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crested butte: montanya distillers tasting room

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

I can’t tell you how many times I have walked past Montanya Distillers Tasting Room on Elk Avenue and dismissed eating there because I thought all they had was rum. It’s true that they have rum, really good rum and lots of it! But they also serve great food, the kind of bites you crave a few days later after a hike, bike, or ski. We went in for the first time last summer and keep returning for the noshes as much as the sips.

in the heart of downtown crested butte

Inside there are several tables, booths, and a bar on the first floor. Upstairs you will find some tables, a cubby hole play area, and the distillery, where you can request a tour. During summer months, Montanya expands to two dog-friendly outdoor patios. Open daily, the tasting room offers free tastings of their three craft distilled rums: Montanya Platino, Montanya Oro, and Montanya Exclusiva. There is also the extensive cocktail menu which you shouldn’t and probably can’t pass up. This is coming from me, someone who prefers to eat rather than drink her calories.

the distillery

The cocktails come in all manner of creative flavors and combinations that incorporate Montanya’s rums (obviously) and rum infusions like Thai spices, cucumber, vanilla, or jalapeño. Their martinis include the likes of White Room (Montanya Oro Rum, vanilla infused Montanya Platino Rum, orgeat, fresh cream, and crushed almond) and Smoke Show (Montanya Oro Rum, cold brew coffee, chai spices, smoked clove, cardamom). Maybe you want a cocktail on the rocks? Try Fiery Passion (habanero and pineapple infused Montanya Platino Rum, passionfruit, fresh lime, mint, agave, seltzer) or Strawberry Jive (Montanya Platino Rum, fresh strawberry, agave, fresh orange and lemon, local basil, mint). But it’s not all fancy, fruity, totally awesome concoctions – they’ve got you covered with the classic Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Daiquiri, and Mojito to name a few. On those especially snowy après ski days, consider warming up with hot cocktails such as Hottanya (Montanya Oro Rum, local Third Bowl ice cream, butter, brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream) or Wassail (Montanya Oro Rum, mulled cider, cranberry, spices, citrus bitters, orange twist).

And don’t fret if you’re a teetotaler! You will not be relegated to water or iced tea. Montanya’s mocktails are every bit as enticing and delicious as their cocktails… without the booze, of course. The Green Hornet combines fresh lime, cilantro, jalapeño, agave, and seltzer. I recently ordered the Bluebird – a delightfully refreshing combination of fresh blueberries, ginger, honey, lemon, and seltzer. Montanya’s drinks are all so fun and exciting, and there is something for everyone.

left: dark and snowy (montanya oro rum, fresh lime, housemade ginger beer, fresh mint, seltzer) and right: beach bum mocktail (pineapple, cream of coconut, orange, pomegranate)

maharaja (montanya oro rum, north indian spices, fresh pressed ginger, fresh lime, cardamom)

boat shoes (cinnamon infused montanya oro rum, agave, passionfruit, pineapple, mint, coconut, cardamom)

left: creamsicle mocktail (orange juice, sweetened cream, whipped cream) and right: kokomo (montanya platino rum, fresh lemon, fresh lime, cream of coconut, housemade ginger beer, fresh mint)

hanoi sunrise mocktail (blood orange, fresh lime, simple syrup, thai bitters, seltzer)

**Jump for more butter**

crested butte: supper at sunflower

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to discover something wonderful that is right under your nose. In the heart of downtown Crested Butte, The Sunflower has always been a great place for us to grab a spinach and feta croissant or a good sandwich to go. For some reason, I assumed it was breakfast-lunch only because their menu lists breakfast and lunch. I was half correct. The Sunflower is a communal kitchen – a cafe/deli in the daytime and a restaurant at night. Two separate businesses that share one space. I only learned about Supper at Sunflower this spring when Rob, the best painter in town and fellow mushroom foraging enthusiast, mentioned it to me.

sunflower is located on elk avenue

Indoor seating in this cozy, rustic establishment maxes out at 32, but in summer the pleasant patio easily doubles the restaurant capacity. Reservations are highly recommended and there are generally two seatings each night: early [6:00 pm, 6:15 pm, 6:30 pm] and late [8:00 pm, 8:15 pm, 8:30 pm]. Every time we have dined at Supper at Sunflower, the place has been packed with regulars and newcomers alike. Their staff is warm and friendly, and every server was quite knowledgeable about the menu and the extensive wine list (and what pairs well with what). Sunflower also offers a huge number of wines by the glass as well as a dozen beers by the bottle. Be sure to ask about their porrons.

a cozy interior

patio dining with my folks on a fine colorado summer evening

Small bites and small plates dominate the menu at Supper at Sunflower, although there are large plates in the traditional sense of a meal. I feel that the quantity on the small plates offers the best value. Supper at Sunflower encourages sharing and sampling – a fun way to enjoy and explore more of their Spanish-influenced farm to table cuisine. Start with a selection from their Nibbles, an assortment of cheeses, cured meats, olives, and nuts. There is usually a tempting seasonal soup and a couple of salads, all incorporating fresh, local ingredients.

some nibbles: olives, manchego, finocchiona

Admittedly, we get so excited about the appetizers that it wasn’t until the third visit (on my birthday) that I ordered the heirloom tomato salad with ricotta cheese, watermelon, and pickled cucumbers. That salad embodied what I enjoy most about the food at Supper at Sunflower. A thoughtful and exciting balance of textures and flavors exists in most of their dishes. Best of all, I love their use of homemade pickled and preserved toppings to accentuate and enhance the plates. They add zing and zip to an already exceptional combination of flavors. Of the many (so many) small plates we’ve tried, my favorite was the rabbit escabeche. The tangy stewed rabbit and vegetables arrived along with an amorphous piece of charred dough – some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted!

albacore tuna poke

rabbit escabeche with grilled bread

house burrata

pork sausage with fava beans

**Jump for more butter**

travel: williamsburg, virginia

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

When you grow up in a popular tourist center, you might be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the attractions your hometown has to offer. Despite the frequent eye rolling (hey, I was a teenager), I can look back in hindsight and recognize just how special Williamsburg, Virginia, is. In the southeastern corner of the state, Williamsburg (population ~15,000) sits atop the Virginia Peninsula, which is flanked by the James and York Rivers. Colonial Williamsburg ranks as Virginia’s number one tourist draw. A favorite destination for history enthusiasts, family vacations, and school field trips, this impressive living history museum enjoys its greatest visitation in the summer high season, although Colonial Williamsburg in winter embodies the essence of Christmastime. But wait, there’s more! Williamsburg is also home to The College of William and Mary, Busch Gardens theme park, and Water Country USA (waterpark).

williamsburg is in southeastern virginia

Did I mention great restaurants? They’ve got those, too. There are just too many for me to try when visiting my parents in Williamsburg. I’ve compiled a sampling of my favorites from the past several years. If you happen to be traveling to or through Williamsburg, these eats are worth a try.

First up was Emily’s Donuts and Café – a nondescript shop off Merrimac Trail (Route 143) that is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. The morning line moves quickly as orders for doughnuts and caffeinated beverages are filled. Despite ample seating in the brightly lit interior, most patrons grab and go as evidenced from the constant shuffling of vehicles in the parking lot. I selected an assortment of cake, yeast, filled, split, and ring doughnuts. Overall, the doughnuts were fantastic. The sleeper-winner was the key lime filled doughnut with a tangy sweet lime curd inside. Pure heaven. The split creme came in as the other favorite, filled with a sweet vanilla creme and dusted with powdered sugar – a top seller. Emily’s also serves lunch, which we didn’t try, but the doughnuts… they crank out some amazing doughnut love.

left to right, top to bottom: vanilla glazed ring, raspberry filled, split creme, key lime filled, glazed chocolate cake, cinnamon apple filled

If you are in search of pastries, breads, and other baked sweets, allow me to point you to Blackbird Bakery in Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square. Their tempting array of desserts and breads are all made in the Trellis kitchen just behind the bakery. Choose from flaky croissants, fresh scones, beautiful fruit tarts, golden baguettes, and dinner plate-sized sticky buns, to name a few. Don’t forget your cup of Illy coffee to sip with your treat. We tried the canelés, which were wonderfully custardy inside and caramelized outside – French pastry perfection.

pastries on offer at the front counter

showing off the most adorable desserts

beautiful and irresistible canelés

Swing by Shorty’s Diner (also on Merrimac Trail) for quick, friendly service and a no frills plate of hearty morning fare. Breakfast is served all day, with lunch options like sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Portions at Shorty’s are generous, especially for the reasonable prices. The food we ordered was neither outstanding nor terrible – just solid and good. The chicken fried steak was tender enough to be eaten with just a fork. The creamy sausage gravy and flaky biscuits were satisfying. Other menu items included omelets, pancakes, waffles, and breakfast sandwiches. Just for giggles, we took home two slices of pie: coconut cream and chocolate cream (the other choice was key lime that day), piled high and pretty darn delicious.

the shorty’s special: 3 eggs, hash browns, biscuit, sausage patty

chicken fried steak with eggs, hash browns, and biscuit

because pie: chocolate cream and coconut cream

Your lunch options are many and varied in and around Williamsburg. I’m all about a quick lunch because we’re always on the go midday. I cannot resist a good sandwich. People rave about the subs at New York Deli and Pizza Restaurant on Richmond Road (Route 60) and with good reason. Jeremy and I split a hot sub that was stuffed to the gills with pastrami, cheese, lettuce, pickles, and tomatoes. The side of crisp onion rings were a hit. But you aren’t limited to sandwiches when you walk up to the counter to place your order. Consider their pizza, burgers, salads, platters, gyros, and Italian plates, too.

hot pastrami with onion rings and fries

Ask about barbecue in the area and Pierce’s Pitt Bar-b-que is sure to come up in conversation. You can find Pierce’s north of Williamsburg on Rochambeau Drive (a frontage road along Interstate 64). While standing in line to place my order, several of the patrons ahead of me went for some variation on the barbecue sandwich: pulled pork or barbecue chicken, barbecue sauce, and coleslaw on a soft bun. There are also brisket sandwiches, ribs, whole smoked chicken, burgers and hot dogs, salads, and let’s not overlook the sides. The sides are the best aspect of eating barbecue: coleslaw, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, hush puppies, onion rings, fries, collard greens, potato salad, corn bread, brisket chili, brunswick stew. It’s not pretty, but it is certainly tasty southern barbecue.

barbecue sandwich with hush puppies and onion rings

My absolute favorite sandwich – the one I’ve been eating for thirty some years – comes from The Cheese Shop. Centrally located in bustling Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square, The Cheese Shop is an institution. The store carries all manner of cheeses, salumi, gourmet foods, and wine downstairs, but the real draw is their sandwiches. Choose your type of bread, meat, cheese, dressing, and any extras. Walk to the back counter and wait in line to place your order, then wait some more before they call your name. You can pick up a small bag of chips and a drink if you have a picnic in mind. My standard order: the roast beef on French (bread) with provolone and house (dressing). [I used to order it with muenster cheese, but they stopped carrying that long ago.] The consensus among my childhood buddies is that the house dressing is the way to go as is the French bread. The Cheese Shop even sells the ends of the French bread baguettes for dipping in their house dressing. It’s a thing. It’s a very good thing.

the cheese shop at christmastime

ace number one roast beef and provolone sandwich on french with extra house dressing

**Jump for more butter**