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crested butte: bonez

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Consider a small mountain town (population around 1,500), geographically tucked away in a nest of towering snow-capped mountains. You might assume that there wouldn’t be much in the way of good places to eat. In most cases, you’d be right. But if you were talking about Crested Butte, Colorado – you’d be oh, so wrong. Among the several wonderful dining establishments in this finest of mountain towns, Bonez is a terrific stop for top notch food in a casual, festive setting near the west end of Elk Avenue, Crested Butte’s main drag.

the entrance to bonez

A spacious interior decorated with local artworks and other fun and funky touches greets you upon entering the building. There is a nice long bar, some high tables, booths, and plenty of regular seating, and community tables to bring folks together. It’s a place where folks might go to catch a game on the big screen television at the far end of the room (actually, there are two large rooms, but I’m talking about the main room), a place where people gather over noshes and drinks, and it’s a fantastic place to indulge in some creative, delicious food.

the bar

love the chandelier of upcycled empty glass bottles

having a look at the menus

Start with a glass of nice cold water because you’re at 9000 feet above sea level. The beverages on offer include menus of tequila, mezcal, wine, beer, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks. Tequila flights are available as are some tasty signature margaritas. The Scorpion incorporates serrano- and habanero-infused tequila. Or if you prefer a fruity experience, The Eleven is highlighted with blood orange liquor and cranberry juice.

jeremy got the silver queen margarita (silver tequila, triple sec, fresh lime)

Happy hour is nestled between that time after the ski lifts close (or maybe you rode or hiked really hard and can’t wait another minute), but before dinner technically starts. Bonez’ happy hour is a terrific deal. Most of the appetizers and drinks on the regular menu are available during happy hour at reasonably discounted prices. Our first visit to Bonez straddled happy hour and dinner, and the kitchen was perfectly happy to oblige orders from both menus.

It’s hard to not be tempted by the nachos, because it’s the first thing you think to start with in a tequila bar. The problem with that reasoning stems from the array of other appetizers like green chilies topped with chorizo and melted Mexican cheese, short rib empanadas, a flight of fresh salsas, or fresh guacamole (of course!). We began with the chorizo sliders (you get three) which can only be summed up as bites of heaven on Earth. The sweet potato buns are buttered and grilled so they have that nice crisp face that gives way to the tender, fluffy, slightly sweet bread. Between the two halves of the roll are a spicy chorizo patty, black garlic aoili, tomato and serrano jam, and fennel slaw. We loved this combo so much that I went and blogged a recipe for it!

chorizo sliders

Despite how busy Bonez can get, their servers are always friendly and quick, covering for one another as needed. It’s a well-run operation that whips up delicious food in no time, marching one gorgeous plate out after another. Next up – street tacos served on little corn tortillas (two or three bites each). We decided to get three so we could sample an assortment of fillings. The barbacoa filling is slow-cooked tender pork with nice warm spice accents. Bonez’ carnitas have the nice crisped ends and super flavorful, falling-apart pork meat. And the third taco was the carne asada which were crunchy pieces of beef with an awesome smoky flavor. I think the carnitas taco was our favorite of the three, but they are all nicely prepared, fresh, and delightful to eat.

street tacos: barbacoa, carnitas, carne asada

We didn’t realize that the whole evening would be tacos (aside from those amazing chorizo sliders), but that is where our stomachs led us. A tray of six ahi mini tacos were set on the table just as we finished the street tacos. The shells were extra crunchy delicate fried wontons filled with fresh, gem-colored spiced ahi tuna tartare (raw). Each taco was set on a little pillow of avocado purée and finished in a sweet and spicy chili agridulce drizzle that complemented the tuna beautifully. These were far too easy to inhale in one sitting.

ahi mini tacos

**Jump for more butter**

crested butte: uley’s cabin and ice bar

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

[Note: Even though this is posting on April 1, this is not an April Fools Day post – it’s totally real and totally awesome. -jen]

Crested Butte goes by many monikers: The last great Colorado ski town, Wildflower Capital of Colorado, The birthplace of mountain biking (along with Cupertino), The Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado, Powder Magazine’s #1 Ski Town in the US (2014)… We call it Paradise. Whether you’re hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, riding, or running – you are immersed in stunning mountain scenery that can only be described as God’s Country. Winters in Crested Butte are idyllic – lots of sun and snow, beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and a great ski resort 5 minutes up the road.

The Ice Bar at Uley’s Cabin

Crested Butte Mountain Resort is a very fine mountain to ski. There’s something for everyone and then some. But after you’ve had your share of the corduroy, the powder, the parks, the glades, or the cliffs, you can give those legs a rest at any number of dining spots on and around the mountain. The coolest – literally and figuratively – place to wet your whistle between runs is The Ice Bar at Uley’s Cabin.

uley’s cabin

the ice bar – it’s made of ice (except when it’s been really really warm)

To get there, ski or ride down Twister (one of my favorites on a powder day) to the bottom of Twister Lift. If you aren’t feeling the love for black diamond bump runs, you can also scoot to Uley’s from the cruisy green Peanut to Lower Twister (also green). Once there, put your skis or boards up at the racks and belly up to the outdoor bar, grab a table on the deck, or claim a loungy Adirondack chair and watch folks kill it on the mountain (Crested Butte has some ridiculously badass skiers and riders). The views of surrounding high country are spectacular, unless it’s dumping snow – and then you don’t need views because you’ve got powder and a big fat happy grin on your face. The menu at the bar includes cocktails, mixed drinks, shots, beer+shots, hot drinks (spiked hot cocoa, coffee, cider, toddy), various White Russians, and a Build-a-Bloody Mary. If you’ve worked up an appetite charging down the mountain, you can order some quick hot bites just behind the bar. I spied bowls of chili, bags of piping hot french fries, pulled pork sandwiches, and other ski mountain fare in people’s hands.

serving up colorado bulldogs (white russians with coke) on a bluebird spring day

my libation (ginger beer) and the summit of crested butte

If you have a hankering to dine on something more refined for lunch, then you’ll want to check out Uley’s Cabin. Just go through the front door of the building to the beautifully rustic mountain cabin/restaurant. While waiting to be seated, you can park yourself in a comfy leather armchair and warm up by the fireplace. Uley’s Cabin serves a sit down lunch daily from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm with a selection of salads, soup, shared plates (mussels, charcuterie, or cheeses), and entrées like salmon filet, Colorado elk bourguignon, seared pork belly, and risotto (usually a vegetarian option). Call ahead for reservations or walk in – just be aware that they are typically busiest starting around noon to 1:00 pm.

the inside of uley’s cabin

I spoke with the staff about their lunch service, which was when they mentioned dinner. Dinner? But if the mountain closes at 4:00 pm, how do people get up here for dinner? Funny I should ask… Uley’s Cabin offers sleigh ride dinners starting in mid-December to early April, Wednesdays through Saturdays (so no bookings for Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday nights), one seating per night. It’s $100 per person for a 5-course meal with your choice of entrée. Gratuity and alcohol are not included. It sounded so fun – a little adventure, a little fine dining, a lot of awesome – not too unlike The Magic Meadows Yurt Dinners. We had to check it out, so we booked a reservation for dinner.

Sleigh Ride Dinner at Uley’s Cabin

Our instructions were to meet at the Waffle Cabin (a place from which wonderful aromas emanate when the ski lifts are operating) at the base of the mountain at 5:15 pm and to have warm hats, gloves, and jackets for the open sleigh ride. Even if it is warm in spring, you’ll want the warm things for the return ride after dark. About 25 people were dining the night we went in late March, but Uley’s capacity is 50. We were greeted by Daniel, a nice young man with great knowledge of the local goings-on in Crested Butte. He had us each sign a waiver that said we understood the risks of riding up the mountain, and then invited us into the giant sleigh, pulled by a snow cat. There were cozy blankets set out on the bench seating for guests to use. I highly recommend wearing smart footwear. Smart footwear is NOT HEELS, ladies. Something with good grip is advisable as the floor of the sleigh can be icy and slick – so just keep that in mind. I also recommend sitting on the left side of the sleigh to avoid catching the exhaust from the snow cat. Hey, I’m always looking out for you.

meet at the waffle cabin

the snow cat pulling the sleigh

view of the summit on the way up

**Jump for more butter**

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**