Food Matters: A bucket list of food wishes for the New Year
January 3, 2019
Over baked brie and red wine one evening, my gal pal and I brainstormed essential food experiences that she and her long-distance beau could tackle during his extended holiday visit in Aspen. Topping our list: midday cross-country ski to Pine Creek Cookhouse. A hearty lunch of Colorado game and fish in a handsome log lodge with sweeping vistas of the Elk Mountains after a heart-pumping glide over a mile and a half of snowy trail alongside near-guaranteed wildlife sightings? Obviously!
That's when it hit me: I've never skied to Pine Creek Cookhouse for lunch. I've traveled by horse-drawn sleigh beneath moonglow (thank you, fine folks of the Après-Ski Cocktail Classic). I've buzzed up 12.5 miles of freshly paved asphalt on Castle Creek Road via café racer in the summertime. I've ambled around Ashcroft and bellied up to the bar for an obligatory afternoon beer, best enjoyed out on the sun-drenched patio along with those epic views and animal passersby.
That a ski-to-PCC has somehow evaded me in seven short years here almost blows my mind. So now it's number one on my 2019 food to-do list. A few more #foodgoals:
JAPANUARY at HAO HOUSE
I've visited chefs David "The Ramen Monster" Wang and Kiyong Kim's evolving Asian popup inside Jimmy's Bodega a few times, sampling almost everything from December's concise menu of Korean cuisine. While the KFC (Korean fried chicken) with hot mustard honey aioli will be missed, I'm jazzed for the next menu in the winter-long series, "Japanuary," highlighting dishes from the Land of the Rising Sun. The place is consistently packed, but a 4:30 p.m. opening nightly makes securing seats doable. Regardless, sitting at the bar this month might most authentically simulate Japanese izakaya dining. 307 S. Mill St., haohouseaspen.com
CHINESE NEW YEAR AT JING
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Mark your calendars: Tuesday, Feb. 5, is Chinese New Year 2019. And again Shanghai-born chef-restaurateur Frank Lu again hosts a special celebration at Jing (known as Asie for 17 years). If you haven't peeped the incredible $1.2 million transformation—the interior a modern Chinese jigsaw of bamboo wood, with secret-door bathrooms—now's the time! I've missed the Chinese New Year bash in years past; that 2019 is "Year of the Pig" might be kismet. (RSVP unavailable on OpenTable currently, but walk-in diners are welcome to try their luck at the bar.) 413 E. Main St., 970-920-9988, jingaspen.com
SAVORY "S'MORES" AT THE ST. REGIS
Mountain Social, the living room lounge of the St. Regis Aspen Resort, quietly launched chef Laurent Pillard's winter menu, which features a list of build-your-own sweet and savory s'mores. First, choose crackers, such as pretzel toast, pita or mini bagel toast. Schmear 'em with dairy, "the marshmallow" component: truffle burrata, housemade ricotta, creamy Brie, then load on accouterments ranging from candied bacon and smoked salmon to eggplant caviar and piquillo peppers. Five choices in each category yield lots of possible combinations (any math whizzes out there?).
For those with a sweet tooth (and kids), traditional ingredients include flavored house-made marshmallows, fruit, nut butters and four kinds of chocolate for sandwiching between graham crackers or cookies. On second thought, I might go for speculoos biscuits to stuff with hazelnut-studded chocolate and raspberry marshmallow. 315 E. Dean St., 970-920-3300, stregisaspen.com
SOUTHERN FEASTIVITY AT 7908
Alligator corn dog at the bar with a Coors Banquet? Don't twist my arm. As promised, Louisiana-native chef Craig Walker's winter menu showcases a number of other Southern specialties: chicken and sausage gumbo with popcorn rice; Cajun shrimp and grits; Gulf red snapper with lemon-chili pistou and micro arugula; and a shrimp po' boy on Best Bakery bread, flown in from Houma, Louisiana, for novelty. I might throw in a sure-thing roasted beet salad (which includes the most luscious American feta ever made, with sheep's milk, by Fruition Farms in Boulder) or try the carrot soufflé. Yep, that sounds like my speed. 415 E. Hyman Ave., 970-516-7908, 7908aspen.com
I must have been exceptionally lucky this year, because somehow I've accumulated a stack of Aspen gift certificates. Without fail I forget to bring them with me, though, so 2019 shall be the year of cashing in with pals in tow. (Bird-like eaters need not apply.) I'm excited for these three redemptions—all quintessential Aspen flavors:
Bonnie's: Famous oatmeal pancakes and mimosas, shared with my best shred buds. Duh.
La Crêperie du Village French Alpine Bistro: Toss up between the Deluxe Fondue (Gruyère, Vacherin, Beaufort, Comté cheeses), add truffles, and gnocchi-flette (black truffle potato gnocchi with caramelized onions, bacon, and melted Gruyère cheese), almost as good as fondue. Is it considered gauche to order both for the table?
Ellina: The locally famous braised artichoke heart bruschetta with perfectly poached egg and shaved truffles—one apiece, because deep down nobody ever wants to share this, single runny yolk spilling over crusty toast and all—and the seared octopus starter with Parmesan risotto cake. Followed by espresso martinis for dessert, naturally.
STEAKHOUSE No. 316 … IN BOULDER!
Once the holiday season simmers down, I plan to whisk off to Boulder to see my cuz and scope the new Steakhouse No. 316, which opened in early December. Word on the street is that the sister spot is stunning: 120 seats, and the same classy, straight-out-of-a-Turner-Classic-Movie vibe as the restaurant here on Hopkins Avenue, echoed at The Monarch and The Wild Fig. Outgoing Steakhouse/Monarch head chef Barry Dobesh is at the helm in downtown Boulder, serving up familiar classics, including raw bar and bar menu items, plus Monarch's tableside caesar salad. Happy to report that my favorite side dish endures—a bucket list bullet point for Aspen, too: Miso-glazed shishito peppers and haricots verts with scrambled egg and crispy shallots. 1922 13th St., Boulder, 720.729.1922, steakhouse316.com
Which food experiences are on your 2019 bucket list? email@example.com
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