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Posts Tagged ‘Rustique’

Recently, on a trip touring the food and beverages of Aspen, Co, I had an ironic moment when an old Burger King ad jingle popped into my head at one of Aspen’s, and the world’s, most renowned restaurants, Mastuhisa. What in the world could an exquisite restaurant sourcing high quality and unique ingredients for both its menu and bar have in common with a global fast food chain?

In the 1970’s, Burger King ran advertisements touting its’ ability for customers to get their burger exactly the way they desired. The popular jingle, “Have it Your Way,” became a defining competitive stance.  So there I was sitting in Aspen amongst a group of journalists for a special lunch and this is what I hear “I’m lactose intolerant and I don’t eat meat, but I do like fish and eggs,” “I’m a vegan and I also don’t do well with fats,” “I am an omnivore – I like everything – bring it on” and, of course, then there was me, “I am a Qualitarian – can you tell me where the fish comes from…and the soybeans…and is that real wasabi root – how divine!”  To be fair, our food preferences and even interests weren’t news to the chef, they had already been conveyed to the chefs and the servers at every restaurant we attended and so as we sat similar menus were placed in front of us, customized to our preferences.

That said, Matsuhisa is no Burger King, nor is the Montagna, Rustique, Caribou Club, Cloud Nine, Zocalito, Ajax, nor even 39 Degrees at The Sky, the après ski spot –so what proved amazing was that in every instance, we each enjoyed “Have it Your Way,” menu items that were still completely five-star.  Vegan and vegetarian options were creative both from an ingredient, flavor and visual appeal standpoint. Vegan sushi looked like a work of art at Matsuhisa, risotto made without any fat tasted divine and the colors (beet purple and carrot orange) lit up the table at Rustique, there were no grasshoppers for several but instead bean dishes and guacamole, and chiles at Zocalito delighted, and up on the mountain, chef Ryan Hardy from Montagna made the non-cheese eating menu of pickled and fresh vegetables with mustards, toasted baguette and sautéed truffles taste and look as visually appealing as the fondue-experience.

Customization in fine dining has its’ fans and its’ nay-sayers. For example, I’ve seen menus that state “we politely decline any alterations to the menu” and have witnessed the more overt shunning of a customer by a chef when said customer requested parmesan on their pasta “it is not done that way – ever.”  But in an exclusive resort town, where the defining concept is to cater to the guest’s every whim, it was music to my ears to hear chefs and managers express their pleasure in carrying that over to food requests. Several of the chefs said they felt inspired or challenged (in a good way). The restaurant managers agreed. That said, as Todd Clark, general manager of Matsuhisa Aspen – who developed a gluten-free menu for food and beverages – remarked, “there are challenges – it’s almost always doable if we have advance notice, but we can run into an issue if we have someone who eats here at a less busy time of the year and we customize something for them that takes my chef a long time and then they come back in the height of the season bringing friends and wanting the same thing, it can be tricky if we can’t accommodate that at that moment.”

So next time you are planning a ski trip and you know that your crew may have differing opinions on just about everything, feel confident, that when in Aspen, all their mouths can be fed “their way.”



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