Nearly last call: A late-night dining diversion at Stark’s Mountain Grill
Special to The Aspen Times
When the text came through on my phone from crack cocktail columnist Rose Laudicina that the newly opened dining destination at the freshly minted Viewline Resort Snowmass wanted to host us for a cocktail and dinner preview, I was immediately intrigued. Rose, no slouch to pairing food and drink, had done this before with my Foodstuff predecessor, Kaya Williams, when the duo visited Last Chair at Wildwood Snowmass to pair food and drinks for co-columns last spring.
When we scheduled the night out, I hadn’t connected the dots that our 8 p.m. dinner was at the exact same time as a Snowmass free concert on Fanny Hill. Parking challenges, and the fact that I’d prefer to be in my pajamas petting my dog at 8 p.m. aside, I figured this was perfect. The Viewline’s beautiful deck overlooks the show and has plenty of seating (and a big bar). What I didn’t consider is that the deck would be full (of course it would be). I arrived first, and the team kindly sat us inside in a large, high-backed, red-velvet booth, with the sounds of soft jazz coming through the speakers, and the bass of the band reverberating every time the servers moved from the dining room to the deck.
When Rose arrived, we decided to start with a couple of cocktails and a set of three starters suggested by the staff. I ordered the Melon Refresh with Tequila LALO, Aperol, watermelon, lime and Fever Tree soda, and three generous portions of appetizers arrived at the table. We got the restaurant’s most popular selections, according to the manager: the smoked trout spread with house pickles, herb salad and grilled baguette; the skillet cornbread topped with wildflower honey and grass-fed butter; and elk carpaccio accompanied by herb salad, parmesan cheese and green olive oil.
I sucked down my watermelon drink with the patience of someone who usually schedules a dinner reservation about 90 minutes earlier than we had and tucked into the carpaccio. Thinly sliced rounds of elk topped with flaky sea salt were good but needed more salad to accompany them; the herbs didn’t quite offset the saltiness of the meat.
Our kind server checked on us approximately 7,000 times, as we were the only people actually inside the restaurant, save for about three people at the bar. Everyone else was rocking out to the band outside. In the restaurant’s defense, we were cozy in our half-moon booth. I’m sure they would have tried to figure something out if we had requested a move to a more music-oriented location. I also was too busy stuffing my face to bother anyone with anything. I continued munching and really enjoyed the trout dip, which was specifically sold to us as “not very fishy,” which is generally my main problem with a fish dip (good sell, manager John!). Light and flaky, with a side of pickled vegetables and perfectly grilled bread for smearing, it was definitely my favorite bite of the night, and I’m even surprised to see myself typing this.
We ordered another drink; this time I tried the Picture Perfect spritz with St. Germain, sparkling rosé, Fever Tree soda and basil. I told Rose it was a “real porch pounder” and proceeded to decide on my main course.
The restaurant features a nice mix of entrees for both meat eaters and vegetarians, with offerings such as a roast chicken, a burger, a couple of meat-free pastas and a salmon (all between $25 and $40, save for the filet, which was a spendy $60 per plate). Rose and I were both in a carnivorous frame of mind, so I got the steak frites, which is an 8 oz. bistro steak with bearnaise sauce on the side and fries, medium rare. Rose ordered the burger, which comes with white cheddar, tavern sauce, red onion and also a side of fries. We should have further strategized our meals to sample more variety, but the heart wants what it wants. For good measure, I also threw in an order for the truffle mac and cheese starter that we could share as a side. Because life is all about balance!
Things went a little haywire in the kitchen, as our entrees took longer to arrive than anticipated. To wit: The band was done before we were, but I was relaxed, well-cared for by the restaurant staff, and the fries were cooked to crispy perfection. Rose equated them to “high-end McDonald’s,” and I’m not mad about it.
So, if you’re in Snowmass, check it out for yourself. My advice? Go with a selection of starters, an order of fries and the side of macaroni and cheese and you can’t go wrong. The wines by the glass were reasonably priced, as well. In the summer, if you happen to be there on a Thursday night, go early and be sure to request a table on the patio. Enjoy the show!
Katherine Roberts is a mid-Valley based writer and marketing professional who basically loves nothing more than eating, drinking, gabbing with friends and listening to music, so this column was a home run. She can be reached via her agency, Carington Creative, at email@example.com