Asher on Aspen: We’ll Always Have Paris

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen
(Courtesy French Alpine Bistro)

The door swung open, and I was immediately hit with the sensational smell of gruyère cheese. The familiar aroma triggered a detailed memory of my first trip to Paris when I was 20 years old. I remember my friends went on to continue their European travels while I opted to stay in the City of Lights by myself for a couple extra days. I checked out of my hostel and wandered down to the nearest sidewalk café where I sat and mused over my next move.

I ordered coffee and a croque monsieur at a charming café called Les Deux Magots. I sat there, with my luggage in tow, and wrote postcards home to my family while trying to act the part. I later found out that fellow writers like Albert Camus and Ernest Hemingway used to frequent this very establishment. Even though I had no plans of where to go next or what to do, I recall feeling calm and blissful in this moment. I sipped on my coffee and had an “Eat, Pray, Love” moment with my croque monsieur.

I hadn’t thought about the distinct and unmistakable smell of the gruyère cheese in the sandwich at that café for a long time until the recent moment I walked into Aspen’s French Alpine Bistro – La Creperie du Village.

Led by mostly candlelight, we were guided to our table in a cozy back corner. I nestled in the booth and leaned against overstuffed pillows lining the rustic barn wood panels. Soft sheepskins dressed the comfy chairs and candles flickered at every table. I shook out my napkin and placed it neatly on my lap while looking around, examining the old-world antiques and family heirlooms that decorated the dining room walls—creating a charming, romantic atmosphere. An elegant chandelier hung above us to light up our menu.

We started with two classic French delicacies: escargots and foie gras. The foie gras was flavored with sauternes, served with toasted brioche and lingonberry compote. The escargots were sautéed with garlic butter, tomato concassée and pastis. Both these hors d’oeuvres were foreign to me, I’m no connoiseur of duck liver and land snail. But I was pleasantly surprised and I found myself consuming every bite.

Next, we ordered the salade de chèvre chaud. Admittedly, this salad was my favorite course of the entire meal: butter lettuce mixed with baked local goat cheese on a crispy baguette was paired perfectly with truffle honey, pear, walnut, and champagne vinaigrette. This dish was an explosion of flavor, and I immediately fell in love with it after the first taste. Our server paired this plate with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Sancerre region of France.

For our main course, we explored the black truffle potato gnocchi served with bacon, caramelized onions and melted gruyère cheese. Extremely rich and creamy, it almost tasted like a desert. It was delightful, and I’m certain I would have been able to eat more if I hadn’t filled up on the appetizers.

(Courtesy French Alpine Bistro)

Though completely stuffed, we reasoned that we must end the evening with something sweet. The “Midnight in Paris” crepe is the owner’s favorite on the menu. It boasted vanilla crème brûlée custard and crispy caramel. This traditional French dessert more than satisfied my sweet tooth and it quite vividly took me back to watching the evening Eiffel Tower lights shine while eating a crepe from a nearby food truck.

The French Alpine Bistro is not just about the authentic French fare, it’s about the experience. Here at the Creperie, I was met with the same peaceful feeling that I experienced in Paris while sitting outside at that café. The restaurant had this unique ability to transport me back to the streets of Paris with just one smell. Waffling through the air, this aroma sparked a beautiful, mesmerizing memory for me. As Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca” would say, “We’ll always have Paris.”

(Courtesy French Alpine Bistro)
(Courtesy French Alpine Bistro)
(Courtesy French Alpine Bistro)