Eat & Drink

A Winter Welcome to Almresi, Bear Den, Joonas, and mix6

From bratwurst to bowls to baked goods, these new spots promise to enliven the local dining scene.

By Cindy Hirschfeld December 4, 2019 Published in the Holiday 2019–2020 issue of Aspen Sojourner

An array of shareable starters at Almresi

An Alpine Experience Authentic in Every Way

Despite our Alpine heritage as a ski resort, Aspen diners haven’t been able to enjoy authentic German cuisine in town since the Weinerstube closed. That changes this winter when Almresi opens its doors in the Dancing Bear’s mountainside building. 

The third of a trio of like-named restaurants owned by the German-based Thoma family, the eatery offers a tightly edited menu that also includes dishes from Austria and Switzerland. What’s more, practically everything in the warm, welcoming interior—from the wooden tables to the recycled barnwood paneling to the red-checked curtains to the dishes—was imported from Germany.

The first Almresi (the second is near Stuttgart) opened in Vail three years ago, and the food and ambience will be replicated here. When dining in Vail, we found everything, from Badische flädlesuppe (a rich beef broth with strips of pancake in it, served in a small tureen with slices of hearty house-baked bread) to schmorbraten (tender braised beef) to Swiss rösti (dense potato pancakes accompanied by a cream cheese–like spread dotted with bits of red and yellow pepper; a generous portion of lox; and garnishes of endive, cucumber, and tomato) to be delicious.

There’s also chicken and beef fondue, and hutessen (“eat your hat”), an Austrian specialty that involves a cone-shaped iron grill; while you cook your meat on it, you slurp up the beef broth and vegetables in the “hat brim.”

Almresi’s desserts mandate saving room for, including traditional apfelstrudel and Kaiserschmarnn, an Austrian dish of cut-up pancakes tossed with raisins and powdered sugar and served here with plum preserves. 

The finishing touch: a digestif shot of herbal or pine schnapps, a taste of the Alps in a glass. Open for lunch and dinner. 219 E Durant Ave

Tapas and Pastries and Bears, Oh My!

To call Alia Joonas, 27, ambitious is like saying Aspen Mountain is just a ski hill. A native of Mauritius, Joonas attended college in California and, while hanging out in a favorite café, decided on a goal: opening a chain of bakeries on the Indian Ocean island where she grew up. 

She studied hospitality in the South of France and worked in hotels there and in Dubai, but instead of Mauritius, Joonas is realizing her dream by opening her own restaurant in Aspen—two, in fact—having moved here four years ago with a friend. 

While working at a French restaurant here, she walked by a cottage on Hopkins Avenue, used at the time by the Cooking School of Aspen. “I took a photo and sent it to my parents, saying ‘This is the place,’” she recalls. “I was kind of joking, but now I think it was meant to be.”

In early December, the cottage—redesigned by Joonas’s partner, Bridger Smith, with a “fresh, mountain chalet feel”—will debut as the Bear Den Bakery and Café; then in late January, the large underground space that previously housed the Cooking School will open as Joonas, an eponymous wine and tapas bar. Given the bakery’s diminutive confines, the main kitchen will be in the larger restaurant, with a new dumb waiter connecting the two spaces.

Bear Den will serve pastries and breads (breakfast from 6:30 a.m.), plus an ever-changing assortment of healthy soups and salads for lunch, using local, organic ingredients when possible. Also on tap: cocktails and homemade ice cream. Evenings, the space can host private parties and catered dinners.  

Meanwhile, the cozy, 70-seat Joonas plans a dinner menu of tapas and other shared plates emphasizing Middle Eastern and Asian flavors, along with an eclectic wine list. And—no surprise—given that in-house bakery, dessert specials that are not to be missed. 301 E Hopkins Ave

Chef Martin Oswald

Image: Jim Paussa

Pick Your Mix at Snowmass’s Newest Spot

While Aspen and environs may be best known for high-end dining, a new fast casual restaurant is one of this winter’s most anticipated openings. 

Longtime local (by way of Austria) chef Martin Oswald will debut mix6 in The Snowmass Collective in Base Village on December 7. The concept: choose six (or four, if you must) ingredients from the variety on display at the counter, which are then combined into your made-to-order lunch or dinner entrée. More specifically, pick two proteins (e.g., chimichurri steak, harissa shrimp, blackened BBQ chicken, and others) to mix with four bases: rice or greens and veggies like Jamaican sweet potato or sesame and ginger roasted broccoli.

Though mix6 is new, it’s not Oswald’s first go-round with a customizable approach. In 2016 he consulted with Outback Steakhouse founder Tim Gannon and his son Chris when they opened Bolay, a build-your-own bowl restaurant in Wellington, Florida. Now the Gannons own and operate a dozen Bolays in south Florida, with three more on the way.

His own venture derives from “my best recipes of 37 years of cooking,” says Oswald, who ran former favorite Syzygy in Aspen and currently operates Pyramid Bistro. Mix6 ingredients are spiced and cooked to impart maximum flavor and, in keeping with Oswald’s healthy approach at Pyramid, freshness and nutritional value are paramount. 

Further underscoring the flexible approach is the seating: dine at tables in mix6, walk over to The Collective’s upper-level lounge, or sit in the adjacent Moxi Bar, also Oswald-operated. In addition to wine (from a list curated by Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher), beer, and cocktails, the bar will offer its own tightly edited food menu of shareable snacks that you can enjoy while watching ice skaters tackle the rink just outside. Open for lunch and dinner. The Collective Snowmass, Base Village

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