Today is National French Dip Sandwich Day. So what does that have to do with the Stanley Hotel in Colorado? Everything!
Back in August, Hubby, Kiddo and I took a road trip. We drove through 6 states in 11 days. By drove through, I mean pretty much one end to the other. We started in California, drove through Nevada to Utah, then across Utah to Colorado. In Colorado we spend several days seeing the sights and visiting with extended family. From Colorado we drove down through New Mexico exploring Taso and Santa Fe. Then it was south-west to Arizona. From Arizona, we headed to Bakersfield, the up through the center of the state to home. Lots, and lots of driving.
While in Colorado, we drove up to the Stanley Hotel. If you aren’t familiar with the hotel, the 142-room Colonial Revival hotel located in Estate Park, Colorado was built by Freeland Stanley, of Stanley Steamer fame. And no, not the rug cleaning company, but the Yankee Steam-powered car. In 1903, Stanley was stricken with a life-threatening resurgence of tuberculosis. The recommended treatment of the day was fresh, dry air, as much sunlight as possible and a hearty diet. Like many “lungers” of his say, Stanley resolved to take the curative air of the Rocky Mountains. Stanley arrived in Denver in March. In June, on the recommendation of Dr. Sherman Grant Bonney, the Stanleys moved to Estate Park for the remainder of the summer. Stanley’s health improved dramatically. Impressed by the beauty of the valley and grateful for his recovery, he decided to return to Estes Park every year.
By 1907, Stanley had recovered completely. Not content with the rustic accommodations of Estes Park, Stanly began construction on his hotel. It began as a 48-room grand hotel that catered to the Stanleys’ social circle back east. Over time, the hotel grew, as did the grounds.
To bring guests from the nearest train depot in the foothills town of Lyons, Colorado, Stanley’s car company produced a fleet of specially-designed steam-powered vehicles called Mountain Wagons that seated multiple passengers. Stanley operated the hotel almost as a pastime, remarking once that he spent more money than he made each summer.
In 1926, Stanley sold his hotel to a private company incorporated for the sole purpose of running it. The venture failed and, in 1929, Stanley purchased his property out of foreclosure selling it again, in 1930, to fellow automobile and hotel magnate, Roe Emery of Denver. Until 1983, the resort was only open during the summer, shutting down for the winter every year. The presence of the hotel and Stanley’s own involvement greatly contributed to the growth of Estes Park (incorporated in 1917) and the creation of the Rocky Mountain National Park (established in 1915).
In 1974, during their brief residency in Boulder, Colorado, horror writer Stephen King and his wife Tabitha spent one night at the Stanley Hotel. The visit is known entirely through interviews given by King in which he presents differing narratives of the experience. At the time of his visit, King was writing a book with the working title Darkshine set in an amusement park, but was not satisfied with the setting. On the advice of locals who suggested a resort hotel located in Estes Park, an hour’s drive away to the north, Stephen and Tabitha King found themselves checking in at the Stanley Hotel just as its other guests were checking out, because the hotel was shutting down for the winter season.
After checking in and after Tabitha went to bed, King roamed the halls and went down to the hotel bar, where drinks were served by a bartender named Grady. As he returned to his room, numbered 217, his imagination was fired up by the hotel’s remote location, its grand size, and its eerie desolation. And when King went into the bathroom and pulled back the pink curtain for the tub, which had claw feet, he thought, ‘What if somebody died here?’ At that moment, so the story goes, King knew he had a book worth writing. He titled his book The Shinning.
Just for the record, the Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for The Shinning, but not used as the actual setting for the film. And the hedge maze was added to the property long after the movie. It’s not a very tall hedge, so you really can’t get lost.
Still, how could we pass up seeing the Shinning Hotel? So we drove up, explored and had lunch on the back veranda. The food was amazing – all Five Star Quality. The French Dip was unforgettable. The Truffle Aioli and distinct Gruyère Cheese made the sandwich. Naturally, I had to recreate it at home to share with you on National French Dip Sandwich Day. Enjoy!
French Dip Sandwiches with Truffle Aioli
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Black Truffle Oil
1-2/3 teaspoons Lemon Juice
1 Garlic Clove
Truffle Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Add mayonnaise, truffle oil and fresh lemon juice to a medium bowl. Peel and grate the garlic directly into the bowl, whisk vigorous to combine.
Season Aioli with Truffle Salt and fresh pepper. Taste and adjust more seasoning or lemon juice as desired to create rich, bold flavors.
Truffle Aioli can be stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.
1 medium White Onion
2 tablespoons Butter
2 cups Gruyère Cheese
Splash White Wine
2 (10 oz) cans Beef Consommé
Montreal Steak Seasoning to taste
1-1/2 lbs sliced Deli Roast Beef
6 Torpedo Rolls
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Slice onion paper-thin either in rings or thin slivers. In a skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until beautifully caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Keep warm.
While the onions caramelize, grate the Gruyère Cheese, set aside until ready to use.
Pour beef consommé into a sauce pan, season with Montreal Steak Seasoning and a splash of wine. Warm consommé over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Keep warm until ready to use.
Spread the roast beef in a rimmed baking sheet. Season with Montreal Steak seasoning, toss to blend and spread out. Moisten with a little beef consommé, cover with foil.
Place the baking sheet of roast beef into the oven for about 10 minutes, just enough to warm the meat without drying it out.
While the meat lightly butter inside of split rolls. Place on a warm griddle to lightly toast, about 3 minutes. While still warm, generously spread inside of toasted rolls with Truffle Aioli. Top with caramelized onions.
Divide warmed roast beef among the rolls. Scatter grated cheese over the beef filling. Place rolls, open face, on a baking sheet. Pop under the broiler just long enough for the cheese to melt.
Cut the sandwiches in half and serve with Au Jus for dipping. (Ramekin cups work well). Serve with your favorite style of French Fry. We like Steak Fries for this richly delicious sandwich. And FYI – the Truffle Aioli is a great dip instead of the American Favorite, Ketchup.