Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020 issue.
If you’re seeking an adventurous dining experience, look no further than the Pine Creek Cook House nestled in the stunning Castle Creek Valley. Located 12 miles outside of Aspen near the ghost town of Ashcroft, you’ll find a log cabin serving up a menu of American Alpine cuisine that is a unique dining experience unlike any other.
There are few options to get there, but by car isn’t one of them. During the winter season (Thanksgiving through April) Pine Creek Cook House is only accessible by a 1.5-mile cross-country ski, snowshoe or a cozy horse drawn sleigh. Bring your camera, but don’t expect to have cell service on this unplugged adventure. The views of the Elk Mountain range are majestic and certainly well worth the trek once you arrive.
Make time to explore the 35 kilometers of freshly groomed Nordic ski trails that offer something for all abilities and surround the abandoned mining town of Ashcroft. Once home to a population of roughly 2,500 people, six motels, 17 saloons, a bowling alley, a doctor, jail and more, Ashcroft saw its demise in 1887 when a decision to take the Denver and Rio Grande railroads through rival mining town Aspen took most of its residents with it. Today there are still several buildings standing for visitors to explore through a self-guided tour.
After the journey to the cabin, diners can warm up with one of their signature hot drinks before their meal begins. Executive Chef Chris Keating and his team take pride in using ingredients that are locally sourced and responsibly raised, using natural and organic products whenever possible and all dishes are made from scratch. Wild game and fresh fish stand out on the menu, however, the vegan and gluten-free options may tempt even the most die-hard carnivores in your group.
Dinner is served as a four-course experience, starting with family style appetizers created daily such as lamb meatballs with tikka masala sauce or smoked black cod fresh from Alaska. Chef Keating, also a painter by trade, takes the term “culinary arts” to new levels and recommends the Buffalo Momos, a Nepalese dumpling with spicy roasted tomato sauce, ponzu and cilantro salad for the table and the Rocky Mountain Elk Chop as a main, served with a smoky sweet potato puree, kale and rosemary cabernet sauce. Sommelier Stacey James works closely with Keating to ensure there is a perfect wine pairing for every dish on the menu.
Plan accordingly as reservations are highly recommended; lunch is offered six days a week (closed on Tuesdays), while dinner is offered Wednesday to Sunday. Call 970.925.1044 or visit pinecreekcookhouse.com to save your seat.
Photos by Johnny Wilcox.