Basalt’s Toklat Gallery serving up special spirits
IF YOU GO
What: Michael Kinsley in Paint art opening
Where: Toklat Gallery in Basalt
When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday
Of note: Spirits concocted by Toklat founder Stuart Mace will be served
Legendary Aspen environmentalist and entrepreneur Stuart Mace will be at his daughter’s Toklat Gallery in spirit Friday evening. Make that in spirits.
Lynne Mace recently discovered a drink menu from the bar and restaurant her parents operated in Aspen in the late 1960s. It features some of Stuart’s home concoctions. So for an art opening of Michael Kinsley’s landscape oil paintings Friday, Lynne will serve some of Stuart’s finest creations.
There will be the “Mule Skinner’s Delight,” featuring aged whiskey, blackberry brandy, hot water and sugar “in a heavy mug.” The price was $1.25 back in the late 1960s.
The “Dangerous Dan McGrew” also will be served with “a good slug of vodka, wild raspberry juice, a spot of sugar and lemon on the rocks.” The old drink menu notes that the “Dangerous Dan McGrew” was “also enjoyed by ‘the Lady known as Lou.’”
Lynne stumbled across the drink lineup by accident. Family friend John Powers gave her an “extraordinary gift” to have all the pictures taken by and of her father scanned so they are preserved in digital format. While sorting through boxes of photos, she came across the drink menu.
It’s from Toklat in Aspen Restaurant, which Stuart and Isabel Mace operated from 1964 to 1969, before selling to the Chart House. The spot is now occupied by The Dancing Bear.
Her parents had numerous irons in the fire after they came to the Aspen area in 1949. They had a dogsledding operation in upper Castle Creek Valley and built Toklat as a commercial lodge as well as the family home.
Lynne said they were constantly looking for ways to scratch a living. They operated their first restaurant in Aspen from 1962 to 1964 where the Hickory House is located. Toklat evolved into a gallery that helped draw people to Ashcroft.
Lynne and her four brothers helped with the various parts of the operation.
“We were all part of the machine,” she said.
Her parents were dedicated environmentalists and Stuart was regarded as a fierce protector of Castle Creek Valley. His stern warnings convinced the Pitkin County commissioners to avoid using pesticides in the ditches along Castle Creek Valley Road, for example. He also was a founding trustee of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
Stuart died in 1993 and Isabel passed away in 2006. They were inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame in 2000.
Lynne relocated Toklat Gallery to Basalt in 2005 and looks forward to celebrating its 70th anniversary in June 2019.
But why wait for a good party? Once she discovered the drinks, she figured it would be great to incorporate them into an opening. There was one challenge. While the menu lists the ingredients, it didn’t mention the recipe.
Leah Stroup, a bartender at the Hotel Jerome bar and friend of Lynne’s nephew, Dylan Mace, put her skills to the test coming up with the proper mixtures.
Lynne also is serving Alaskan meatballs from Isabel’s recipe and Alaskan reindeer salami at today’s opening.
It’s fitting that the special drinks and food will be served during an opening exhibit by Kinsley.
“I’ve been showing at Toklat for decades,” he said.
The show features 10 oil paintings, which are mostly new and all but one of a local landscape. As a whole, the group was one of the most satisfying he’s created. The composition, light and feel were great with this batch, he said.
One of his favorites is Filoha Meadows, a special preserve in Crystal Valley.
There is a scene with storm clouds over Watson Divide.
“I like stormy stuff,” he said.
And there’s a view of Conundrum Peak from the Sundeck on a day when the wind was whipping snow off the high ridges.
Kinsley tries to capture the essence of what makes roaming the backcountry so special in his paintings.
“All of us who spend some time in the backcountry, we get these cherished moments, those moments we want to hold onto,” he said.
He typically sketches the scenes on site and sometimes takes a photo to make “color notes.” Then he paints the landscapes in his studio.
“It feels good to do it,” Kinsley said. “It takes me back there.”
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Basalt officials are determined to try to get the growth equation right — striking a balance between being too restrictive and ending up with problems like Aspen or being too lax and destroying the midvalley quality of life.