From afar, the candle appears coated in debris—until the server sets it down, revealing that the sediment is, in fact, bits of preserved lemon and freshly cracked black pepper. Moreover, the offering is entirely edible: a four-inch-tall column of compressed animal tallow rolled around a cloth wick, lit aflame, and left to drip-dribble into a lustrous pool for sopping up with crusty wheat slices from Paonia Bread Works.
This “beef candle”—along with other showstopping shareables such as Swiss tête de moine (monk’s head) cheese scraped straight from the wheel, and prime bone-in rib eye for two—sets apart the new Velvet Buck restaurant at the St. Regis Aspen Resort from its predecessors. The menus present more approachable fare, too: Rocky Mountain meats and fish (bison, lamb, duck, Colorado bass, modern spins on beef stew and Salisbury steak—but, surprisingly, no venison for now) meet winter salads, soup, and a roasted local pumpkin entrée that tempts even diehard carnivores at dinner. Lunch serves hearty sandwiches (buffalo pastrami Reuben, crab BLT), while a savory-sweet breakfast buffet with live chef stations kicks off each morning.
In a similar nod to comfort, the dining room revamp includes leather seating and rustic wood surfaces in rich sable tones reminiscent of the soft fuzz on a buck’s antlers (hence, the name).
Locals might recognize certain dishes (tots and caviar, fresh ricotta, butternut tortellini) since chef de cuisine Hunter Kepley and pastry whiz Carolina Kepley both decamped from Aspen Kitchen to join French-born Executive Chef Eric Cousin, formerly of grand resorts around the world. Though the Velvet Buck’s beverage program hews simple—wine, beer, and a handful of classic drinks, including a boulevardier or rumhattan aged in 30-gallon oak barrels atop the bar—craft cocktails are aplenty at Mountain Social, the redesigned lobby lounge. Those who post up here may also enjoy a delightfully extensive menu delivered straight from the Velvet Buck kitchen; that mesmerizing edible candle, however, is served in the restaurant only.