LaCo no more
August 18, 2005
This column has been dedicated to pointing out the special delights of life in Aspen (and, sometimes, life in general). Those citations rarely come with a sense of urgency, tinged by sadness, but that is the case this week – because this week we are talking about La Cocina.For those of you who somehow didn’t read the front-page story in The Aspen Times or didn’t hear the citywide moan of despair that greeted that story, the news is this: LaCo is closing. So now, with sad urgency, we must honor that curious star in Aspen’s culinary firmament.”Curious” because LaCo never fit anyone’s idea of what Mexican food ought to be. Aficionados of la comida Mexican have scratched their heads in puzzlement when they were served their first plateful of Nick and Sarah Lebby’s tacos, burritos or enchiladas. “Never mind the garlic bread on the side of the plate, why is there red sauce all over my tacos?”Some never got past that first puzzlement. Most dug in on faith and became lifelong devotees of what the Lebbys advertised as “creative cooking.”Everyone has a favorite LaCo order-by-the-number dish. A No. 2? No. 5? No. 9? Take your pick. And, oh, those desserts … all delectable, and the Chocolate Velvet all the more so for the fiercely guarded secret of its recipe.And did we mention the margaritas?Or, for that matter, the waitresses? Nick, bless his heart, has established a decades-long tradition of hiring beautiful, athletic, spirited examples of Aspen’s best young ladies to wait on his customers.But beyond all that, there is the tradition of Nick and Sarah. LaCo’s greatness stands on the foundations of Sarah’s beautiful shy smile and Nick’s almost absurdly sincere graciousness. Will anyone ever again say “Come on in!” with quite that same style? And will anyone else ever be able to pull off glancing at a list of 50 names and declaring, “No problem. Ten minutes.”La Cocina has been an Aspen fixture for more than 30 years now. Generations of locals and tourists alike have enjoyed great meals and great moments there. Great events have been celebrated and great romances have begun. So hurry up and enjoy the High Point that is La Cocina – before we have to deal with the low point of its closing, not just for the offseason, but forever.
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