Last Updated on October 24, 2023
Walk around Breckenridge, CO and you’ll notice the number of historic buildings “downtown.” On Ridge Street, one block north of Main Street, you’ll find a two-story cobalt mansion with a network of stairs leading up to the main entrance. In the late nineteenth century, during the town’s boom years, this was originally the one-story home of Carl Kaiser, a successful butcher, and his family.
In the 1980s, the structure became a pet project for a flamboyant Texas woman who transformed the house, added a second story, and christened it Andrea’s Pleasure Palace. Officially a ‘bar,’ the business featured private rooms where no one knew what was happening behind closed doors. There was great speculation, but no one ever confirmed the stories.
Shortly after Andrea’s closed, Whiteney’s Steakhouse occupied the building for the next few years. After its closure, the new owners re-opened in 1989, naming the establishment ‘Hearthstone.’
Recreating the former Victorian-era ambiance with antique décor and a relaxed attitude, they created an upscale eatery emphasizing fresh regional ingredients honoring the seasons. Hearthstone has earned many accolades for its cuisine including the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the past 25 years, Open Table’s diners’ choice for the past five, and Trip Advisor’s #1 fine dining restaurant in Breckenridge.
Executive chef and partner, Michael Halpin, finds his culinary inspiration by taking an ingredients first approach, allowing great products to be the star of each dish. He favors locally available foods and often collaborates with sous chef Nolan Cesario.
While many diners gravitate here for special occasions, many are also repeat customers who enjoy the seafood and regional specialties such as lamb and elk entrees.
A quintessential Breck experience
Dining at Hearthstone offers the culinary experience I envisioned when visiting Breckenridge in fall of 2023. Guests enter the beautifully refurbished Victorian after climbing a winding network of brick stairs.
The dining spaces, consisting of a small parlor room, a larger main room, and another equally sized upstairs area, are adorned with antique touches. These include red lamp light fixtures, a tin-mold ceiling, and an elaborate floral carpet.
Diners can choose Colorado rack of lamb, bison short ribs, blackberry elk or ranch beef fillet, among other entrees. There is an ample selection of vegetable-forward and gluten-free starters, including shaved Brussels sprouts, roasted beets, curried carrot and apple soup, and several garden-fresh salad options.
Hearthstone’s beverage program includes innovative craft cocktails, microbrews and carefully curated wines by the glass. Fruit juice mocktails are also available.
A specially selected dinner
Hearthstone also offers diners curated meals with a selection of starters, salads, entrees and wines, which is what I experienced. For my opening cocktail, I selected ‘Going South,” a mix of blanco tequila, fresh lime juice and passionfruit rimmed with Tajin seasoning. I loved the tropical notes of the passionfruit.
Appetizer choices included a crudité with sweet corn coulis, risotto cake with lemon almond pesto and roasted tomato, and a flatbread with chevre, peaches, arugula and aged balsamic.
While all these dishes were wonderfully flavored, I found the flatbread most irresistible. The crust was airy on the inside and chewy on the outside. The sweetness of the peaches and balsamic nicely counterbalanced the goat cheese and arugula.
I also loved the organic field greens salad, with its variety of tastes and textures, thanks to quick pickled cucumbers, beet chips and pistachios.
Main entrees included the choice of maple leaf duck, bison short ribs, spaghetti squash pad Thai and organic Norwegian salmon. I selected the salmon with its savory hoisin glaze, butterfly pea flower and ginger jasmine rice, and grilled napa cabbage with a sweet chili and sesame sauce. These elements worked with perfectly grilled fish and vegetables and umami accents.
While dining I thought to myself that I could use the hoisin sauce on anything and improve it immediately.
For dessert, I sampled the Cake & Shake, a mini version of Breckenridge Distillery bourbon and vanilla shake. The bourbon wasn’t overpowering for a spiked drink, but definitely added a kick to the usual vanilla milkshake. The whipped cream topper made it all creamy and fresh.
Other choices included Palisade Peach Bread Pudding (from local Colorado peaches), Maple Bourbon Crème Brûlée, Espresso Chocolate Cheesecake, English Sticky Toffee Pudding, sorbet and fresh fruit or an artisan cheese plate.