| AspenTimes.com

Woody Creek Distillers

The minute you walk into Woody Creek Distillers tasting room, one thing is clear: Mixologist Christian Wilhoft loves his job.

“How can you not be psyched to create craft cocktails when you’re working with some of the best spirits around,” says Wilhoft, who has transformed WCD’s cocktail menu into one of the most innovative and sip-worthy ones in the midvalley. “But it’s more than the drinks, it’s the whole atmosphere.”

Indeed, the sign behind the bar does seem to say it all: “Drink Happy Thoughts.”

And what a happy process it has been for the locally owned business. Woody Creek Distillers was established in 2013; since then, the company has grown exponentially. Currently its products are available across the country. And the distillery has received numerous recognitions and awards for its two different kinds of vodka and its rye whiskey (WCD also produces a gin and a rum).

But the crown jewel of Woody Creek’s portfolio has to be its distillery and tasting room, located in Basalt’s Mid-Valley Design Center. Rustic, yet modern, the tasting room invites visitors and locals to see how the distillery operates, while also enjoying the fruits of those labors.

“We want people to come here and feel at home,” says tasting room manager Tracey Snow, noting that while there is no food service at the distillery, guests are welcome to bring in their own cheese platters, dinners, or whatever takeout they like. “It’s a unique experience to see where the spirit in the cocktail you’re drinking is made.”

In fact, Woody Creek Distillers makes nearly everything in-house — the spirits, the infused spirits, an array of bitters, syrups of all stripes, even its own tonic water.

“Really, our cocktail menu is worth the trip to Basalt; you will not find anything like it anywhere else,” says Snow. “Or, you can always just enjoy a flight to get a taste of all that we offer.”

For example, a small tasting of any three spirits is just $12; fleets are also on the menu. And, the distillery is also home base for sales of its bottled spirits and gift boxes, which range in price from $40 to $150 (custom gift boxes also available).

“We like to think that we do more than just make spirits,” says Snow.

Spend some time at Woody Creek Distillers and you’ll see why she’s right.

Prices: Spirit tastings and cocktails, $8 during happy hour, 4-6 p.m. daily; bottles of vodka, $6 to $120; bottles of rye, $27 and $49; bottles of gin, $23 and $35; apple brandy and pear brandy, $49. Tours by appointment ($10 for tour only; $30 for tour/tasting trio/specialty cocktail).

Ambience: The tasting room combines rustic warmth with state-of-the-art architecture and design for a relaxed vibe.

Signature drinks: The Orchard, with muddled apple, Woody Creek Vodka, all spice, ginger, lemon juice; Madame Butterfly, with muddled tarragon, Woody Creek Gin, ginger, anise, lemon, butterfly pea flower extract; and classics from Old Fashioneds to Manhattens to Sazeracs.

Market Street Kitchen

Mawa McQueen had no intention of building her booming catering and locals’ favorite Aspen restaurant business, but the forces behind the Element Hotel in Willits wouldn’t relent.

And, recognizing the potential to share her culinary philosophies — fresh, healthy offerings with little foodie fanfare attached — to a new market, she finally embraced the offer. And like all things Mawa, she charged forward with passion, professionalism and a knack for pleasing the palate.

“This place chose me,” Mawa says. “And why not? It’s been a chance to branch out a bit.”

With that statement, Mawa — an Ivory Coast native who was raised in France and opened her first Aspen business in 2007 — took her signature cuisine and changed it up.

“Healthy and fresh, that’s my ingredient for success in everything we do,” she says. “But here I decided to do more of a street foods thing.”

Indeed the menu — from breakfast to lunch to brunch — is rooted in themes of Mexican and Parisian food stands.

Cases in point: the “Tacolicious” menu of tacos ranging from roasted cauliflower and Portobello mushroom to pork “mojo” and braised beef shortib.

And then there are the crepes.

“These are not your ordinary street crepes — these are healthy, rich and delicious crepes,” says Mawa, who attributes her ever-expanding culinary prowess to her continued travels abroad. “For breakfast, lunch, whenever … crepes are great food.”

On the must-taste list at Market Street Kitchen (and we’ll let you do the guessing on what treats lie inside): the Parisian, an Argento and, of course, Mawa’s Green; try them in the organic, buckwheat — and gluten-free — variety for an extra two bucks.

Enjoy all of this, and more — from rice bowls to guacamole tastings — in the sleek indoor seats at Market Street with a fine glass of wine, aqua fresca or housemade mimosa and you’ll agree Mawa made the right move by branching out to the midvalley market.

Prices: Breakfast, $9.95 to $13.95; lunch, $5.95 to $15.95; brunch (Sundays only), $9.95 to $17.95 Ambience: Modern, clean café with inviting patio and bright indoor seating. Signature dishes: Mawa’s Green Crepe, with avocado, baby spinach, basil pesto, fresh mozzarella and a free-range egg sunny side up; fresh mango with chili-lime salt; “In Guac We Trust,” freshly made guacamole in various variations, served with corn tortilla chips; watermelon chia aqua fresca, with watermelon, chia, lime and mint.

The freshest food, including an array of crepes and unique breakfast dishes, make Market Street Kitchen the perfect place
to start your day.

Downvalley Tavern

Downvalley Tavern: Wonderful food, pizza, calamari to perfectly prepared specialty dishes paired with a great glass of wine. 68 El Jebel Road, Basalt, 970-963-4388, www.facebook.com/downvalleytavern, $$.


Tempranillo: Spanish restaurant, tapas, wine, locally sourced food from the owners’ ranch. 165 Midland Ave., Basalt, 970-927-3342, www.tempranillorestaurant.com, Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., $$$

Confluence Coffee

Confluence Coffee: Nitro coffee, espresso machine — these guys care about the coffee they are serving. 104 Midland Spur, Basalt, 970-927-8585, www.facebook.com/confluence-coffee-basalt, Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Saturday, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m., Sunday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., $

Heather’s Savory Pies and Tapas Bar

Heather’s Savory Pies and Tapas Bar: Come in for live music and savory pot pies. 166 Midland Ave., Basalt, 970-927-0151, www.heatherssavorypies.com, Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 10 p.m., $$