By Kelly J. Hayes By Kelly J. Hayes | May 26, 2021 | Drink Eat culture Migration
Sea scallops, with saffron lemon-butter sauce, basil and microgreens PHOTO BY AHRLING PHOTOGRAPHY
THE PATIO PIVOT
Aspen and alfresco have always gone together, but this summer, restaurants have stepped up their patio game.
Spacious, sun-splashed and comfy, the side street patio at The French Alpine Bistro-Crêperie du Village PHOTO BY AHRLING PHOTOGRAPHY
A bright light in the shadow of the previous year was that Aspen restaurants and guests ventured outside. Many of our most beloved dining destinations pivoted to patios and spilled onto sidewalks creating an alfresco-dining revival.
“It’s been a win-win for our guests,” says Karin Derly, co-founder of The French Alpine Bistro-Crêperie du Village (frenchalpinebistro.com), which has erected a rustic, open-air “mountain chalet” on the sidewalk adjacent to the bistro in the heart of Aspen. “We were extremely grateful that we had the opportunity to make it happen, to make our guests happy and keep our employees,” says Derly.
This summer, visitors will bask in Colorado sunshine amid cowbells and alpine artifacts from Derly’s Austrian home. “Growing up in Austria, there are ski chalets all over the mountains. The design reflects those with the sheepskins and wooden tables. People really enjoy the alpine feel,” she says.
The Bistro Bowl, with wild rice, quinoa, radishes, edamame, shredded roasted carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, avocado and scallions, topped with toasted sesame-ginger dressing. PHOTO BY AHRLING PHOTOGRAPHY
People also relish the bistro’s mountain-inspired cuisine, from authentic schnitzel (gluten-free) to fresh salads. “And a perfect lunch requires a bottle of rosé. We call it French water,” says Derly, laughing. Don’t forget the signature sweet crepes. “It would be almost a sin to miss them,” she says.
Summer fare at French Alpine Bistro-Crêperie du Village: salade d’été croustillante, with red cabbage, shredded carrots, cucumbers, radishes, chickpeas, charred sweet corn, red beets, parsley, cilantro, feta and citrus honey-thyme vinaigrette PHOTO: BY AHRLING PHOTOGRAPHY
Ajax Tavern (thelittlenell.com/dining/ajax-tavern) moved even closer to the slopes, expanding its patio to the very foot of Aspen Mountain. “We didn’t add more tables; we just worked with the mountain manager to gain more space to help spread out,” says Grant Barrette, The Little Nell’s food and beverage director. “People loved the extension, and it has been a good takeaway.”
Sauteed mussels at French Alpine Bistro COURTESY OF CAMPO DE FIORI
The venue also will host its patio-side Monday night film series, beginning June 14. “We [screen] familyoriented films, and people reserve tables and take the kids for dinner and a movie,” says Barrette. Popcorn and Champagne are staples at the concession stand. Outdoor bluegrass concerts will return on Saturday and Sunday afternoons with Shadow Mountain as a backdrop. Burgers, banjos and truffle fries—oh, yes.
Slopeside alfresco dining at Ajax Tavern, with truffle fries and rosé. PHOTO BY ARHLING PHOTOGRAPHY
For nearly three decades, Campo de Fiori (campodefiori.net), the venerable Italian trattoria, has served its loyal clientele of locals and visitors in a courtyard below Restaurant Row. But last year, proprietor Elizabeth Plotke shook things up, adding sliding-glass doors to the entire exterior—creating an indoor-outdoor, open-air experience for patrons. “It feels like such a blessing that we made this decision,” she says. “It’s created a positive feeling for our guests, who can really feel safe while dining.” Visitors can take a table on the tiny patio on a first-come, first-served basis or sit in the dining room, supping on summer staples like handmade fresh lemon pasta with three peas, or zucchini with pesto, feta and olives.
Campo de Fiori, an Italian trattoria, has added abundant sunshine to its venerable dining room by adding sliding-glass doors along the length of the restaurant—all leading to the exterior dining space. COURTESY OF THE LITTLE NELL
After all, we all can use a breath of fresh air.
Photography by: Ahrling Photography; Campo de Fiori