Every spring we have the same conversation about any summer trip we have planned. “Why would we leave our beautiful spot at home just as the trees and gardens are blooming? What could be better than our very own farmers’ market? Why don’t we just stay put and enjoy listening to a hodgepodge of free summer music from our tattered lawn chairs? Let’s greet old friends and sip chilled Sancerre from paper cups!”
But off we go because we love a change of vibe and scenery. And because summer reminds us to re-visit places we’ve already been, we headed to Aspen again.
It’s so easy when you know where to find the best veggie wraps after a big hike, when you can recall the name of that good humored fly-fishing guide (who doesn’t mock our twice a year fly fishing expeditions), where to find the best vegetarian plates after climbing a creaking flight of steps in our favorite bookstore.
Regular readers of this blog (thank you) may remember that I covered lunches and dinners in Aspen a couple of summers ago. Not much has changed so if you are preparing for a trip or know a like-minded eater who is, let them know about these posts. Having covered the vegetarian and kosher friendly food scene already, I felt sure that I would use my camera for family shots and scenery ONLY. HA!
Riding bikes in Aspen is a THING. The roads have bike lanes and the drivers are patient. We slip our bikes into bike racks along the town’s historic streets , taking the the cue from the rows of other unlocked bikes. We leave them unlocked and walk away unconcerned about security.
On past rides we’ve been curious about a large fenced garden that we passed across a field of perfectly orange poppies. This time, we rode down that narrow path to explore it up close.
In some ways, I felt like an intruder. This community garden is for all to plant and enjoy but there is an intimacy and community bonding aspect that I was aware of as I wandered the vaguely marked squares of irises, poppies, rosemary, squash blossoms and scallions.
Some tend to their plots with meticulous attention to every stray weed, some allow their intrusion.
It was a vibrant and peaceful plot to explore.
I was sure to reserve dinner at Plato’s, one of my favorite spots in town. It’s Bauhaus design, with curved floor to ceiling glass walls, place diners within earshot of the rushing Castle Creek below. Sweeping views of Aspen, Highlands and Buttermilk mountains are breathtaking.
Located at Aspen Meadows, the location of the Aspen Institute and the home of the Aspen Ideas Festival, it’s a perfect campus to wander around. Finish dinner early enough and walk the winding paths to the Aspen Music Tent where you can catch the second half of whatever magnificence is being performed that evening. Lawn seating is encouraged and free.
I’ll take Mozart for dessert any time.
Chef Aaron Schmude, Sous Chef at Plato’s for only 3 months when we met him, is a young and extraordinary talent. “I am fortunate to have a garden on the side of our patio where we can pick herbs and small lettuces. Aspen is very local oriented, and it is easy to source produce from around the valley. Beautiful, rich wild salmon comes from Alaska,” he explained.
We loved his cooking so much that I returned on a subsequent eve in order to catch the natural light on their porch before the sun descended behind the purplish peaks.
Chef Schmude shared two recipes with me. If fish fumet doesn’t freak you out (and it shouldn’t), let me know and I’ll share his recipe for Olive Oil Poached Wild King Salmon.
Hoping to keep things simple, I’ve chosen to share Schmude’s Roasted Beets and Radishes Salad with Goat Cheese Mousse.
If you can’t imagine using a whipped cream charger to achieve this frothy goat cheese delight, simply plate the salad with your favorite local goat cheese and you will be MORE than just fine! If you’re up for making the mousse with the iSi Cream Chargers as it is written in this recipe, click here to find it at Amazon.
This Beet and Radish Salad highlight a great range of bright summer colors and textures.
Thank you, Chef Schmude, for this delicious treat.
This salad is kosher and dairy. Make it pareve (non-dairy) and vegan by leaving off the goat cheese.
- 2 spears roasted white asparagus
- 1 spear shaved raw asparagus
- 4 cherry bomb radishes
- 4 slices watermelon radishes
- 3 beets, scrubbed and quartered- set aside to pickle. See below.
- 2 baby roasted beets *
- 4 slices shaved raw beets
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 tablespoon roasted pistachios
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 peppercorns
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 cups champagne vinegar
- 10 coriander seeds
- 5 roasted shallots
- 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
- 1 tablespoon dijon
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 champagne vin
- 4 cups grapeseed oil
- 1/2 cup orange blossom honey
- 3 cups local chevre
- 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
- 2 cups heavy cream
- CO2 charge
- To pickle the beats, heat all ingredients in pickling solution until sugar dissolves. Use a strainer and pour over quartered beets. Allow to cool.
- Toss salad ingredients with the dressing, season
- Charge the mousse in an iSI container, using a Whip-It CO2 charge
* Roasting beets: Scrub beets and cut off greens (reserve and wok with garlic another time). Season with EVOO, salt and pepper and encase them in a silver foil packet with ends crimped. Roast in 375 degree oven for 25-40 mins, depending on size. You should be able to pierce them with a fork. Remove from oven, unwrap and cool. Their peel will slip off easily.
** Substitute your favorite local goat cheese if you don't want to whip it.