Eat, Drink & Be Merry: 24 Hours in Carbondale
The term “staycation” has been in the American lexicon for more than a few years now, but how many of us actually take a holiday in our home town or environs? Despite nearly a decade of researching stories in Carbondale (even before I moved to the Roaring Fork Valley), I’d never spent the night there. Granted, until recently Carbondale didn’t have much in the way of appealing lodging options, but since downtown’s Marble Distilling Co. & Inn opened last May, things have changed. With a tasting room/luxe lodging on Main Street, there’s no longer an excuse not to take 24 (hours) to eat and drink a wee bit excessively. ‘Tis the season, after all.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a true getaway, check out Redstone’s Avalanche Ranch. The 36-acre historic property, owned by the Ogilby-Jacober families (they also own Carbondale’s Fatbelly Burgers, which uses the Jacober family’s Crystal River Meats’ grassfed beef and lamb), is located atop a natural hot spring. Overnight guests have full use of the three tiered pools, but day-use passes are also available (note the pools are closed Wednesdays for cleaning).
Recently, I opted to stay in one of the ranch’s 13 rustic cabins- there are also three renovated sheepherder wagons, a loft apartment, and 3-bedroom ranch house available. While just 11 miles from Carbondale, Avalanche Ranch’s location in the Crystal River Valley feels remote, and as an accommodation, it’s about as relaxing as it gets. The cabins are equipped with kitchenettes, but there’s no restaurant on the property, so plan accordingly (meaning, expect to fall into a deep, drooly slumber post-soak, so hit the pools well before or after you eat). It would definitely be a mistake to skip a meal, when you have just 24 hours in Carbondale.
Consider kicking off your mini-vacay by hitting the Spring Gulch Nordic Trail System. Trail access is made possible by the North Thompson Cattlemen’s Association and Crystal River Ranch, so it makes perfect sense to hit up Fatbelly for lunch afterward. Then, meander up to locally-owned and –roasted Bonfire Coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up, before checking into your accommodation of choice.
Come happy hour, it’s all about Marble Distilling Co. Grab a seat at the stunning bar, carved from a 9,000-pound slab from the quarry in nearby Marble. The emphasis at the distillery is on green construction and production– it’s one of Carbondale’s first commercial buildings to get its International Green Code Certification (IGCC). They recycle 100-percent of the process water to provide energy to heat/cool the building, use reclaimed materials whenever possible, and the spent silage is donated to local farms and ranches for compost and as a high-protein feed supplement.
The smooth, clean-tasting vodka, zingy Gingercello (from distiller/co-owner Connie Baker’s family recipe) and Moonlight EXpresso, made with Bonfire Coffee beans, are all made with Colorado-grown grain and Crystal River water, and filtered through the porous yule marble. Seasonal cocktails change frequently, and the first batch of the distillery’s whiskey is due for release any day now.
From the distillery, head across town (if the weather is decent and you’re staying at the inn, hop on one of the complimentary cruisers) to the unassuming industrial park that houses Carbondale’s newest restaurant, Silo. Chef/owner Lacey Hughes is an alumna of Carbondale’s late, great Six89, and her love of local shows in her homey “farm-to-table” American fare. The brief seasonal menu (breakfast is also amazing) features righteous sandwiches, daily soup and salad specials, cheese and charcuterie plates, and flatbread pizzas (try the pear, Gorgonzola, honey, and thyme). The cocktail menu features an abbreviated list of spirits from Colorado’s top distilleries.
For dessert, pop next door to Roaring Fork Beer Company , which specializes in small-batch seasonal brews; the buzzy tasting room has become a community hub since it’s opening a year ago. If you’re staying at the distillery’s inn, sign off with a nightcap (in lieu of a mini-bar, a drink will brought to your room). At Avalanche Ranch, however, it’s all about a late-night soak (it goes without saying, don’t drink and drive: that’s what Uber is for).
Come morning, you’ll want to head to Town– literally. Chef/owner Mark Fischer’s restaurant (which also offers full-service lunch and dinner) always has a line out the door as locals flock for baker/pastry chef Fiona Smollen’s insanely wonderful doughnuts, cronuts, bagels, double-thick English muffins, and bread; breakfast sandwiches, housemade granola, and steel-cut oatmeal are ideal for a pre-snow sesh.
Whether you spend your morning outdoors or hunkered by the fireplace or wood stove in your room, save time for lunch at Carbondale Beerworks (note it’s only open for lunch/brunch on the weekends; weekdays, the hours are 4-11pm). Try a flight of brewer Jeff Dahl’s nano-batch beers with the earthy gastropub fare.
Many of us find it hard to justify so much caloric and financial indulgence so close to home. The point, however, is to recognize what we have in the Roaring Fork Valley with regard to a legit food scene (featuring nationally-recognized growers and award-winning food and drink craftsfolk, no less). Whether you have 24 hours or need to grab-and-go, consider Carbondale.