Aspen Times Weekly: Eat, Drink & Be Merry! | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: Eat, Drink & Be Merry!

by Amanda Rae

DO YOU REMEMBER what you were doing on 11/11/11? I have a foggy recollection of California cruisin' during the seven-month road trip that led me to this fantastical snow globe. Elsewhere around the world, the date's magical aura saw that millions of couples were married in quickie ceremonies, thousands of babies conceived on Valentine's Day were born, and countless wishes were dreamt up and promptly forgotten. Here in town, the date was auspicious: the Aspen Emporium and Flying Circus — that funky white-and-turquoise cottage on Main Street — opened its doors with a freewheeling celebration of fun and frippery. Local shopping hasn't been the same since.

As owner and fairy godmother Shae Singer proudly proclaims, 98 percent of her merchandise — all of it handcrafted, home-baked, recycled, natural or organic — hails from Colorado.

"If not, it has a cool story behind it," says Singer, who describes the Emporium as a retail laboratory of sorts for local artisans. "You can't be a beeswax candle-maker and pay $5,000 of month's rent, right? But you can have a little shelf in a store. You're doing something wonderful that you love, and sharing your craft."

Singer can usually be found whirling, long hair flowing behind her, through the shop in Aspen or its sister branch on Midland Avenue in Basalt, which she opened in August. She's there to show shoppers a cool cornucopia of moderately priced, meaningful gifts — including plenty of edible treats.

"Especially in this economic time, people are not wanting to give frivolous gifts," Singer says. "Food is always a safe gift. If you give pasta, oil or vinegar, or a box of candy, you know they are going to use and enjoy it."

Here's a sampling of Singer's picks this holiday season:

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Pappardelle's: The Fine Art of Pasta

A favorite at the Aspen Saturday Market for a lucky 13 years, this small-batch dried pasta is made in Denver — by Italians, natch. Choose from a colorful array of about 50 nutrient-packed varieties in various noodles and shapes (16 ounces, $10), such as sweet potato, spicy black bean, garlic and chive, and lemon-basil. For foodies, find frozen ravioli ($12-15); for picky eaters, Pappardelle's makes some of the best gluten-free pasta out there, and it doesn't disintegrate in boiling water. (pappardellespasta.com)

Yepello Chocolates and Confections

New to the valley from Steamboat Springs — and only available at the Aspen and Basalt Emporiums —these decadent artisan truffles are hand-dipped in 72 percent Grand Cru dark chocolate. Assemble a dazzling gift box from coveted flavors such as lavender-vanilla, Champagne, café ancho chile, and Mayan sea salt with peanut brittle ($2), each decorated with jewel-like designs. (yepello.com)

EVOO Marketplace Specialty Olive Oils and Balsamic Vinegars

Try dozens of flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars before you buy: the Aspen and Basalt Emporiums are the only EVOO Marketplace tasting room outside of Denver. Pick up a sampler of six 2-ounce bottles ($40) or a gift pack of four 6.8-ounce bottles ($60) in combinations like Heat Is On (blood orange and chipotle oils; dark chocolate and raspberry vinegars) and Citrus Explosion (with Persian lime oil and tangerine and Sicilian lemon vinegars), or mix and match your own comibation. (evoomarketplace.com)

Wild Bear Bee Farm Honey

Life is sweet in Old Snowmass, where this family-run apiary collects liquid gold from local hives (as well as organic chicken eggs with pretty pastel shells, also sold in the Emporium). Find the pure stuff — raw, unfiltered, unheated — in various sizes ($5-$27); Singer raves about slathering the creamed honey on lemon scones, sold at the Emporium.

Tlaquesalsa

"It's not like going to the grocery store and buying a jar of salsa," Singer says of this small-batch brand, dreamt up by two third-generation Mexican-Americans in the Roaring Fork Valley. The pair traveled to Tlaquepaque, Mexico, to learn recipes for the mild, medium and hot salsas (16 ounces, $8) from their grandparents, who run a restaurant there. Pair a jar with a bag of the company's crunchy white corn chips, and you're party ready. (tlaquesalsa.com)

Too Haute Cowgirls Popcorn and Brittle

Munchies don't stand a chance in the face of these decadent popcorn confections made in Carbondale. Chocolate and candy meet corn in Fistful of Fleur de Sel, The Good the Bad and the Peanut Butter, and my personal favorite: Have Bacon Will Travel (6 ounces, $7). New for the holidays, and sure to be a hit: Haute Buttered Rum Brittle — a melt-in-your-mouth lovechild of buttery English toffee and crunch pecan brittle spiced with dark Jamaican Rum, freshly ground nutmeg, and Saigon cinnamon. (toohautecowgirls.com)

…And miscellaneous eats galore!

The Aspen and Basalt Emporiums are filled with other edible goodies that make easy grab-and-go gifts, including small-batch eggnog truffles; Rock Canyon Coffee beans; Basalt's own Mrs. Barr's Natural Foods Granola and Born to Bake's better-than-Snickers bars; Kate & Aki's oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies from Carbondale; and Colorado Cherry Company peach butter and berry preserves.

"Food brings comfort, doesn't it?" Singer says. "Baking a loaf of bread makes you feel warm and cozy. If you give somebody a bread mix, you're giving them that sense of love and comfort."

Singer points to a few favorites: beer bread, green chili stew, herbed dips, and quick-n-sinful 3-minute microwave fudge ($9.50) from Bear Meadow Gourmet in Peyton. Wrap 'em up in tea towels screen-printed with whimsical illustrations ($10) by Glenwood Springs artist Linda Drake or pair with pottery ($15) thrown by four area ceramists and voila: instant one-of-a-kind gift.

Ten years ago, Amanda Rae made chocolate-dipped bacon for a friend…who still talks about it. amandaraewashere@gmail.com

Aspen Emporium and Flying Circus

315 E. Main St., Aspen, 970.544.2499

Open house Dec 22 at 10-7

132 Midland Ave., Basalt, 970.927.3132

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