Say “cheese! | Locale | aspendailynews.com
James Beard Award Winning Author, Part-Time Cheese and Aspenite Expert Laura Werlin weighs in some of the best food in town for those who aren’t afraid of dairy and are up for something divinely decadent.
When it comes to what’s cool about Aspen, it’s not just fashion and fitness, it’s the food, too. For me, it’s not just any food, it’s cheese. I call it the “little black dress” of all that is Epicurean. Whether it’s an art gallery opening, a ball game, a casual bar, or an upscale restaurant, cheese is invariably on the menu. With that in mind, I set out to research some of the best cheese deals in and around town this summer. Unsurprisingly, this effort brought me to a lot of delicacies.
Home team barbecue
When life gives you breast, you make breast sandwiches. Or at least you do when you’re at Home Team BBQ, located at the Buttermilk base. An abundance of melt-in-the-mouth beef gave rise to the barbecue Minced Breast Philly with Smoked Gouda– their popular Friday special – while the sandwich’s super cheese, served on an Amoroso roll, landed it on this list. The addition of roasted peppers and onions, a little beef jus on the minced, grilled brisket, and, yes, all that cheese, seals the deal. The hundred or so sandwiches that come out every Friday are proof of how good it is (and when they’re gone, they’re gone until next week). If you can’t make it to the home team on a Friday, you can get the restaurant’s queso on the menu any day of the week, and there’s plenty of goodies in and around the hot cheese dip, including including homemade chorizo, charred poblanos, grilled corn, cilantro, cotija, jalapeños and tortilla chips sprinkled with Home Team’s secret “magic rub”. Goal! hometeambbq.com.
The brand new dish on Ajax Tavern’s all-day menu might not be easy to pronounce, but it’s certainly easy to love. Obatza is the name, and it comes to the tavern through new chef Alex Swecker, who lived in Germany and was wowed by the region’s local Bavarian cheese dish. Served cold, the spread is composed of fromage blanc, a kind of German yogurt, brie, camembert, crème fraîche and a little garlic. Since a spread needs a container to put or dip in it, Chef Swecker answers the call by finishing the dish with regional German sides: pretzels, radishes and red onions. Can you say “beer? ” thelittlenell.com/dining/ajax-tavern.
Local cafe and restaurant
Cheese for breakfast isn’t just about omelets anymore. Take into account Honey and ricotta toast at the local cafe and restaurant. Chef and co-owner Kevin Newland brews a generous quarter cup of his lemon-ricotta blend on thick rye sourdough toast from Paonia Bread Works. He then garnishes it with sliced almonds, crushed pistachios and a stack of thinly sliced apples and pears for added crunch and juiciness. To sweeten the deal, there’s a decent amount of local Bee Squared Alfalfa / Wildflower honey that Chef Newland sprinkles – rather artistically, I might add. It’s no surprise that this new dish has already become a local favorite. localcoffeeaspen.com.
Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar
Everyone now knows that burrata is pretty much ubiquitous in and around Aspen, but Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar in Basalt takes the burrata and does it better. On the one hand, they offer it all year round in the form of a plank on which the burrata is the star and other ingredients like peppers, olives, roasted garlic and a seasonal vegetable (from Fried Brussels sprouts, anyone?) But as good as that is, the burrata dish that keeps me coming back is the one that chef Chris Krowicki decides on the best showcases each season. In the spring, it can be pea shoots, mashed peas, morels and spring onions, and in the summer it is likely to find its place in the middle of a riot of peaches or tomatoes, or both. Whatever the market brings, Free Range will have it. Krowicki’s new super fine homemade chips contrast with the creaminess of the burrata (think crunch and cream). Restaurant co-owner Robin Humble says the two burrata dishes are the restaurant’s best-selling appetizers. It’s not hard to see why. freerangebasalt.com.
Most restaurants serving cheesecake either have the word cheesecake in their name (admit it, you’ve been there before) or they come out of the refrigerators of New York City delis. Not the Goat Cheese Cake produced by the pastry chef of the Hôtel Jérôme Benjamin Kunert. He’s put his own twist on the old-fashioned favorite to deliver one of the most exciting desserts in the Roaring Fork Valley, in this case at J-Bar. For one thing, instead of using traditional cream cheese, it uses goat cheese. And just to make sure it’s cheesy enough, he recently added Colorado’s favorite Haystack Mountain Camembert to the recipe. But the innovation doesn’t stop there. The hazelnuts add hazelnut to the gluten-free crust, while the Mara Des Bois strawberries soaked in Grand Marnier (small precious stones full of flavor), the orange whipped cream and the shortbread crumbles add freshness, beauty and crunch to this. perfectly cheesy but sophisticated dessert. This is not your mother’s cheesecake (with all due respect to mothers everywhere, mine included). In this case, I’m good with it. aubergeresorts.com/hoteljerome/dine/j-bar.