What: Recently-opened Aurum brings a new fine dining option to one of Colorado’s top mountain town destinations.

Where: 811 Yampa Street in Steamboat Springs

When: Open year-round. Current hours: Daily 4pm to close with local’s hour specials 4-6pm and dinner service beginning at 5pm. Brunch service will begin June 1st.

If you’re not already planning a trip to Steamboat Springs this summer, the newly opened Aurum Food & Wine is just one more reason why this destination should be on everyone’s short-list for those weekend getaways. Here’s why:

The People

Jackie Collins, Aurum, Steamboat Springs, Molly Martin

Aurum is Latin for gold, as in the “golden opportunity” that Phil Armstrong reached out and grabbed when the riverfront space that was previously home to the Sweetwater Grill in Steamboat Springs became available. Armstrong, founder of HUSH concepts (who recently put on The Road to Great Chefs series in Estes Park), envisioned creating a place where locals and tourists alike could experience fine-dining in a new way.

What makes it different?

  • NO strict dress codes or cold, by-the-book-service.
  • An energized and invested staff
  • A focus on including everyone in the behind-the-scenes decision-making and encouraging all to have fun with guests, giving each diner an individualized experience.

The Atmosphere

Jackie Collins, Aurum, Steamboat Springs, Molly Martin

The space has a balance of elegant and homey, a combo that makes it easy to relax, but still leaves you feeling like this experience is a treat.

The Highlights:

  • The dining area that overlooks the river (and ski jump across the water)
  • The long, comfy couches that invite mingling with other guests in the bar area
  • The expansive deck complete with fire pit that is an ideal setting for lingering for just one (or two) more glasses of wine with dessert.

Cocktails and Wine

Jackie Collins, Aurum, Steamboat Springs, Molly Martin

Both the wine list and seasonal hand-crafted cocktails from Beverage Director John Witmer (former sommelier at Estes Park’s Stanley Hotel) are full of options that may have you calling a cab.

The Standouts:

  • The Cinsaut was a stand-out along with the well-balanced, not too sweet Riesling (both $5 for 3 oz and $10 for 6oz) included in the by-the-glass selections from this restaurant’s own Colorado vineyard (from winemaker Joe Buckel).
  • The summer-ready Sparkling Strawberry Rhubarb ($8) with gin, strawberry puree, Prosecco and rhubarb bitters.
  • The creative and interactive Smoke and Fire ($10) made with Mezcal and lime juice and served with a jar of house-made jalapeño orange marmalade so diners can mix it in to spice the drink to their own taste.

 The Menu

Jackie Collins, Aurum, Steamboat Springs, Molly Martin

Though Executive Chef Chase Wilbanks is no newbie to the restaurant scene (he is a CIA graduate and former executive sous chef of Denver’s Shanahan’s Steakhouse), this is his first opportunity to freely craft a menu that focuses on the season’s freshest ingredients. The result is food that is has a refined familiarity to it.

The Highlights:

  • Appetizers that could make a meal unto themselves. Particularly the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake ($15) that I had to try twice to be sure they really were that good and the Wild Bluefoot Mushroom Fondue ($12) with crispy cheese covering the top.
  • Salads that taste straight from the farm like the Aurum Salad ($11) featuring roasted beets and candied lemon and the Heirloom Tomato ($14) with creamy burrata.
  • For the main course, the Local Duroc Pork Chop ($31) was elevated by the salted caramel peach jus and the Roasted Scottish Salmon ($28) with spring pea risotto was light and ideal for the season.
  • Don’t skip dessert. If you’re feeling little wild, get the Doughnuts ($11) with an espresso crème anglaise and  dip those treats right into the Chocolate Pot au Crème ($12) featuring – of course – a 23K gold flake.

Bonus Tips for a Steamboat Getaway

  • Moving Mountains: Rent a chalet for the weekend from this Steamboat-based company and relax in your own private hot tub, enjoy a catered in-house breakfast and spend down time lounging in your robe in front of a fire.
  • Strawberry Hot Springs: A must-do if you’ve never been (or even if you have). One of the best hot-springs destinations in Colorado for its natural beauty and intimate feel, despite its popularity.
  • Creekside Café: A prime breakfast spot with 14 different benedicts alone to choose from.  This cafe also boasts “The Best Bloody in the Boat.”
  • Freshies: A local favorite for breakfast and lunch. Perfect for filling up before your drive back to town. I’ve been dreaming about the basil mayo on the Freshies Club for days.

 All photos by Jackie Collins