Simply the Best Warm Spinach Salad


How far would you travel for food? You know, to sample a really special entrée or dessert that makes you think, “This is the best I’ve ever tasted!”

As it turns out, I know quite a few people who are crazy like that. My friend Robin thinks nothing of traveling 30 miles to Auburn for a slice of what she calls “the best cherry pie” she’s ever tasted. I know several people who have hamburger neuroses and will travel great distances for the best burger. Donna, for example, will hit the road to San Francisco for a Joe’s Cable Car burger any day of the week. And Kelly will drive an hour to Pietros in Vacaville just for a bowl of their minestrone soup.

I think I have you all beat, though. I would gladly travel the 1,000 or so miles it takes to return to the Purgatory Lodge at Durango Mountain Resort in Durango, Colo., to enjoy Executive Chef Charley Curtis’ Warm Spinach Salad. Frankly, anything Charley decides to dish up, I’d enjoy! But, if you’re looking for simply the best spinach salad you’ve ever tasted – a recipe he inherited and has adapted from his mother and grandmother – this one is really special.

“You can endlessly and easily re-invent this salad without much work,” Charley said. “I’ve added grilled chicken, pan-seared Ahi tuna, just about any imaginable sort of nut (I recommend toasted hazelnuts), sundried tomatoes, brined European olives, grilled Andouille sausage, all kinds of sliced fresh apples and pretty much anything else I’ve had laying around in my refrigerator or pantry.”

Lucky for you, Charley has shared his recipe with us (you can all thank me later!), but I would still highly recommend a jaunt to southwestern Colorado where you can enjoy this and many other culinary delights at the Durango Mountain Resort’s seven restaurants.

Warm Spinach Salad


1 pound thick-cut peppered bacon, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup unfiltered apple cider
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¾ to 1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 pound cleaned baby spinach
1 pint fresh grape tomatoes
¼ small red onion, thin julienned


Render bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Remove bacon and reserve. Add shallots and garlic to rendered bacon fat and stir until translucent. Add brown sugar and whisk until bubbly. Add apple cider and turn heat to high. Whisk in Dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar. Remove from heat. In a large bowl, toss together spinach, tomatoes, julienned onions and warm dressing. Garnish with reserved bacon bits. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of Charley Curtis, Executive Chef, Durango Mountain Resort

Tell us, what’s the best food you’ve ever tasted, and how far do you travel to enjoy it?

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1 Comment so far ↓

  • Paula Ritter | Oct 27, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I recently devoured the best warm spinach salad ever! I was visiting my “kids” in Point Reyes Station, CA and we went to a restaurant in Petaluma where they had previously lived. The restaurant is Graffiti. Besides the baby spinach, it had red grapes, cartelized onions, toasted almonds, sautéed mushrooms, feta cheese and smoked bacon on top. I have tried to duplicate it since returning home but haven’t yet figured out the dressing. I would love to know what it is!