Downtown Carbondale takes on a little European flavor
Ron Goth’s world used to revolve around reading, writing and arithmetic. Now it’s all about coconut lobster tail skewers, French-style Chateaubriand steak, gorgonzola polenta and triple chocolate mousse.Goth, a popular teacher at Basalt Elementary School for nine years, earned his master’s degree in education in January 2005 and promptly decided to try something different: The native of Switzerland returned to the culinary world he loves. On Feb. 10 he opened the Swiss Gourmet shop on Main Street in Carbondale.It adds to the town’s eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and galleries on the main drag. It’s located within throwing distance of one consignment and one second-hand shop, two blue-collar bars and two of the midvalley’s most popular restaurants.Carbondale – a town that used to be the domain of potato farmers, ranchers, coal miners, bikers and hippies – now has its own gourmet food store featuring European delicacies. And Goth, a former chef in Switzerland who landed in the U.S. and the valley after working for the Ritz-Carlton, feels the time is ripe.”I was absolutely convinced if I didn’t do it, somebody else was going to,” he said. “Carbondale has grown so fast with River Valley Ranch and Aspen Glen. The time seemed to be right, and Carbondale seemed to want it.”
Nevertheless, he agonized during “many sleepless nights” before borrowing money and taking the plunge into the small-business world.To simply call the Swiss Gourmet a specialty food store would be like calling Gretchen Bleiler, the Olympic medalist from Snowmass Village with model-quality looks, a snowboarder.It’s a combination bistro, deli, butcher shop, specialty food retailer and private chef service.Customers walk in to find a nice open feel with a hardwood floor. Shelves on either side of the room are stocked mostly with European products. A quick glance shows German mustards, several varieties of German pickles like Crunchy Gherkins, grated potatoes with labeling that calls them “the Swiss national dish,” and Bavarian beer vinegar.Goth selects the products – with relish. “It’s the greatest thing ever. I’m a real food freak,” he said.
He is equally pleased when transplanted Europeans give a satisfied smile when they find a familiar favorite on his shelves as when U.S. natives try something new.The seafood counter is stocked daily with selections like wild salmon and halibut from Alaska, Corvina sea bass, mahi mahi, swordfish, sashimi-grade ahi tuna, depending on the season, and fresh cherry stone clams.At the meat counter a customer can find everything from Chateaubriand steaks to Bunder-Fleisch, a staple of Swiss cuisine that is soaked in red wine for three weeks then air dried. There is landjaeger, a Swiss-style beef stick, and Italian pancetta. Goth is building up the selection of cheeses, which currently features items like a Holland gouda, a Swiss tilsiter and an English elderberry.The store’s executive chef, Scott Mills, a chef in the valley off and on since 1974 and a former owner of restaurants in Basalt and Glenwood Springs, said the Swiss Gourmet can appeal to people with all levels of culinary skills.”The key is this is a culinary place. It’s all about the food,” he said. “If they’re knowledgeable about food or want to get knowledgeable, they should talk to us.”
Some customers, he said, know exactly want they want and welcome a location in Carbondale where they can find it.Others are skilled but welcome the advice of the shop’s chefs on new combinations, sauces or cooking techniques. There could be classes in the not-too-distant future.Then there are those who, let’s face it, need all the help they can get. “We’re not made for the totally food handicapped, but if you can boil water, I can get you a gourmet meal,” Mills vowed.In fact, that’s where Mills and Goth believe their shop shines. Mills was stuffing a cooked chicken with pear and onions one day to put out for sale. A customer watched what he did, drooled and asked if he could take one home to cook later that day. Mills vacuum-packed the bird and found a big demand for prepared foods.Items like chicken and pork ribs are cooked, smothered in sauces, then vacuum packed and placed in the cooler. Anyone with limited cooking skills can become a hero at home after purchasing a chicken stuffed with pears and onions and side dishes of savory sweet potatoes, gorgonzola polenta and red pepper polenta for dinner for less than $25.
The chicken is placed in a pan of boiling water and simmered for an hour, allowing it to cook in its juices and the sauce within the vacuum pack. The side dishes take only five minutes. Instant gourmet meal.The vacuum-packing keeps the prepared items fresher for longer. “It’s not on a steam table getting older and older,” Mills said. “My whole thing from being with restaurants and hotels is keeping it fresh.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Bluebird skies, spring-like temperatures and a few inches of snow from Monday night’s storm helped Snowmass skiers and snowboarders cruise into the season Wednesday for opening day.