Food Matters: Standout bites in Snowmass right now
Nibbles This WeekPIÑONS RSVP PRO TIP For more than 30 years at Piñons, guests have craved signature Dover sole flown in fresh from across the pond. Unfortunately for slackers, the dining room is booked now past New Year’s Day. While bar seats are usually walk-in only, Piñons owner Rob Mobilian says he’ll take early bar table reservations until about 6 p.m. Come for the buttery, lemony sole or choose the $35 two-course bar menu, one of the great deals in town. 105 S. Mill St., 970-920-2021, pinons.net BAROLO + BBQ? BELLISSIMO! Little-known fact: L’Hostaria sommelier Carlos Valenzuela and manager Fabrizio Brovelli have a passion for hunting and smoking Colorado game. Enjoy the bounty of their expeditions, prepared off-menu by chef Ruben Bonomi—craveworthy smoked salmon this week, too—to pair with impeccable imported Italian wines. Just ask. 620 E. Hyman Ave., 970-925-9022, hostaria.com TRUFFLE TREMORS Holidays are prime time to ride the wave of truffle season, as every chef in Aspen has a hookup. “We’ll make it rain truffles on anything,” confirms Casa Tua Aspen front-of-house manager Andrea Testa, adding that last year’s effort totaled more than 5 pounds. The chic Italian restaurant is blowing out New Year’s Eve with a baller white-truffle-topped tasting menu—including on mille-feuille dessert. 403 S. Galena St., 970-920-7277, casatualifestyle.com
Dec. 15, 2018, will go down in history: nearly the entire town of Aspen, it seemed, went to party in Snowmass.
The grand opening of Base Village, years under construction, drew a crowd estimated in the thousands during a full afternoon and evening of après-ski activities. At the Limelight Snowmass, servers squeezed through crowds with trays of food held high, destined for the masses outdoors. Staff rushed to keep up; the bar was a zoo.
The Crepe Shack by Mawa’s Kitchen, on the ice skating rink-side of the new D& E/Four Mountain Sports shop, was literally oozing visitors. When I stopped by, at least a dozen people were sardined into the space—befitting the “shack” moniker at just 295 square feet. A crew of five, including chef-owner Mawa McQueen herself, was busy building crepes still steaming from the hot griddles. McQueen says she served more than 600 crepes that day—no wonder the cooks were almost too worn out to tell me how it went when I returned a few days later.
Having bartended at flash-in-the-pan Burger Bar & Fish in Base Village in 2012, the winter I moved to Aspen, my heart swells to see such vibrancy here at last! As I learned on successive visits, there’s a lot to explore. Here are a few favorite bites from this area of lower Base Village:
“Barcelona” at The Crepe Shack by Mawa’s Kitchen
If you’ve met Mawa—an Ivory Coast spitfire in Aspen by way of Paris—you know that she doesn’t do anything meekly. The crepe variations we sampled at a media preview during the grand opening followed accordingly: red-wine-braised short ribs with hunks of foie gras; smoked salmon, caviar and dill cream; and the “Colorado Burger” with a full-sized bison patty, caramelized onions, cheese and horseradish cream.
While the Crepe Shack’s menu is extensive (30-plus crepe variations, including “Private Selection,” hence foie and caviar), I found the simpler, more traditional fillings easier to eat and thus more enjoyable. Maybe because I lived in France for a spell, the classic “Parisienne” ($9.95) stuffed with Black Foest ham, Gruyère and Swiss cheeses, and honey dijon mustard was a slam-dunk in the nostalgia department.
However, those able and willing to drop $68 for the Barcelona (Petrossian jamón ibérico, organic baby arugula, Pecorino cheese, aged fig balsamic reduction) should order that. Increíble! What’s that saying about New Year’s? Oh, right: Treat yo self!
Charred Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad at TORO Kitchen & Lounge at the Viceroy
TORO’s winter menu features a number of familiar staples, including a burger (Latin-style with Oaxacan cheese, bacon and chipotle aioli), short rib tacos (succulent) and a crispy chicken sandwich (meh). DO NOT pass up this twist on a veggie obsession: charred Brussels sprouts layered with crisscrossing romaine leaves and pickled radish, dressed with bright, creamy Caesar boosted by grainy mustard that looks more like intermittent drizzles of pickled mustard seeds. Puffed quinoa adds even more crunch, making this a hearty “salad” to top with added protein as a meal.
Cinnamon Sugar Crumble Cronut + Domaine Bousquet Cabernet Sauvignon at CoDough
This unintentional pairing might go down as my most swoonworthy of 2018. A crunchy, sugary, cinnamon-spiced, deep-fried croissant washed down with smooth, jammy cabernet sauvignon from the rink-side snack bar (as in: full bar, with snacks) operated by Sweet Coloradough of Glenwood Springs.
“We basically grind up a doughnut and add cinnamon sugar and brown sugar to make the crumble topping—it’s like a doughnut on a doughnut,” says owner Aaron Badolato. Because booze sales during the Base Village opening basically beat out the past five years of the same downvalley, he says, “We’ll be doing some alcohol-infused doughnuts soon, too.”
Limelight Snowmass Pizza + Power Greens
An outing to the Limelight Aspen never seems complete without its signature thin-crust pizza, and diners at the brand-new Snowmass spot have even more reasons to try a pie: only three of the same pizzas from the Limelight Aspen are on the menu. Sample new topping combos (meatball, Greek) to pair with power greens. I was skeptical when our server suggested it, but the beautifully composed bowl delivers substance: a pile of arugula and baby spinach encircled by piles of fluffy quinoa, roasted pumpkinseeds, crispy garbanzo beans, carrot, cucumber and green beans to toss together with Champagne vinaigrette.
NEST at the Viceroy: Choose Your Own Slopeside Adventure
Since tables at the new NEST are all outdoors by the revamped pool and slopeside bar—with space heaters, of course—pick refuel whether craving warmth and comfort or cooling relaxation.
If warm and sunny: Tuna Tataki “Tortilla,” which is an Asian flatbread built on a toasted flour tortilla (yellowfin tuna, avocado crema, shaved red onion, lime, micro cilantro, jalapeño). Just as certain sushi rolls in Aspen include strawberry, the Strawberry Lemon Drop with fresh fruit puree makes a refreshing cockail match. Who knew!
If overcast and chilly: Start with a big bowl of soup. Skip the turkey chili for chicken tortilla: it’s complex, well-spiced, and bobbing with lots of shredded chicken. The side dish of crispy tortilla batons for adding at whim is bonus. NEST serves classic post-skiing fare (tacos with short rib or grilled shrimp, a burger, club sandwich), but the breakout star is a bahn mi with yuzu-roasted pork and pickled vegetables on chewy baguette.
Amanda Rae wonders if LoBaVi (for Lower Base Village) should be an abbreviation. Thoughts? firstname.lastname@example.org
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Jazz Aspen Snowmass will hosts its annual June Experience and JAS Cafe concert series in-person this summer, releasing details and lineups Monday.