate it with some constructive criticism instead. Get over yourself and grow up.

Guest
Guest

So says the man with the gilded tongue...

Kanye
Kanye

She is a shitty writer, and the fact that you can use a thesaurus doesn't make you a wordsmith, just an arrogant prick. Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.

Marianne in Fairfax, Virginia
Marianne in Fairfax, Virginia

Our August 2010 dinner at the Flagstaff House was amazing. The food and the service were equally outstanding. Our experience was easily the best dining experience in my life. Next visit to Boulder, we'll be back at the Flagstaff House.

bgreen
bgreen

I can't tell you the lengths they went through to help me propose to my wife who had been wanting to go there for as long as I could remember. I proposed on the deck while the staff brought flights of champagne to every restaurant guest so they could raise their glass to us in celebration.

Then we had the most amazing dinner paired with off the list bottles of wine. The menu was personalized with a congratulations and the date on it. Desert was sent out on a personalized edible plate.

I can't say enough about this place.

 
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