Note: This is part two of a restaurant review after being invited to visit Isle of Capri Casinos (Lady Luck and Isle Casino) in Black Hawk, Colorado.
Location: Black Hawk, Colorado in Isle Casino (401 Main Street)
Cuisine: Contemporary American
Ambiance and Interior:
Our reservations were at 7 PM. We headed down from our suite at Isle Casino to Farraddays’. As you step in, the entryway has a tall, clear, glass case of wine bottles (see middle picture below). Classy and inviting. I like any restaurant that cares to showcase their wines at first entry.
We were warmly greeted by Kenneth (Kenny) Chaffee the General Manager and Sommelier (25+ years in the business) of Farraddays’ with a large smile. I immediately trusted him and likened to his amicable personality.
Kenny brought us to our concave, private booth near the back of the restaurant. I love looking out at the restaurant like this. This booth was round and cozy. I could see the open kitchen and bustling servers in front of us for a good view.
Our server brought us warm bread. I always reach for the bread right away to note if it’s warm or not. Cold bread and cold butter, no bueno. This bread was warm and a mixture of whole wheat and a fruit and nut multi-grain.
As we were settling into our booth, perusing the menu and our surroundings, Kenny walked over with Chef D’Cuisine, David Oliveri. David is an award-winning chef with a background of culinary experience at Mel’s Bistro, Warwick Hotel, Basil Ristorante to Dazzle Jazz Supper Club. He won People’s Choice Awards for both his entree and dessert for the 2009 Beaujolais & Beyond. Not to mention, he is Sicilian – my people.
David and Kenny announced they would deliver a tasting menu of their best dishes from appetizers to entrees to desserts throughout the evening.
To start, Kenny brought us a 2006 bottle of B.R. Cohn. Out of Sonoma Valley this Cabernet Sauvignon had full flavors of cherry, black currant, plum and French oak (the barrels they used). We decanted the wine, due to the altitude and let it sit while we waited for our appetizers to arrive.
At first taste, the B.R. Cohn was incredible. Kenny shared the story behind the wine – Bruce Cohn, was the Manager of The Doobie Brothers for over 30 years and now has a vineyard and olive oil company in Sonoma Valley – we shared a laugh over this and agreed, we liked the wine even more.
The first dish David brought to our table was their flash fried Asian calamari with a Thai chili glaze and Japanese mayonnaise.
The calamari was lightly battered and had just enough crunch to enjoy the texture. There wasn’t an overwhelming fried or oily taste, either. The chili glaze and Japanese mayonnaise was the perfect sauce, with a light consistency, not heavy. Alongside the calamari was their jumbo shrimp cocktail with horseradish cocktail sauce and lemon wedges. The shrimp was juicy and cool. A simple, yet solid dish.
We devoured our appetizers.
Moments later, David came out with three additional dishes. There were two salads; classic Caesar, romaine hearts, herb croutons, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and their house made dressing. The other salad was a baby spinach with haystack goat cheese covered in onions, red bell peppers, spicy candied pecans and balsamic vinaigrette. This was my favorite salad, light on the dressing and the spicy and candied flavor of the pecans were a great touch.
David explained to us that all his sauces and dressings are made in house, nothing is bought and most of the cuisine and ingredients are local.
The third appetizer was their infamous four-cheese baked macaroni. They used jack, smoked cheddar, Fontina and Parmesan, covered with crispy pancetta chips (David cures his own meat in-house). The smoked cheddar taste added to this extra creamy, classic dish, made gourmet.
Our entrees were next. These were splendid and the presentation was gorgeous, filled with color and small touches that only a seasoned kitchen could put together. Aesthetically, my eyes and mouth were watering.
The man received the Buffalo Rib Eye with cuban black beans, corn relish and a guava barbeque sauce. David knew I didn’t eat red meat, so he brought their best fish dish, the seared salmon with sweet corn salsa, sauteed spinach and a chipotle maple glaze.
The man described his buffalo as tender, hearty and rich. He could tell the rib eye was fresh, so all the flavors of the buffalo stood out and were complimented perfectly by the creamy beans, sweet corn and sauce.
The glaze on my salmon was caramelized and the sauteed spinach was just the leafy green I wanted to compliment my fish. We both finished our dishes.
We were determined to save room for dessert.
David brought out on one plate, their two most popular desserts: “The Schuss” a fromage blanc mousse, caramelized puffed rice crust and fresh berries and a Flourless Chocolate Cake, with chocolate raspberry cream, hazelnut croquant and raspberry coulis.
Both were delicious. “The Schuss” was what they call a light Parisian cheesecake. The puffed rice (think light flaking of Kashi-like flakes on outside) mixed with the berries was lighter than most cheesecakes. The chocolate cake was rich, thick and melted in your mouth. My favorite part was the crunch on the bottom, an egg-white French cookie base – that crunch and silken softness was delightful.
Service and Experience:
David kept the food flowing to our table, we were never idle and Kenny shared stories with us while attentively asking how our meals and wine were.
I was impressed that this restaurant (part of a corporate casino and restaurant group) stood out with their creative dishes, green practices and out of the box thinking in terms of management.
Kenny pointed out the candles on our table were soy and many of their dishes were local and fresh. He believes in sustaining the economy, while also keeping fresh. The menu is seasonal, where we experienced the warm, Fall flavors and soon they’re moving into the winter menu. They strayed from the stodgy steakhouse image, and had more of a focus on fresh, local and creative cuisine.
Kenny tells each of his servers whoever serves the most wine gets a certificate to try another restaurant in the area. He encourages everyone to participate and be involved – if they see something they like, share with the team and kitchen to see if it’s something they could incorporate or build off of. Furthermore, Kenny wanted his waitstaff to understand their large selective of wines. He gave his servers the key to the wine room and they pick a new wine each week to try, taste and learn about (he didn’t limit the price or type, anything he told them). This training clearly has paid off.
David and Kenny have both been with Farraddays’ for two years and Kenny explained the team in the kitchen don’t have a fast turnover (like most restaurants). Most of them have been working together 2+ years and all stick together. With an open kitchen such as theirs, they invite their guests to watch them interact and they remain relatively calm and collected. I saw laughter and a cohesive team – as a customer and diner, I love seeing that.
We dined for almost three hours at Farrddays’. After dining, I took photos of the interior and we kept talking with Kenny about their wine selection and Robin who helps to manage Farraddays’.
We loved the atmosphere, the attentive, friendly service. Knowing their practice is green, sustainable and local notched them up in my book. Then, there’s the food. This was one of the best meals I have had in a long time, and likely, top five I’ve ever had in Colorado.
Make the trip to Black Hawk. It’s beautiful and even if gambling isn’t your thing (it’s not mine, but better yet if it is) head to Isle Casino into Farraddays’ – it’s an escape from the clanging noise of the casino beyond its doors.
You will be greeted with hospitality and with a reasonable priced menu (think ~$30-40 per person for dinner) you won’t be disappointed. Their happy hour is Monday-Thursday 5 PM-7PM with 50% off regular drinks and appetizers. Try their two flights of wine for only $15 (last week they sold 1100 of these flights)!
Website and Phone Number: http://black-hawk.isleofcapricasinos.com/dining-farradday.aspx and 800-THE-ISLE
Reservations: Recommended, call to make reservation
Twitter: @IsleCasinoBH (hotel/casino/restaurant corporate handle)
Special Thanks: To Elissa and Kari for seamlessly setting this up and to David and Kenny for being warm, kind and informative during our dining experience at Farraddays’. Your down to earth nature and obvious knowledge of the industry was a wonderful combination that made our experience not only fun and enjoyable, but delicious.
Disclaimer: I was not compensated to write this post and all opinions, photos and writing are mine. Thank you to the team at Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. – Black Hawk, for inviting us to stay and tour their casinos and restaurants (Lady Luck and Isle Casino) and for graciously taking care of the bill during the weekend.