Pine Creek Cookhouse
The stillness of the Castle Creek valley in wintertime and the majestic backdrop of the Elk Mountain Range serve as inspiration for Pine Creek Cookhouse chef Chris Keating, who has created a menu that complements and reflects the alpine setting he is so grateful to work in.
“I can feel the party starting everyday when I come to work,” Keating says. “It’s a place where you can get out of Dodge and disconnect.”
There is no cell service at the rustic log cabin that is the Pine Creek Cookhouse, located 12.5 miles into the White River National Forest near the ghost town of Ashcroft. During the winter, it’s only accessible by a 1.5-mile cross-country ski, snowshoe trek or horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Once inside, guests are immediately treated to a warm cup of soup or stew. And from there, the hearty alpine menu offerings don’t disappoint. Keating prides himself on using locally sourced, fresh ingredients for all of his dishes, which of course, are made from scratch.
Returning to the winter lunch menu is Kurt Russell’s Home Run Ranch patty melt, which uses meat sourced from Russell’s ranch in Old Snowmass.
Recognizing that “meat is just one thing on the plate,” Keating has several vegan and gluten-free options. He hopes to rival the patty melt with a new veggie burger, featuring curry roasted cauliflower, white fava beans, French lentils, tahini sauce and fresh herbs.
A carry-over from the summer lunch menu is the trout BLT sandwich. Keating jokes that he sells so much trout year-round that the restaurant can be called the “Pine Creek Trout House.”
“It’s staying because when you take pan-fried trout and tender belly bacon and heirloom tomatoes and crisp romaine lettuce on a toasted challah bun and remoulade sauce, you can’t go wrong,” he says.
There are also the veteran dishes like the Rocky Mountain elk bratwurst or 10-ounce chop, the chicken Coq au Vin, or the buffalo Sherpa stew.
Keating and his crew in the kitchen tap into their creativity when developing daily family-style appetizers like lamb meatballs with a tikka masala sauce or smoked black cod fresh from Alaska.
A new appetizer is the baked cheese dish — a mouth-watering skillet of brie, cambozola, fig jam, and assorted crostini.
And sommelier Stacey James has just the right wine for all of the dishes. She and Keating work closely together on menu pairings. They’ve also created signature hot drinks, and are making small meals out of bloody marys.
“I’m proud of the wine list she’s put together,” Keating says. “There is a winner in every category.”