A few days back, while browsing around The Aspen Emporium and Flying Circus, I saw a flier for a farm-to-table dinner at The Cheese Shop in Aspen. Considering that “farm to table” is the sustainable food movement I strive to follow as much as possible, it was imperative for me to jump aboard this opportunity.
I enlisted the company of my good friends Vanessa, JB and Clay and tonight we all sat down to a meal so special and inspiring that I felt compelled to share it with you all.
This event was put on by Sarah and Andrew Helsley,who took over The Cheese Shop back in December of 2011 and have pledged to maintain the same integrity that the store was originally built upon by carefully selecting the finest local handmade and artisan food products available. Another significant contributer to the event was Banks Baker, the manager of The Other Side Ranch in Old Snowmass who provided the chicken for the entree course of the meal. As he described, his ranch is committed entirely to sustainable farming with a predominantly grass-fed diet for all animals, including cows and chickens, and soon to be incorporating Berkshire pigs into the mix as well. All of his butchering takes place on the premises and he believes very strongly that the treatment of the animals, including diet and exercise, has an incredible affect on the quality and taste of the meat product. He hopes to move into various other dairy production, such as milk, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in his future endeavors.
The menu was created using entirely local ingredients, including the freshest seasonal produce as well as cheeses from Avalanche Creamery, a company based in Basalt that gets their goat’s milk from Paonia, just outside of the Roaring Fork Valley.
Even the Pinot was local.
The appetizer course was freshly baked bread and raw butter as well as deviled duck eggs, which as I mentioned in previous posts has a far richer flavor and larger yolk than chicken eggs.
The next course consisted of two salads, an arugula and a spinach. The arugula and mizuna salad was lightly tossed in olive oil and lemon juice with raw carrots, turnips and beets thinly shaved on top. I believe they used a mandolin to slice the veggies, a necessary kitchen tool that I must purchase very soon. The other salad (not pictured) consisted of wilted spinach with Avalanche Creamery Midnight Blue Cheese, turnips and roasted radishes.
The pasta course consisted of freshly made pasta, a simple dough mixture of duck egg, flour, olive oil, salt and pepper pressed to form thin fat noodles.
Next, we moved onto the entree course (as if this wasn’tenough food already).
Lastly, a deliciously light and not overly sweet dessert to cap off the meal.
While the food was undoubtedly amazing, it was what I learned tonight that made it a truly special occasion. I’m realizing more and more that my style of cooking isn’t so much about how you can transform many ingredients into a complex dish, but rather a few simple flavors prepared in a way that can allow the ingredients to shine on their own. This is the food that I like to eat, and this is how I intend to cook my food.
A big ol’ thanks to The Cheese Shop of Aspen for putting on this delicious production, as well as Vanessa, JB and Clay for coming out to the community dinner with me.