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Striking Gold in Steamboat Springs

The rich eats on restaurant row

Aurum

By Elizabeth Woessner | Online Editor

Steamboat Springs is home to a premier Colorado ski resort and so much more. A paradise for outdoors enthusiasts of all kinds with hiking, kayaking, and whitewater rafting, Steamboat Springs offers year-round activities attracting new residents, seasonal residents, and tourists alike. Walk around town and talk to residents and it will become abundantly clear that they have found their happy place. They are all smiles and more than happy to share the many reasons they love living here or to give advice on what to do and where to eat.

This year the options for dining out are increasing exponentially, with over 15 new restaurants in the last year and more in the works. Yampa Street, which runs along the Yampa River–Colorado’s last free-flowing river–is becoming known “Restaurant Row.”

Aurum

Aurum (AU), the chemical element for gold and the Latin word meaning to glow or shine, may seem like an odd and rather unpronounceable name for a restaurant. Owner Phil Armstrong says he was convinced by a heartfelt email from his mother that this was his “golden opportunity” to create the “new element in dining.” Armstrong, who is known in Denver for his Hush Concepts pop-up restaurants, has put together an A-Team including Executive Chef Chase Wilbanks of LaTour in Vail and Shanahan’s Steakhouse in Denver and a team of high-energy, warm and friendly staff members.

Aurum

Aurum’s carefully selected wine list includes eight by-the-glass selections of their own proprietary wines on tap. Sommelier John Wittmer and Armstrong worked closely with the Sutcliffe Vineyards winemaker Joe Buckel (formerly a winemaker at California’s renowned Flowers Vineyard) to select varietals and create flavor profiles that paired with their cuisine. While certainly more expensive than a traditional by-the-glass program, Armstrong states “we wanted to be umbilically connected to our wines” and he was more than willing to make the necessary investment.

carpaccio

Wilbanks’s food is almost complex in it’s simplicity–with no pretentiousness at all–allowing the flavors of the ingredients to speak for themselves. The Wild Bluefoot Mushroom Fondue is a delightful balance of earthy cheesiness served with marinated olives and slices of perfectly grilled bread. A Carpaccio of Angus beef is sprinkled with marinated crunchy cauliflower and drizzled with a truffle emulsion creating a delectable combination of textures and flavors. The heirloom tomato salad is served with a lusciously creamy burrata from the Di Stefano Family Cheese Company in California. There is nothing more satisfying than a perfectly roasted chicken with a crisp skin and juicy meat and Wilbanks’s rendition hits all the right notes. The crispy skinned Colorado trout was a standout dish served with local spinach, house-cured bacon, and a deeply flavorful roasted tomato vinaigrette. The food, the atmosphere, the service, and the staff will have diners returning again and again.

Aurum {811 Yampa Street, Steamboat Springs; 970.879.9500}

E3 Ranch and Chophouse

What do country music, a famous baseball family, and Duck Dynasty have to do with dining in Steamboat Springs? Baseball players Adam, Andy, and Jeff LaRoche (sons of Major League Baseball Pitcher Dave LaRoche) own E3 Ranch and Chophouse located on Steamboat’s “Restaurant Row,” just down Yampa Street from Aurum. Investors in the restaurant include Duck Dynasty CEO Willie Robertson and country singers, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. While this might appear to be a bizarre and eclectic group, the restaurant is a serious ranch-to-table concept with an impressive California-heavy wine list.

Not surprisingly the restaurant menu is meat-centric featuring Black Angus all-natural beef from the LaRoche family owned E3 Ranch in Fort Scott, Kansas. The flavor of beef in the E3 Beef Carpaccio shone through, with the grapefruit, charred jalapeño, and cilantro adding a secondary complexity. The 14oz E3 Ranch Rib-Eye was as flavorful and tender as could be imagined and was served with roasted carrots and broccoli. The E3 house special Pot Roast included three slowly braised cuts of beef from the short rib, the shank, and the sirloin and was served with slices of toasted bread to soak up the intensely flavored braising liquids.

E3 Ranch and Chophouse

The service was friendly and informed and the house sommelier, Philippe Avila, who is working towards his Master Sommelier certification, offered a “one time only” list of bottles in limited supply in their cellar that are available, while they last, at half price. The food, the service and the staff prove that this baseball-loving/country music-singing/duck-hunting restaurant is the real deal.

E3 Ranch and Chophouse {701 Yampa Street, Steamboat Springs; 970.879.7167}

Sweet Pea Restaurant and Market 

Right next door to E3 Ranch and Chophouse is the delightfully charming, newly renovated Sweet Pea Restaurant and Market. The restaurant took advantage of Steamboat Springs’s mud season, to renovate, redecorate, bring on a new chef and a brand new menu. Denver’s loss will definitely become Steamboat’s gain. Executive Chef Pete List, who was responsible for the acclaimed menus at Beatrice and Woodsley for six years, followed his heart and moved to the mountains. He has spent the first few weeks in his new home helping to renovate Sweet Pea and working on a new farm-to-table menu. This local restaurant gem is housed in a red-painted mountain cabin with a few small dining rooms, a front patio that looks into the open kitchen and bar, and an expansive back deck and bar overlooking the Yampa River.

The plan is to maintain the restaurant’s mission of creating “high-quality, sustainable food that is not only delicious but affordable and accessible to everyone … and to provide fresh and homemade, seasonal American cuisine.” Chef List’s food has always been very much his own using simple ingredients and perfect techniques in ways that are often indicative of his unique and quirky sense of humor. List’s first menu at Sweet Pea includes an appetizer of roasted “Wild Idea” buffalo meatballs with a basil pistou, Yampa Valley pork tacos with spiced pulled pork, onion, cilantro, charred jalapeño vinaigrette, and queso anejo, and the Sweet Pea Hamburger which features 5280 Farms ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bibb lettuce, and house aioli on a brioche bun. Simple food with carefully sourced ingredients may be exactly what the residents of Steamboat are looking for.

Sweet Pea Restaurant and Market {729 Yampa Street, Steamboat Springs; 970.879.1221}