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The Art of Food

BY Laurel Miller | July 12, 2017 | Feature Features

Clean, uncontrived dishes designed to highlight pristine ingredients and flawless technique have mercifully replaced the fussy, architectural compositions and squirt bottle-sauced plates of the late 20th century, but the tableside theatrics commonplace back in the day have largely been forgotten. If you love a good show, don't fret: A revival is afoot in craft cocktail bars and new wave fine dining restaurants, nationwide. The following examples prove that the art of the table is alive in Aspen as well.
The Monarch's tableside Caesar salad is pleasing on the eyes and the palate.

Chefs Club, Gypsy Smoke
Since opening in 2012, Chefs Club has solidified its reputation for innovative, intelligent, compulsively quaffable cocktails. Bar manager Matt Corbin carries on the tradition with this racy combination of Basil Hayden’s whiskey, Rèmy Martin VSOP, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth and housemade bitters infused with spiced smoke. Corbin soaks maple chips in Coca-Cola before drying them and integrating with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. The fragrant chips are ground to a rough powder, which is placed in a handheld food smoker (known as a smoking gun). The cocktail is stirred and added to a chilled glass teapot, into which the barrel of the gun is placed. “At this stage,” says Corbin, “we have the cocktail in the bottom of the teapot, while a layer of smoke lays over the top. When poured into a cold martini glass, the smoke and cocktail commingle to create a beautiful, aromatic presentation.” Agreed. $16, 315 E. Dean St., 970.429.9581

The Monarch, Tableside Caesar Salad
At this suave London-style steakhouse, the classic salad has a starring role, albeit with a few tweaks (pecorino rather than Parmesan; a touch of Dijon mustard). Lest you think you’re paying beaucoup bucks for some chopped lettuce, remember there’s a skill to making a proper emulsification. “The angle of the olive oil needs to be correct as it falls into the bowl,” says co-owner Samantha Cordts-Pearce, but achieving the proper salad ratio of salt, acid, fat, umami and crunch—all without tasting—is also part of the mystique. Aspen is obviously onboard; the Caesar has proved so popular, Monarch added a second cart to its service. $20 per person, minimum of two, 411 S. Monarch St., 970.925.2838

Aspen Kitchen, Bone Marrow Luge
To paraphrase Gertrude Stein (a noted art collector), a shot is a shot is a shot. Unless, that is, it’s dispensed via a semiedible “luge” glistening with caramelized bits of bone marrow: Executive chef Matt O’Neill deserves kudos for this distinctive—and delicious—delivery system. After your server presents you with a formidable portion of bone marrow (halved lengthwise and paired with shallot jam and grilled toast points), you’ll be draped in a bib, before a stream of delectably fat-slicked Breckenridge Distillery bourbon is poured down your gullet. Not for the shy or faint-of-heart, this is tableside service with a sly sense of humor. $15, 515 E. Hopkins Ave., 970.300.4525

The Little Nell, Margarita 47
Up, rocks, salt, no salt, flavored with fruit or other botanicals—there are dozens of variations on this ubiquitous happy hour libation, but rarely do they involve clouds of water vapor and tableside preparation. At signature restaurant Element 47, the margarita gets an upgrade from a cart-wielding mixologist who whips up your cocktail using liquid nitrogen (to chill the drink, as well as provide a theatrical touch). The frosty end result is a masterful blend of Casa Dragones tequila blanco, Grand Marnier, fresh lime juice and simple syrup, with an edible silver leaf garnish. Take that, PBR-sipping plebes. $47, 675 E. Durant Ave., 970.920.6330

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