Food Matters: A Slow Change of Seasons in Marble | AspenTimes.com

Food Matters: A Slow Change of Seasons in Marble

Amanda Rae

Colorado State Highway 82 is an 85.3-mile-long state highway in Colorado. Its western half provides the principal transportation artery of the Roaring Fork Valley on the Colorado Western Slope, beginning at Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 6 in Glenwood Springs southeast past Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen.

As soon as I pull up to the storage unit in Basalt, I panic. It's the quintessential autumn afternoon downvalley — bluebird sky; golden leaves — and I'm not ready to put the Triumph down for hibernation just yet. Despite dreaming of powder days since that early snowstorm dusted Aspen Mountain and surrounding peaks with inches of fluff, now all I can think of are the summer rides I didn't take. The roads less traveled.

Basking in sunshine on warm asphalt, I'm hungry for adventure. So I gear up, lock the steel door, and set out on one last journey. Destination: unknown.

I shoot down Highway 82, swing left at Catherine Store, cut through Main Street in Carbondale, and punch it south on Highway 133. I figure I'll climb to the top of McClure Pass, maybe cruise into Paonia or Hotchkiss to scope vineyards and apple orchards…until I see the sign for Marble.

I'm not sure if Slow Groovin' BBQ will be open when I get there (the beloved eatery and town hub closes for winter), but I know that the smooth series of curves snaking through tree groves and past massive alabaster carvings perched along the roadside makes for one wicked ride. I press on. I'm the only rider out here, no cars in my way, and the sun still high enough in the sky to keep me warm.

I smell the smoke before I see it. Success! Inside, the dining room hums with patrons watching football from screens overheard; more folks lounge on the wraparound deck. When I slide onto a stool, bartender Matt tells me that they're in no hurry here. Slow Groovin' is open for two more weeks, until its annual closing bash on Halloween. The restaurant will be open for regular service until 4 p.m. on Oct. 31; starting at 5 p.m., guests may purchase tickets ($15) for the celebratory buffet dinner.

"They cook up all the barbecue they have left," Matt says. "I'm hoping for a taco bar….yeah, with fresh pico (de gallo)."

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After the feast, the crew will clear away tables and chairs to make room for a dance party (theme this year: video games), fueled by "Spooky Punch" from Marble Distilling Co.

Marble, a town that fluctuates seasonally between a population of about 80 and 170, feels a world away from Aspen, so I shouldn't be so surprised when the place is jam-packed by 4:30 p.m. "From the moment people step foot in Marble, time stops," reads the menu definition of slow groovin'. "Historic buildings remain, dogs roam free, and cell phones stay in the car. What better place to appreciate good food?"

The Slow Groovin' menu has expanded since my last visit…last summer. Among standard fare (platters and combos of ribs, pulled pork, and beef brisket, plus sides and killer nachos) are five salads, brisket-topped poutine, fried okra, and a selection of sandwiches, including a pulled-pork Cuban and a new Vietnamese bánh mì with hoisin-glazed pork belly, cabbage-carrot slaw, and jalapeños on a toasted Louis Swiss hoagie roll. Again I could not resist the lure of the unexpected. Asian flavors at a barbecue joint? Sold.

"We're using fresh, never frozen, pork from Brush, Colorado," Matt says, adding that it's a source of pride for owner Ryan Vinciguerra and general manager and part-owner Steven Horner. Perhaps this careful consideration toward ingredients (plus a low-and-slow cooking philosophy) is one reason why Vinciguerra secured a third-place win for Slow Groovin' at the second-annual Aspen BBQ Cook-off at Ajax Tavern this past September (Aspen Skiing Company's Jim Butchart and Andrew Helsley placed first; Chris Lanter of Home Team BBQ, second.)

Even before the seventh-season closing party on Halloween night, Slow Groovin' hosts a final beer dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 25, with Roaring Fork Beer Company. The evening begins with a snack of freshly baked pretzels and beer cheese alongside AMF Lager; the four-course menu ($50) includes cantaloupe and Serrano ham with sauvignon blanc barrel-aged saison; al pastor taco with tequila barrel-aged lager; country-fried steak with triple IPA; and ice cream with liqueur and coffee with RFBC Full Leather Jacket, a double imperial stout.

"We wanna be known as 'Colorado 'que' and we're defining that as we go," Horner told me back in January, after the Snowmass restaurant launched in the space formerly known as Turk's and Mountain Dragon before that. "It's what we like in other regional barbecue with our own twist using local ingredients."

The team began focusing on these regional relationships a few years ago; now the menu boasts a long list of purveyors, including Milagro Ranch, Old McDonald Farm, Fire Mountain Fruit, Big B's Orchard, and Farm Runners, the delivery service that culls produce and goods from dozens of area farms. Now, with harvest season in the Roaring Fork and North Fork valleys drawing to a close, their influence is strong.

Though these final weeks of October mark the last hurrah for Slow Groovin' in Marble — and, sadly, my moto rides — the road to good 'cue continues. Slow Groovin' Slopeside reopens in Snowmass on Dec. 1.

amandaraewashere@gmail.com

IF YOU GO …

RFBC Beer Dinner

Oct. 25 at 6 p.m.

$50, four courses

RSVP only

Halloween Party and

Closing Night

Video Game Theme

Oct. 31 at 5 p.m.

$15, BBQ buffet + punch

Slow Groovin’ BBQ

101 1st St., Marble

970-963-4090

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