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Culinary Craftsmanship

The Dining Experience at Bookcliff Country Club

It seems that from time to time and art is found in unexpected places. True, some of the greatest artists learned from masters like DaVinci, Michelangelo, and Picasso but often those “masters” had a talent that was not taught by any systematic method. Many of the greatest artists had talent within them, beyond what any formal schooling could produce. The dining experience at Bookcliff Country Club appears to be one place in Grand Junction where that kind of artistry can be found.

Chef Steven Barnard has been cooking professionally for over 20 years in the Grand Junction area. Recently recruited to bring his unique skill set to the dining experience at the Country Club, Steve explained that there are always new things to create and classic dishes to prepare. His training came from working with other chefs and searching out instructions for classic preparations of all kinds of cuisine. He has an innate ability to take a common preparation and make it something quite sensational. He also found that early on in his experience as head chef – the title known as Chef de Cuisine – the “fancy foods” didn’t do so well on the regular dining menu. Much of the current menu has been inspired by dishes that are popular locally and by dishes that do well in nearly every setting where they are offered. 

Frequent special events at the Country Club provide a challenge for chefs and staff alike to keep sharpening skills and learning new types of food from all over the globe. Weekly specialty nights, monthly date nights, and other special events are met with enthusiasm and serve up off-menu dishes that don’t get repeated with any common regularity. Chef Steve says it’s a big part of the fun and adventure the job brings, to constantly be searching out new things for Club members to enjoy. One recent addition is a ghost chili sauce created for chicken wings. It’s one of those personal creations that took a couple of adjustments to get just right. The first version was still far too hot for most patrons to tolerate but with a bit of fine-tuning, it’s now a big hit with club members who enjoy some intense heat with their wings. 

Sauces, seasoning blends, dressings, and rubs are created in-house so that quality and consistency can be kept at its peak. We also noticed that the menu clearly shows gluten-free and vegetarian preparations for those with special dietary needs or preferences. We applaud the culinary team and Chef Steve for their attention to detail, enhanced safety measures, and sanitation protocols as well during this time of elevated precautions, including avoiding cross-contamination for their gluten-free, allergen, and food sensitive patrons.

The team at Grand Junction Lifestyle recently got the chance to talk with Chef Steve in person and have his staff prepare some of their signature offerings. It was a real treat and truly a “red carpet experience”. We asked what the best-looking dishes are, we asked about appetizers and entrees and after some recommendations from the chef, we had a real epicurean excursion. 

We asked Chef Steve which menu items would give us a feel for the variety available, provide great photo presentations and allow us to really showcase some of the member-favorites that also demonstrate his creativity and skill with flavors. Each of the dishes mentioned in the comments below was among the chef’s personal recommendations. 

Among courses, there were some surprising comments that made this experience even more fun. Here are a few of those comments, based on the fare being sampled.

APPETIZERS

“I don’t try new foods, especially not fish. This Seared Ahi is amazing and my favorite of the appetizers!”

“When you think of wings, you don’t automatically think of the Country Club but these are spot-on.”

“The Caprese Platter had all the fun and flavor you would expect from an expertly prepared appetizer.”

“Chef Steve said the Asian Salad was the prettiest of the salads. It’s half gone and still gorgeous.”

“The Asian dressing is really that good! The chef said his first batch was 1 ½ gallon and people were ‘drinking it’. I see why he had to double the batch the next day.”

SANDWICHES AND SIDES

“Calling it Ultimate Grilled Cheese is no kidding. The tomato-bacon marmalade tied it all together perfectly! Paired with those unusual and perfectly seasoned tots, a party for the taste-buds.”

“That green chili, southwest turkey club is probably the best turkey sandwich I ever ate!”

“Those house-made potato chips, I don’t think I’ve ever had better.”

“Never had a Cuban sandwich before. I’ll definitely be getting this again. The jalapeño relish really balanced the flavors and brought a slow, subtle heat that added to the enjoyment of this uncommonly delicious sandwich.”

“I don’t like sweet potatoes but I could eat these crinkle cut, crispy, sweet potato fries any time. I especially like the coarse salt they are seasoned with.”  

THE ENTREES

Salmon

“I hate fish! Except for today, twice apparently! First, the Seared Ahi which I loved, and now the Salmon. I’ll never eat them anywhere else because I’m afraid no one else will make it quite so good. I even ate the last piece of it because it was too good to leave behind.”

“I don’t like fish either but I liked this salmon. Must be the way it was prepared.”

“I loved that it was prepared without the skin and had grill marks on both sides of the fish, expertly done.”

Flatiron Steak with Mushroom Bordelaise or Whiskey Peppercorn Cream

“This steak was cooked to order, exactly how I ordered it.”

“The chef-created grill seasoning was an outstanding touch to the flavor profile.”

“Mushrooms are the devil, but this mushroom-bordelaise made a believer out of me. Before today I didn’t think it was possible to like anything with mushrooms.”

“The pop of the peppercorns in the cream sauce is a very distinctive dining sensation, I liked it with the steak.”

After getting some great photos and tasting the recommended items, Chef Steve came out again and heard most of the comments seen above. Then he said something like, “You enjoyed a lot that you didn’t think you could like. I’m glad.” Then one of our dining party said, the vegetable medley served with the steak and salmon didn’t get me past feelings of dislike for brussels sprouts, asparagus, and cauliflower, I tried it but couldn’t find a way to like these three vegetables.

Chef Steve, not to miss a chance to excel said, “challenge accepted, I’ll be back in five minutes.”

He returned with a bowl of brussels sprouts and said, “Try these, it’s how I fix them for my 6-year-old and they disappear!” The first bite from the sprout haters was tentative, then three, four, five bites later it was, “OK, I’ll never eat them anywhere else, but I’d actually order them on purpose here.”

Our server, Myrhanda also took great care of us during this experience and we found that the outdoor dining terrace with a view of the Bookcliffs and blue sky, on a day finally clear of smoke from the Pine Gulch wildfire made an ideal setting for our Country Club dining experience.

If you are a member and haven’t had a dining experience here in a while, come; experience great service, even better food, and a staff that loves what they do. If you aren’t a member of Bookcliff Country Club and love to golf, swim, socialize and be fit, it may be time to give this great place another look. Find a member, attend an event with a friend who is a member, or become a member. With so much to enjoy, we found the dining experience to be the crowning element in a new membership.

Many thanks to Chef Steve Barnard, Food and Beverage Manager Dustin Benton, and the rest of the staff at Bookcliff Country Club.

Many of the greatest artists have talent within them, beyond what any formal schooling could produce.

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