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crested butte: bacchanale

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

The more time I spend in Crested Butte, the more enchanted I become with the town. I’m referring to the vibrant community, great local businesses, and a myriad of fun festivities year-round. It’s that charming mountain town vibe I keep coming back to, but each time I discover another little gem that makes me love Crested Butte even more. Last summer, Jeremy and I popped into Bacchanale to see what was what and we couldn’t wait to get back there for another dinner.

bacchanale on elk avenue

Something visitors should be aware of is that ski towns have high seasons and off or shoulder seasons. Crested Butte is hopping in summer and winter, but the pace mellows way out during mud season (spring melt) and pre-ski season (pre-snow). The off season is when some local businesses, who have been taking care of all those visitors in the high season, need a break and may close down for a few weeks so employees and families can get a well-deserved vacation. To avoid any disappointments, it helps to call ahead to make sure the places you want to go will be open when you visit.

Situated on Elk Avenue between Second and Third Streets, Bacchanale occupies a spacious building with plenty of seating at tables, the bar, or upstairs. High ceilings above the bar and half of the downstairs lend an open feeling to the interior.

inside bacchanale

Both times we’ve been to Bacchanale, we enjoyed attentive, accommodating, and genuinely friendly service. The staff know how each dish is prepared and can recommend excellent wine pairings, as well as share some great trail runs, ski routes, or even other places to eat. It’s clear that their main objective is to ensure that you have a great experience both with them and in Crested Butte.

When you sit down, the first thing you’ll likely peruse is the wine and cocktail list which has all Italian wines, beer (draft on tap, bottles, cans), cocktails, bubbles, whiskey, and dessert cordials. The wines are a good and diverse selection in varietal and price, and it appears they update the list periodically. Wines by the glass are well-matched to the dishes served on the menu – feel free to ask the staff for pairing advice. They even brought out tasting glasses to help Jeremy choose.

wine by the glass

Bacchanale’s Italian menu rotates, taking advantage of seasonal ingredients and offering a nice selection of bruschetta or flatbread boards, salads, antipasti, pastas, mains, and desserts. For the last 3 months, in addition to à la carte, the restaurant made available a prix fixe menu – appetizer, main, and dessert (your choice of each) – for $25. It is an exceptional value and I hope they continue to offer it in the future.

The restaurant serves light Italian fare, but don’t think you’re going to walk away from your dinner hungry. Simply prepared, the dishes are big on fresh, clean, seasonal flavors that are pleasing to the palate. For the great quality of the food, the portions are quite reasonable, almost generous.

We started both our meals with appetizers or salads because how could we not? So many options, all so tempting! The panzanella salad (ordered in summer) piled sweet, juicy heirloom tomatoes, fresh beans, asparagus, and grilled bread on greens that were tossed with a light dressing. The fried fresh artichokes (summer) came encased in a crisp, delicate batter with a side of tangy lemon aioli. On our most recent visit in March, we tried their tender beef carpaccio with a nice cracked-pepper crust sprinkled with sea salt, fresh dill, paper thin slices of radish and fennel, and a drizzle of mustard vinaigrette. Perfectly balanced in flavor and texture. We also ordered the eggplant pillows which had been soaked in milk then batter-fried and topped with Pomodoro sauce and basil chiffonade, with balsamic reduction and whipped chèvre on the side. Also delectable.

panzanella salad

fried artichokes with lemon aioli

beef carpaccio

eggplant pillows – melanzane fritte

**Jump for more butter**

crested butte: camp 4 coffee

Monday, February 17th, 2014

The first time I set foot in Camp 4 Coffee was late September 2010. It was dark out because I wanted to shoot sunrise somewhere outside of Crested Butte. My shooting partner needed his morning caffeine fix before heading out and knew just the place to go. At 6 am, we stood in line in front of this tiny shack covered in old license plates. I know nothing about coffee, but as Jason stepped outside and took a sip of his quadruple shot latte he purred, “Oooooh yeah. THAT is good stuff.” The following year when Jeremy joined me over the weekend on my solo fall shoot in Crested Butte, I took him to Camp 4 for coffee, and he’s been smitten ever since.

camp 4 coffee in crested butte

Like Crested Butte, Camp 4 has a friendly, laid-back vibe. Tourists and locals alike line up each morning for their cuppa. Dogs saunter onto the pleasant little patio and wait patiently (and obediently) while their people step in to grab coffee and breakfast, say hi to friends, and snag a little dog treat for their four-legged companion. While the pups are outside, they receive a good deal of attention and loving from passersby and other patrons. It’s all routine.

any given summer morning outside camp 4

The space inside is limited to room for five to six people to peruse the boards, admire the baked goods, order, pay, and dress their beverages. To your immediate right as you walk in is a little bar space for four people to sit and read the paper or shoot the breeze. It’s tiny, yet incredibly popular because their coffee is exceptional – touted as the best coffee in Colorado according to the Denver Post. There is no drip coffee here, just espresso drinks made from Camp 4′s own beans roasted right in Crested Butte. Jeremy notes that their beans are also excellent for drip coffee at home.

decisions decisions…

perfect doughnuts: crisp outsides, fluffy and tender insides

In addition to the traditional coffee drinks, Camp 4 offers a selection of teas, bottled things (juices, water, soda, sports drinks), smoothies, milkshakes, hot cocoa, chai, as well as breakfast burritos (with REAL green chiles), breakfast sandwiches, and some of the most delectable pastries in town (super flaky awesomeness). The selection includes fresh doughnuts, filled long johns, danishes, croissants, filled croissants, cinnamon rolls, muffins, scones, cookies, brownies, quick breads… The pastries don’t last long on any given day, so if you have a hankering, get ye there in the morning before they’re picked clean.

the friendliest service

a treat for your pooch, because crested butte loves dogs

**Jump for more butter**

crested butte: magic meadows yurt dinners

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

I’m convinced the reason so many people dislike winter is because they live in a place with crappy winters, don’t know how to do any winter activities, or both. Winter can be slushy, dreary, icy, awful. But winter can also be fluffy, powdery, sunny, fun, and invigorating. In Crested Butte, Colorado – winter is a dream.

Some of the finest skiing and riding in the country can be had up the road at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. And there are loads of backcountry routes into breathtaking high country mere minutes from town. But did you know that Crested Butte also boasts an incredible network of 55 km of groomed nordic trails managed by the Crested Butte Nordic Center?

the nordic center based in town

inside: rentals, ticket and pass sales, equipment, information, friendly people

I know Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, but I didn’t know it is also the Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado (according to the Nordic Center, but I’ll give it to them). Adjacent to the center is a large outdoor ice rink which abuts a sort of sled park (it is a skate park in summer). The center rents ice skates, snow shoes, skate skis, cross-country skis, and assorted accessories. They also offer lessons, free clinics, and sponsor several night ski/five course dinners at the Magic Meadows Yurt throughout the winter.

jeremy enjoys exploring the trail network

the trail to the yurt in daylight (there are designated dog-friendly trails in the network)

On a friend’s recommendation, Jeremy and I signed up for the winter solstice yurt dinner. It’s a 1 mile ski or snowshoe on the nordic trails to the yurt after sunset. Dinner goes from about 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm (roughly), and then you ski back at night. As season pass holders, we each get a $20 discount on the dinner (was $70/person at the time, now is $75). Our friend, Erin, visited us over the solstice and signed up for the dinner too. Anyone attending the dinner has the option to bring their own skis/snowshoes or get a free ski/snowshoe rental from the Nordic Center. We all ski, but you don’t have to know how to ski to enjoy this tremendously fun evening.

the yurt, nestled in the trees and snow

“come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher” – william wordsworth

We picked up Erin’s skis from the Nordic Center at 5:00 pm (they won’t loan them out earlier than that for the dinners) and drove to the Gronk trailhead. It takes 30 minutes (on average) to ski out there. The friendly fellow working the desk suggested we arrive at the yurt around 6:00 pm when they start with appetizers. It was getting dark when we headed out, but the trail to the yurt is marked with lit tiki torches and it was super fun skiing in the dark and passing all of the snow shoers. Of course, everyone on skate skis flew past us.

The Magic Meadows Yurt is only accessible in winter, which makes it extra special. Park your skis or snowshoes outside on the racks and head inside to the warm and cozy yurt. We had no idea what to expect inside, but it was far cushier than we imagined it would be. The interior had rustic mountain-style decor alongside lovely local photography. A wood stove heated the entire space from the east wall and the whole place was romantically lit.

erin and jeremy outside the yurt

the interior

**Jump for more butter**