A ‘Winter House’ party: Swiss mountain fare meets cozy hospitality at an exclusive Aspen popup by Eleven Madison Park
Aspen’s après-ski scene will get a cool boost this winter when Manhattan’s inimitable Eleven Madison Park unveils EMP Winter House, seasonal alpine sister to the popular EMP Summer House in the Hamptons. In partnership with Chefs Club Aspen and American Express to transform the space anew, EMP co-owners Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm seem to understand that drawing a crowd to the historically mellow, 3,500-square-foot venue inside the St. Regis Aspen Resort will take a village. Specifically, a “yurt village.”
The team has begun construction on nine domed safari-tent structures, each ranging in size to accommodate four to 10 people, which will surround a grand fire pit in the westward courtyard. One yurt will feature a communal bar to serve outdoor high-top tables with radiant heaters; the other eight yurts will be available for private reservation beginning at 2 p.m. daily when EMP Winter House opens on Dec. 15. (Booking begins Nov. 14, for dining through Jan. 31.)
“They’re mini private dining rooms…tucked away with a heater to stay warm, great music playing…a space to call your own,” Guidara says. Lights and trees will lend “a winter wonderland vibe, inspired by (New York City’s) Union Square holiday market.”
Swiss-native chef Humm—who, alongside Guidara, has earned multiple James Beard Foundation Awards and three Michelin stars for Eleven Madison Park, named No. 1 restaurant by the World’s 50 Best Awards in 2017—is conceptualizing casual yet creative afternoon and evening fare that he hopes will quash hunger after a day on the mountain. During après-ski (2-5 p.m. daily), expect sharable plates of oysters and fruits de mer, sandwiches, and crave-worthy bites such as a signature bacon-wrapped hot dog with black truffle and celery relish, plus plenty of champagne, rosé, and hot cocktails.
Humm recalls time spent at the EMP Summer House for inspiration here. “We had lobster boils, fried chicken dinners, and taco experiences, large spreads of food where people could have fun, connect with each other, and also order other items à la carte,” he says. “We wanted the same thing with the yurt village menu, and I can’t wait to see it in action.”
Dinner, either in the revamped dining room or out in private yurts, will showcase lighter seafood or vegetable-based fare to balance heartier dishes inspired by Humm’s European upbringing. These include lobster served in the shell with bisque, mustard, and Parmesan; Zurich-style chicken with mushrooms, onions, and cream sauce; classic veal schnitzel; potato rösti; and Mont Blanc, the showstopper dessert made with puréed chestnuts and crowned with cream to resemble a snow-capped peak.
“Some of these dishes have a reputation as being very heavy and rich,” Humm notes. “While our dishes are still indulgent, we use acid, fresh herbs, and vegetables to keep them modern and bring lightness to the plate. Sometimes it’s also just a matter of introducing a different ingredient into a classic—changing the mushroom or the cut of meat—to elevate the dish and put our own spin on it.”
Also exciting: large-format Swiss fondue with crusty bread, potatoes, pickles and charcuterie, as well as broth-based fondue Chinoise, a DIY hot pot for searing proteins and vegetables. Melted cheese and cured meats make a natural pair here in Aspen; Humm offered fondue in the hip NoMad Bar in the accolade-winning NoMad Hotel in New York last winter to great success. His posh upgrade, prepared tableside: scrambling a few eggs into the remaining cheese bubbling at the bottom of the crock, then making it rain with shaved black truffles.
“Many dishes are inspired by flavors I remember from my childhood, the fondue being one example: I have strong memories of sharing it with family and friends often, especially through the winter months,” Humm says. “I also have fond memories of places like St. Moritz, El Paradiso, Kronenhalle, all of which evoke a certain atmosphere that subtly may have influenced some of our decisions on the food or the vibe.”
While EMP Winter House aims to craft unique experiences with top-notch service (thanks in large part to staff imported from Guidara and Humm’s East Coast operations) and impeccable wine (more than 250 bottles, including 20 selections by the glass), don’t expect the multicourse tasting menus for which Eleven Madison Park is known.
“You can pop in and have one or two courses and go home,” Guidara explains. “A place that’s warm, satisfying, cozy, and comforting, where you can nuzzle together and have really well-made food and exceptional cocktails. At Summer House I loved working the dining room because it was full of regulars—and energy.”
American Express is the exclusive reservations and payment partner, though cash will also be accepted. Another ally is BMW, which will roll in with SUVs to transport guests to and from the property throughout the season.
“We’ve been lucky enough to spend time in Aspen, it’s a place we feel at home,” Guidara says. “A lot of people in Hamptons are also in Aspen. I think it’s kind of fun that you can go to your beach-house restaurant and be served by the same person who walks up to your table at your mountain-house restaurant.”
Like many branded popups in Aspen recently—Donna Karan’s Urban Zen boutique; Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP shop; SoulCycle in the old Boogie’s building for the past two holiday seasons—EMP Winter House will reside here for a limited time only. The restaurant is set to shutter for good on April 6.
Food for thought, though: While Guidara originally envisioned Long Island’s EMP Summer House as a place where staff could continue working while EMP closed for renovations beginning in June 2017, the popup was such a hit that it, well, popped up this past summer for a second season.
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After taking a leap of faith, Alpine Wine Design, who has a booth at the Aspen Saturday Market, makes good use of old barrels and boxes for unique offerings