Despite it being 5:00 the host looked at us with arched eyes. "You have a reservation of course." "Of course." Of course we did. It was Saturday night (if you can call 5:00 night) and dining in Denver requires a reservation. Obviously.
Perhaps it was Steve's liquid but despite wanting to order all of the meats and carbs we did begin with a lovely baby squash dish. We were particularly interested in the
masa crunchies and we were right to be. I think more veggies need Masa crunchies.
Here you see chicken and waffles with burnt orange syrup, orecchiette with
roasted mushrooms, confit garlic, hazelnuts, manchego cheese, and a deconstructed french dip. Or you would have seen the deconstructed French Dip but Steve ate it before I photographed it. The big winner was the orecchiette, or more specifically the orecchiette sauce. I didn't think I liked hazelnuts outside of a Nutella tub, but apparently I do.
Do I recommend 12 @ Madison? Oh yes. Just make sure you have a reservation, an order of the sauce that comes with pasta, and a double order of rolls.
I am not the best traveller. I don't like cars or planes. I don't like boats or trains. I don't like strange beds or slowly dripping showers. I don't like friends having fun and staying up all hours. I don't like hiking or biking. There is not much to my liking. But I like Aspen. And channeling Dr. Seuss.
I also like eating and drinking.
I woke up early on day two to buy pastries. I bought all the pastries. They cost a billion dollars and were sickeningly good. Maybe the place was Paradise bakery? If not it should have been. I was not the only carb-obsessed traveller. We each brought snacks to share. Not many of these bags made the trip home. Particularly because they paired so well with the Green Chili cheddar dip.
In addition to carbohydrates day two featured the one hike I managed: Maroon Bells. Short and spectacular. Lets ignore the fact that we got there by shuttle and a large portion of the "hike" was navigated with ease by octogenarians. I didn't include the iconic lake shot because I am not one to follow the herd.
Except literally as I followed the herd around the lake.
After the hike we needed hydration so we headed the W hotel bar. We are attending to our hero, enjoying his Australian accent as much as our drink orders. Our priorities changed however when he dropped our drinks in the pool. It was a rescue mission befitting the great Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin. But luckily less deadly. It had a happy ending:
The next morning those of us who were sane skipped the hours long almost pure vertical hike. We hit a local coffee shop. Shop local people. Just check the cup if you need a reminder. Which you might before your caffeine.
Then we headed to the art market/farmer's market, the John Denver Botanic Garden, and a walk to look at billion dollar houses.
One of our group calls the Hotel Jerome her happy place. Or something more soulful. That said we decided to pop in around lunchtime. You can do some deep reading about the architecture and amenities on their website. We walked through the excellent lobby, checked out the closed bar and then settled in for burgers at the J Bar. Although I don't remember prohibition I have decided to add the word fiasco to my life. It is a fiasco that I have been ignoring it for so long. Was that as forced as me at Maroon Bells. Maybe.
That night (our last one) found us at Monarch Steakhouse. Eat local. Here I followed the martini rule. Martinis are like breasts. One is two few. Three are too many. Except that I didn't actually follow the rule and had three. Hence the un-fun drive home.
Another highlight of Aspen? The bathrooms! I am not talking about posh bar bathrooms. I am talking about outdoor bathrooms.
Here's to Aspen: full of hikes, bites, drinks and billionaires. And snark.
We were seated in a booth next to the bar. Behind the bar was a man in the same denim apron that all the servers sported...but his seemed to have a purpose. He was reshaping large ice cubes (the clear kind that only places with mixologists seem to be able to produce) with a cleaver. It was an Edward scissor hands kind of moment but with ice shavings flying at his chest rather than branchlets.
At this point our dinner dates arrived. After removing their helmets (because they biked...duh) they were ready to join us in a deep dive of the menu. First drinks.
Steve had ordered the Bierstadt Pilsner because it is hard to find. So he says and its better just to believe him. We spent some time talking to our server about the Toki-Hi. Evidently it is blended Japanese Whiskey that is evervesed by a device that looks like a soda stream but has some sort of rock in it. Either the whiskey or the machine are the only one in Denver. That particular hi-bol got earmarked for next time.
It was at this point that Steve and I tried to share the excitement of the ice shaving with our companions. "They weren't making cubes!" (that was me, perhaps too excited) They were making..."Dodecohedrons" (that was Steve and me in thrilling unison.) D + J laughed at us as I explained that dedecohedron was our safe word. "Really?" "Well it is now." Also- dedecohedron is spelled dodecahedron.
So normally we would go for the tasting menu. Here it is called Entrust which is a great name...except I kept reading it as encrust. and outside of pies and earths I don't like the word crust. Instead we opted for one small dish, three sticks, one pasta, and one large dish. Want to guess which ones?
Next up were the sticks. Chicken Meatball, giant mushroom leg, and prawn. The prawn was the major winner. A great hit of spice, perfect texture, some other description that a real foodie would give.
For our large plate we devoured the wagyu flank steak. Perfect texture. Sauce wasn't salty enough for me but I am a freak about salt. It came with Chickory in some sort of delicious aioli. I didn't think I liked chickory. I was wrong. I was also wrong about the spelling of Chicory. K? Also porridge with herb pesto from their outdoor herb walled dining area. For someone who would rather be a carnivore than an omnivore the chicory was a shocker.
Then there was dessert.
The menu called it Buckwheat Chocolate Tart. Featuring winter citrus caramel and cofe corretto cream. It did not look like a tart. That did not matter. Smooth and crisp, salty and sweet, warm and cool. This was study in contrasts that came together perfectly. It is tomorrow now (assuming you agree that time is non-linear) and I want it again. Dodecahedron.
You might have noticed the lead photo on this post. Why? Because you have eyes and a soul.
Wolf's Tailor details:
Magical Ice show
Fancy Japanese stoned whisky thing
Pasta with great mouth feel
Opened by Basta Chef Kelly Whitaker
The newest French Press which opened in Congress Park on Madison between 12th and 13th serves Boulder Breakfast. Or Bolder breakfast. I am not sure which. I like to think it is the local version but it is also quite strong and outspoken so either would be a fitting name.
Since it opened some months ago I have been lots of times where lots = > 15 and < infinity. I am almost universally happy with my experiencessss. I find the food fantastic, the portions large and the prices so low that I am left worrying about the longevity of my new favorite spot. I know eggs are cheap but at $7 ish dollars for eggs, asparagus, and spicy hollandaise, plus the B-lder tea makes me think about plate costing and other distant memories from my time as a restauranteur.
They have an enormous Chalkboard of food options which includes two crepes for $4. Oliver would give them two thumbs up but currently his thumbs are covered in Nutella. Friends have had shrimp po boys, veggie reubens, pancakes, and a variety of salads to universal acclaim. Inevitably as the dish is dropped on the table more quickly than expected my date says "I'll never be able to finish this all." A minute or two later I hear the scrape of fork against empty plate and satisfied sighs.
What am I doing?
Battling my tea obviously.
Here is the one bad thing.:
It took concetration and practice but after several leaks large and small I figured out how to be careful with the carafe. Once when I had my confidence raised to a false high I approached the friendly counter staff and asked for more hot water. After my refill I decided to get a water to go with my other water. I ALMOST set the thing on the edge of that little nubbly mat that goes under the fountain drinks. But I caught myself. Because I am getting good at this. Instead I placed it directly on the mat ... the nubs of which caused my scalding water to fill the mat which is there specifically to collect liquid and overflow onto the counter. People were friendly.
Interesting in trying my favorite breakfast and lunch spot? Look around. I will probably be there with my laptop, a huge wad of soggy napkins, and a seat for you as long as you have insurance on your electronics.