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Discover Some of Aspen's Best Eats by Pedaling Off-The-Beaten Path

By Laurel Miller | August 18, 2016
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I’m sitting under a tent at Sustainable Settings, listening to farmer Brook LeVan speak before our group of 35 digs into a family-style meal sourced almost entirely on-site. It’s Field2Fork Kitchen’s first bike-to-farm dinner, and chef/owner Mark Hardin is amped. The former Carbondale Beerworks chef launched his catering company earlier this year, which has allowed him to focus almost exclusively on working with the local growers he’s forged close relationships with.

Field2Fork’s farm dinners are a collaborative community effort, where Hardin and staff partner up with Roaring Fork Beer Company and Marble Distilling Co., with guest stints by local chefs like Flip Wise of Open Fire Catering, Will Nolan of the Viceroy Snowmass and Lacy Hughs of Silo. There’s no such thing as competition amongst this close-knit group, all of them committed to supporting the local foodshed, as well as one another. 

Photo 1: The "Single Udder Butter” table featured butters from three different cows at Sustainable Setting's “A Midsummer Night’s Dinner.” Photograph: Jordan Curet
Photo 2: Farm2Fork Kitchen's main dish at Sustainable Settings was lamb baked in clay, cooked in a pit in the apple orchard. Photograph: Jordan Curet

At the July 19 Sustainable Settings event, billed “A Midsummer Night’s Dinner,” attendees had the option to ride their bikes to the farm from Roaring Fork Brewery. Unlike most farm dinners, the program included four stations (manned variously by the aforementioned chefs or their staff) prior to the main meal. My favorite—and without question the most intriguing—was the “Single Udder Butter” table, at which butters from three different cows (a Jersey, Guernsey and Jersey-Guernsey-cross, aka “Retta, Patch and Vanilla,” who were tied up nearby) were set up for tasting. Because each breed’s milk has a different butterfat content, the flavors varied, from grassy and faintly sweet to rich and complex, with almost savory notes. 

Photo 1: Silo's Lacy Hughs. Photograph: Jordan Curet
Photo 2: Farm2Fork Kitchen's first bike-to-farm dinner: Photograph: Jordan Curet

Another station proffered sweet pea and truffle custard in scooped-out eggshells (the chickens in question reside just yards away). Pulled pork sliders were served up adjacent to two kunekune pigs (a heritage breed from New Zealand) and their litters. Having stations located next to the featured ingredients takes farm dinners to a whole other level, even if you’re well-aware of where your food comes from.

At the table, we passed platters of food, including a main dish of lamb baked in clay (cooked in a pit in the LeVan’s apple orchard) with carrot top and purslane chimichurri, Hopi polenta, cassoulet beans and braised greens. As many farm dinners as I’ve attended, it was still a night and a meal to remember. Having the opportunity to pedal home under a full moon only heightens the experience.

Photo 1: Flip Wise of Open Fire Catering: Photograph: Jordan Curet
Photo 2: Sustainable Setting's kunekune pigs, a heritage breed from New Zealand. Photograph: Jason Dewey

Farm dinners aren’t the only way to ride and dine in the Roaring Fork Valley. Our bike-friendly paths include the 41-mile Rio Grande Trail, which runs from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. Fuel up for the ride downvalley with a layover at Woody Creek Tavern, which does right by burgers and Mexican classics. The adjacent Woody Creek Community Center also has tiny café serving up delicious salads and sandwiches.

A late afternoon pedal down Independence Pass and into Aspen should end with dinner at Plato’s, located at Aspen Meadows. Grab a cocktail on the creekside patio and take in the alpenglow and panoramic views of three ski areas; executive chef Jason Thompson showcases (local, when possible) farmers, ranchers and foragers, as well as ingredients from Plato’s own garden, in contemplative dishes like straciatella di bufala with pickled watermelon, cucumber, heirloom tomatoes and basil. Reservations recommended; Plato’s closes for the season on Oct. 1.

If you’re looking to literally get off the path, ride up Castle Creek Road to the ghost town of Ashcroft for a morning or afternoon of mountain biking, followed by lunch or dinner (reservations strongly recommended) at Pine Creek Cookhouse. Executive Chef Chris Keating prepares “Alpine American cuisine” featuring game and produce, some of which is sourced from the on-site garden.

Photo 1: Plato’s at Aspen Meadows.
Photo 2: Pine Creek Cookhouse in Ashcroft.

In Snowmass, the Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s Creekside café (featured in our June blog) provides just reward post ride. Located on a historic former sheep and cattle ranch on Owl Creek Road (one of the loveliest drives/rides/hikes in the valley), the café is open to the public weekdays, noon to 1pm, June through September; it’s $15 for all you can eat; set menu changes daily and all proceeds fund art center programming. Kitchen managers Geri Maeshiro and Kendra Lizotte are gifted self-taught cooks who source from local farms to create simple, homey, nourishing fare that rivals most valley restaurants.

Get your pedal to pasture on at the next Field2Fork Kitchen farm event on September 24 at 13 Moons Ranch in Carbondale, featuring a concert by Let Them Roar, and kids’ activities. A pre-concert greenhouse tour and tasting—including beverages from Marble Distilling Co. and Roaring Fork Brewing Company will be held at Wild Mountain Seeds on Sunfire Ranch; limit 50 people. Get your tickets here.

Want more bike-to-farm fare? The Viceroy Snowmass offers on-request summer bike-to-farm programs led by former pro cyclist Will Frischkorn of Boulder’s Cured cheese shop. Packages include a Friday farm tour and dinner at Sustainable Settings, prepared by Viceroy executive chef Will Nolan.

Sustainable Settings’ annual Harvest Festival, which features a communal meal, is on September 17; tickets available here (and biking/carpooling is encouraged).

GET THE RECIPE FOR FARM2FORK KITCHEN'S GARDEN PICKLES

Article from Edible Aspen at http://edibleaspen.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/discover-some-aspens-best-eats-pedaling-beaten-path
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