Aspen Times Weekly: Pair of Hearts — Fold Community Kitchen brings small bites to Woody Creek Distillers | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: Pair of Hearts — Fold Community Kitchen brings small bites to Woody Creek Distillers

by Amanda Rae

Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, the old adage rings true: when one door closes, another one opens. Even better is finding a cocktail waiting waiting to greet you.

Fans of Fold Community Kitchen — the charming Carbondale eatery focused on local, sustainable food and known for its Friday-night dinners, lunch, and weekend brunch — were bummed to learn that chef-owner Noela Figueroa recently shuttered the year-old operation, at least temporarily, to reformulate her goals. (As my esteemed predecessor Amiee White Beazley wrote in this very column back in May, Fold is "exactly what I've been hoping to find in the valley: educated, innovative food in a small setting; young chefs who are willing and able to experiment.")

Meanwhile, just 10 miles away in Basalt, Woody Creek Distillers (WCD) has been pondering its own future: how to introduce food to its booze-soaked tasting room, which opened in March. Dishes served there must be prepared off-premises; any caterer to come aboard has to share the small-batch, artisanal mindset of the company, the first and only craft distillery in the country to control every element of its vodka production.

Figueroa hopes to reopen Fold with limited service eventually, but for now she aims to ramp up catering and production of prepared foods. Perfect timing, then, to collaborate with WCD: Fold unveils its "farm-to-table, eclectic American" menu of small plates at the distillery on Dec. 6 from 2 to 8 p.m.

"Local products, everything made from scratch, preserves and pickles…it's that perspective we both have, which is based on craftsmanship," Figueroa says. "Everything will change, depending on what we can get our hands on seasonally."

For now, Figueroa is assembling a series of snack boards meant to share among two to three people (or make a hearty meal for one). All feature an impressive array of homemade goodies, such as a sampler with pretzel bites, deviled eggs with bacon jam, spiced nuts, warm olives, and a choice of braised lamb, three-onion or apple-bacon hand pies, made with vodka-infused crust ($17). Classic French charcuterie showcases homemade pork rillette, smoked Rocky Mountain trout, Olympic Provisions salami nola and chorizo rojo, prosciutto and pickled watermelon ($20); house-cured gravlax of the week (beet-root, dill) is made with WCD vodka and accompanied by pumpernickel toast, capers, pickled red onions and flavored cream cheese ($18).

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A favorite local delicacy, Avalanche goat cheese, stars on another board ($18), along with preserves, pickles, crackers and crostini — all homemade. Pickle fiends will want to feast on a briny smorgasbord of pickled garlic, turnips, radishes, carrots and sauerkraut, traditional sweet and New York sour pickles, salmon escabeche, crostini and fava bean-mint spread ($19).

"I grew up canning and preserving with my grandmother; we bring that into the food we do," says Figueroa, a West Coast native. "You name it, we can do it."

Sweet and savory chutneys and simple condiments with complex flavors recall the careful preparation that drew diners to Fold; a Sunday brunch board with baked goods will join the ranks soon. As Figueroa is known for keeping an eye toward sweet treats to cap a meal, Fold's dessert board ($15) presents up to 10 miniature confections at once, such as ricotta-date cake, bourbon-coffee black walnut tartlet and chocolate pot de crème.

"We are into using high-quality, locally sourced products in our spirits, and that goes hand-in-hand with food as well," says Woody Creek Distillers hospitality manager Tracey Snow. "That's the thing about this valley: people wanna know what they're eating, and where their spirits come from."

WCD put Basalt on the craft-spirits map in March 2013, when the 10,000-square-foot facility launched with its signature potato vodka, crafted from mountain spring water and tubers grown on co-founders Pat and Mary Scanlan's ranch in Woody Creek. (The vodka, also the brainchild of co-founder Mark Kleckner, is distributed throughout Colorado, in Kansas, Tennessee and beyond.)

WCD Reserve vodka — available for purchase only at the tasting room — is distilled from heirloom Stobrawa potatoes, which hail from Poland. In fact, WCD is the first in North America to farm the variety. The distillery also produces other spirits made from crops grown in Colorado: bourbon-style four-grain spirit, gin, rye whiskey, apple brandy and Olathe corn white whiskey, all of which pour at the tasting room, which is open Tuesday through Sunday, 2 to 8 p.m. Distribution deals for those are in the works.

Though the tasting room is unable to prepare food — hence the catering engagement with Fold — all alcohol served must be produced on-premises. So, bar manager Ryan Snow — Tracey's son and a culinary school graduate poached from The Pullman in Glenwood Springs — is concocting his own flavor enhancers to fashion classic cocktails. Snow's Sazerac, for instance, features homemade absinthe bitters and star anise syrup; he's toying with the idea of creating a coffee liqueur à la Kahlua to mix into White Russians.

Snow's cocktail menu is layered, playful and smacks of familiar foods: Smoke on the Water blends WCD rye whiskey with house-made tobacco bitters, apricot preserves, lemon and agave; the Mandarin Milk Punch mixes WCD Olathe corn white whiskey with milk, honey, five-spice syrup and other aromatics.

"People think of pairing wine and food, but spirits go well with food also," says Tracey Snow, who is working toward a degree in sustainable cuisine at Colorado Mountain College. "It will be a lot of fun to educate people on that."

The woodsy, modern tasting lounge at Woody Creek Distillers is a certainly good place to start. "A lot of people come in and have a cocktail, but then they leave because they're hungry," Snow adds.

Not anymore: Fold Community Kitchen has joined the party.

Write to Amanda Rae: amandaraewashere@gmail.com

Woody Creek Distillers

Tasting Room Food Launch

Dec. 6, 2 to 8 p.m.

60 Sunset Dr., Basalt

970.279.5110

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