Ashcroft’s Pine Creek Cookhouse
Chris Keating likes to tell the story of how he met Bill Greenwood.
The Pine Creek Cookhouse general manager was then working as the executive sous chef at The Little Nell hotel in Aspen when he received a phone call from a 17-year-old Greenwood who’d just moved to Vail.
“He said, ‘I don’t like Vail and I want to come work in Aspen,’” Keating said during a recent spring afternoon on the Cookhouse’s sun-drenched patio. “I said, ‘We have some positions available and if I was looking at you, it’d be different. But …”
Greenwood was standing in front of Keating the next morning at 8 a.m., and so began a years-long partnership that culminated with Greenwood serving as Keating’s chef de cuisine at the Hotel Jerome.
Now, the duo has again teamed up to put their stamp on yet another classic Aspen restaurant: the Pine Creek Cookhouse. And while Chef Greenwood may be in charge of the kitchen, Keating remains intimately involved in the menu offerings at one of the area’s oldest restaurants.
“We have this culinary tennis match,” Keating says of his relationship with Greenwood. “When we start talking about food, it’s like a volley that could go on forever.”
Pine Creek Cookhouse is a local treasure. Located about a mile beyond the ghost town of Ashcroft at the back of the Castle Creek Valley, the classic mountain lodge is a slice of high-country Colorado heaven. Open in both winter and summer, the Cookhouse has long-offered excellent, farm-to-table-style cuisine along with a hot or cold beverage with a view.
The Cookhouse’s latest lunch and dinner menus for this summer are par for the course. Keating and Greenwood continue to emphasize local ingredients like Colorado trout, locally-raised beef, elk and buffalo and produce from Roaring Fork Valley farms.
One of the best new offerings on both the lunch and dinner menus is the Pine Creek Smoked Trout Dip. The combination of mouth-watering smoky fish, crispy butter-herb bread crumbs and toasted crostini is a perfect way to start a classic Colorado meal.
Continuing the hearty Colorado theme, the Cookhouse’s signature sautéed Ruby Red Rainbow Trout is another can’t-miss choice. Served with pecan brown butter meunière, fresh summer green beans, pan-roasted marble potatoes and heirloom cherry tomatoes, the dish is the Rocky Mountain summer on a plate.
Pine Creek’s menu is also vegetarian-friendly, with offerings that include organic mushroom and spinach crepes and vegan spaghetti squash. The real star of the vegetarian menu is the vegan potato dumplings. Like gnocchi but a bit lighter, crispier and more delicate, the dish is served with roasted mushrooms, caramelized cipollini onions, grilled wild salsify and garlic, and is a spectacular home-run.
Prices: Lunch appetizers, $9 to $26; lunch entrees: $18 to $51; dinner appetizers: $16 to $26; dinner entrees: $26 to $68
Ambience: Mountain lodge chic and exceptionally scenic with stunning mountain views from the patio.
Signature dishes: For dinner, sautéed Ruby Red Rainbow Trout, pan-roasted elk chop and classic buffalo tenderloin. For lunch: Kurt Russell’s Home Run Ranch beef patty melt, vegan potato dumplings and Rocky Mountain elk bratwurst.
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