Ryan Leinonen, exec chef/owner of Trillium, wants to stage at Le Bernardin
This is part two of my interview with Ryan Leinonen, exec chef/owner of Trillium. Part one of that interview ran in this space yesterday.
Favorite restaurant in America: Gotham Bar and Grill in New York. I really like Alfred Portale's take on what a whimsical dinner menu should be. He's playful with his food, adding certain twists and turns, but he still stays true to the origin of the ingredients, whether in technique or in the inspiration. The menu has a nice selection of different cuisines -- French, Japanese, Italian and American influence all on a twenty-item menu. I also love his dramatic presentations. They sometimes border on circus-like, but they're still functional and approachable.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: It depends on my mood. I like Fruition when I want some killer food and service, but I'll also be at the bar at Jax eating a gargantuan piece of Merus king crab with mustard sauce and a cold beer. I usually don't eat out too much, and if I have family in town, I prefer to cook at home.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: More exotic foodstuffs. Give me more than just good burritos, steakhouses and pho. I want to see some stuff I've never seen before -- stuff that Bourdain writes about.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Steakhouses. I guess I don't like them because I grew up in Michigan, which is the country capital, in my mind, of meat and potatoes. Anyone can roast some potatoes and throw a charred steak on the same plate at home. Why go out and pay $40 for it? Get creative, get seasonal, and put some heart, love, soul and passion into your food.
Biggest compliment you've ever received: The best compliments are from guests who thank me for such a great meal and tell me they'll be back.
What are your favorite wines and/or beers? I'm pretty simple. When it comes to wines, I lean toward whites, especially Riesling. As far as beers, I like Hazed & Infused, and this awesome beer Dogfish makes called Sah'Tea, which is brewed as a modern version of a traditional ninth-century Finnish beer. I also love old Michigan favorites like Bell's Oberon, which, unfortunately, isn't available here in Colorado.
Favorite food from your childhood: Pasties from Mackinaw Island in Michigan. It's a baked pastry filled with ground beef or lamb and root vegetables like carrots, onions, turnips and rutabaga, and it's traditional fare for the Scandinavian transplants of the Midwest and the North Woods. The best pasties are made with lard in the pastry dough, like my grandma used to make. All you need is two or three pasties, along with some ketchup for dipping -- oh, and a glass of milk. Look for them in the future on the Trillium menu.