Foodstuff: Croquet, anyone?
Lawn games and food for the kickoff to fall
Last weekend, on a superbly sunny September Saturday, I was invited to the Inaugural Aspen Croquet Cup, the brainchild of Aspen Institute Vice President of Facilities and Operations Richard Stettner and Aspen Meadows General Manager Justin Todd; Hotel Jerome General Manager Patrick Davila; and The Little Nell General Manager Henning Rahm.
For $75, spectators hung out on white furniture nestled in the Aspen Meadows’ Marble Garden, received all-inclusive food and drinks, listened to live music, cheered for the participating croquet teams, and enjoyed other games and activities, including bidding on silent auction items and an embellish-your-own hat station.
The event was a benefit for Roaring Fork Valley-based non-profits chosen by the players and sponsors, as teams played to the Death Roll. Local non-profits selected by the teams were the ABOR Scholarship Fund, Aspen Hope Center, Challenge Aspen, Chris Klug Foundation, Impact, LiftUp, Planned Parenthood, and the Shining Stars Foundation. An estimated $40,000 was raised at the event.
While there is some debate on the origins of the sport — you can google many lively discussions between the Irish and the French on the subject — croquet was popularized in British society around 1860 in the form it’s enjoyed today.
Oh, and be sure to wear your whites.
My whites, incidentally, did not stand a chance, as I was there for one thing and one thing only: the food. Bite-sized dishes included eggy toast, smoked venison tartare on a flatbread, and baby gem lettuces with huckleberry dressing from Aspen Meadows. Catch Steak brought the protein with roasted langoustines and a filet topped with truffle butter, Hotel Jerome offered a pared down, petite version of their JBar burger, a pan con tomate with Iberico ham, sliced to order, and a Hamachi crudo.
Mawa’s Crepe Shack presented some savory and sweet with a vegetable curry crepe and three dessert-style options: lemon curd, peach cheesecake, and the classic Nutella option folded into the piping hot pancake. The sushi chef from Taikun flew in for one day only to serve us toro and scallion hand rolls, made to order (I had so many of those I think I made him uncomfortable, by the way). Petrossian Caviar reps hung at the Taikun table, serving my favorite bougie bite: fish eggs and crème fraiche on crispy potato chips. The Little Nell rounded out the local offerings with Wagyu carpaccio on brioche with Boursin cheese, tomato, and arugula, a gougère with tomato jam and Gruyere, and the pièce de résistance, a chicken tinga soft taco with avocado, cotija cheese, and topped with a bright green salsa macha.
And while this rundown of delectable dishes may seem braggadocios, I was able to get a recipe for the salsa macha from our friends at the Nell, which I think would pair perfectly on top of these chicken tacos, with a grilled steak, or as a simple dip for tortilla chips at your next lawn game party. Get the croquet, cornhole, frisbee golf, or horseshoes in now while the leaves are at their peak, and enjoy a delicious bite to go with them!
Serves a crowd as a taco topping or chip dip
200 grams guajillo chiles
100 grams ancho chiles
100 grams garlic
1000 grams vegetable oil
28 grams salt
Put everything into a blender and blend it till smooth, about two minutes.
Pour into a pot on the stove.
Heat on low temperature, just beneath a simmer, for about 10 min. Cool down and serve.
*As with all the restaurant recipes I’ve shared, get ready to convert your measurements, or just follow the ratios here. As in, two parts, one part, 10 parts, and salt to taste.
Word on the street is that the Croquet Cup will be back next year, so put it on your calendar. Meanwhile, I’ll be buying a new pair of white pants, one size larger, and packing a Tide To Go pen in my purse.
Katherine Roberts is a mid-Valley-based writer and marketing professional who absolutely spilled bright orange tinga sauce front and center on her white outfit within 15 minutes of arriving at this hours-long tournament. She can be reached via her marketing and communications firm, Carington Creative, at email@example.com.