Aspen's 6 Best Baked Breads
"I hate that bread has gotten such a bad rap,”says HOPS Culture executive chef Sarah Helsley, echoing a sentiment shared by chefs everywhere. In retaliation, gluten-spiked dishes are cropping up on local menus, increasingly as the main attraction. Bread, it seems, is back.
Helsley, for one, amplifies tomato soup with crusty Louis Swiss croutons in her riff on Italian ribollita. “We do plenty of them without bread for our gluten-intolerant guests, but it’s just not the same,” she says. Annette Docimo agrees. For decades, the baker has blended bread into her tomato soup—substitutions prohibited—available at Annette’s Mountain Bake Shop a few doors down.
The Little Nell’s new pastry chef, Curtis Cameron, says while he will someday replace element 47’s revered Parker House rolls, he cannot touch its decadent brioche. The scratch kitchen turns out 500 pounds of the delicate, buttery dough per week, using it in various iterations on the menu. It becomes a French toast base for seared foie gras with Paonia peaches, and also stands alongside blinis as a vehicle for Petrossian caviar. Dipped in crème Anglaise, brioche even returns in Cameron’s new dessert French toast with citrus and mascarpone.
Cornbread has graced the menu at Hotel Jerome in some form for at least twenty years, but its current incarnation—flecked with jalapeno, caramelized at the edges, and served piping hot in a small cast-iron skillet before every meal at Prospect, gratis—is tops. Dare we say it: even without the briny bacon marmalade.
At Plato’s Restaurant at Aspen Meadows, chef Aaron Schmude persuaded pastry chef Aleece Alexander to bake sourdough for the sole purpose of chopping, toasting, and stuffing it into game hen roulade, along with Avalanche Cheese’s Cabra Blanca and finocchiona, roasted garlic, and baby kale. Slow-cooked in an immersion circulator and crisped in a fryer, the sliced composition is both crispy and tender, with fragrant filling that’s as much the star as the meat around it.
But leave it to Meat & Cheese Restaurant & Farm Shop to give gluten the bird by dedicating an entire dish to it. The insane decadence of the Bread Board cannot be overstated: six thick half-slices of baker Brennan Buckley’s naturally leavened, slow-fermented wheat bread, charred slightly in porchetta drippings fresh from the rotisserie. Dunk these in vibrant chicken vinaigrette, adapted from Utah-based Food & Wine Best New Chef 2011 Viet Pham’s recipe—roasted-chicken stock reduced for hours, whipped with brown butter, and finished with sherry vinegar and fresh herbs. Behold: the pure power of flour and hot fat.
Regrettably, Meat & Cheese’s chorizo bread salad with pickled grapes and aioli has ghosted from the original menu. “The whole idea was to use old bread,” says chef David Wang. “But we haven’t had any old bread to use, because we’ve been selling out every day!”