New Basalt eatery offers The Whole Empanada
When Yanina Dobarro sought a small kitchen where she could make traditional Argentine empanadas earlier this year, she initially planned on just selling them wholesale to other outlets.
But when she found the right location to rent, the space lent itself to opening a small cafe where customers can grab empanadas to go or eat them there. The Whole Empanada opened March 18. Her experience after exactly two weeks in business has convinced her she made the right choice.
Customers have been rolling in, empanadas have been rolling out.
Dobarro acknowledged she had no idea what makes empanadas such a big hit.
“Maybe it’s to have something new,” she said with a smile and shrug. “They’re easy to eat. They’re good.
“I trust this product very much,” she added. “I don’t know why people like it but they do.”
She said she makes them exactly the way they are made in her native Argentina, where nearly everyone eats empanadas.
“It’s like the Argentina pizza,” she said.
The menu features two favorites, Poncho Beef and Fran Chicken. The former has seared ground beef, sauteed green and while onions, red bell peppers, carrots, boiled eggs, green olives, herbs and spices tucked into a bread exterior.
The menu also boasts the Gaston Humita, which substitutes meat with whole sweet corn and mozzarella cheese, and her personal favorite, the Missy Caprese, with mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomato, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Each empanada is about the size of a medium-sized fist. They sell for $3.75 each or $33 for a dozen. They are also available frozen, 10 for $25.
She knows the Roaring Fork Valley has a soft spot for empanadas because she used to operate Francesca’s restaurant in Aspen with her former husband. She decided last year to start her own business selling empanadas wholesale to grocery stores, gas stations and other outlets. She couldn’t find an affordable space in the upper valley but a site opened in the business center along Willits Lane in Basalt that houses such businesses as Valley Lumber. She’s located at 31 Duroux Lane, Suite G. It’s just off the elbow in Willits Lane, so it will be a hop and skip for anglers fishing the Roaring Fork River at Hooks Bridge this summer. Vehicle access is Duroux Lane. The Whole Empanada is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dobarro said business is hopping enough that she will concentrate for now on making empanadas for sale out of her business. Once she adds an employee or two, she plans to get the wholesale business cranked up. She ordered an empanada maker that was shipped in from Argentina. She’s not mechanically inclined, she said, but used FaceTime with representatives of the manufacturer to figure out how to get the high-tech contraption put together. It can make 1,000 per hour, though as a one-woman operation she is making them by hand. She makes large sheets of dough, cuts out each empanada, fills it and then wraps the dough around the filling.
Dobarro first started coming to Aspen in 2002 on a J1 work visa. She is now working on citizenship — a process that some people find “scary” but she said she is undaunted.
She decided not to go with an Argentine-influenced name for her business. She wanted to embrace her new home country with a more American name. She chose to do a word play off of the phrase “the whole enchilada.”
“If everything goes as it is now, I think it will be very busy this summer,” Dobarro said.
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Current Basalt officials say the town government has violated the Colorado Taxpayers’ Bill of Right by increasing the property tax mill levy over the prior years 10 times since the mid-2000s. Two former mayors contend the mill levy could be adjusted in any given year as long as it didn’t exceed the mill levy in 1994. It’s a $2 million question.