There are few places in the country better to enjoy fall than Colorado’s high country. Situated in the center of the bountiful Aspen Meadows Resort, Plato’s has been serving fine regional cuisine overlooking one of the best of the many timeless views of Aspen’s west end. The restaurant has long been delivering a menu of hyperlocal cuisine, favoring American fine dining and ingredients sourced from across the Roaring Fork Valley. Recently, chef Rachel Koppelman took over the kitchen, introducing a prix fixe harvest menu and a penchant for foraging ingredients directly from in and around the resort’s 40 acres.
The resort itself is home to The Aspen Institute — an organization that since 1949 has been bringing together writers, philosophers, leaders of industry and academia, artists, and musicians to discuss issues of the day. The site is also home to 98 guest suites, five tennis courts, a pool and on-site bike rentals for exploring the town and surrounding area. The suites themselves are fittingly elegant, acting in tandem with the restaurant for an experience befitting the legions of stir crazy and distanced hoping to soothe themselves before winter hits. The resort is open through October 28, where it will remain closed through December.
Koppelman cites her Midwestern upbringing for inspiring her of-the-land approach. Having spent her childhood exploring her parents’ farm, she developed an eye for scouting ingredients. She’s currently sourced a variety of produce, including currants and porcinis directly from the grounds. Koppelman mastered classic technique, graduating from The Culinary Institute of America before a stint at Eleven Madison Park. Since moving west, she’s worked across Aspen kitchens, most recently enjoying a four-year tenure as chef de cuisine at the similarly ingredient-forward Bosq.
While the patio is reason enough to dine at Plato’s, Koppelman’s new menu proves she’s got chops beyond simply having a keen eye. The three-course harvest menu presents a series of items that transform the simple into the sublime in terms of the vibrant arrangement, captivating flavor and imaginative use of the land’s bounty. The farm greens ($17) come with streaks of pureed butternut squash, thinly-sliced autumn crip apples, walnuts, cabernet vinaigrette and a subtle undertone of brown butter. The Alaskan King Crab ($24) arrives bathed in heirloom tomato soup and dressed in fennel, granola, wild watercress and squash blossoms.
The beef tenderloin ($44) — with charred onion crema, tomatillo, Colorado chilis and roasted mushrooms — is one of the list’s finest offerings, the perfectly-executed cut sings amidst its texturally-rich accompaniment. While the harvest menu provides the clearest indication of Koppelman’s culinary philosophy, the Colorado Style Ramen ($23) — with thick slabs of lamb bacon, sliced shiitake, scallion, jalapeno and egg — is reason enough to venture a view of the casual dining menu. For dessert, the Black Forest Gâteaux ($18) — with milk chocolate mousse and cherry gelée — nearly outmatches the flavor with its vivid plating.
A wine list mostly representing California and France is joined by a few choice bottles from Oregon, Spain, Argentina, Italy and Australia. As for cocktails, the Ruby Soho — with Hendrick’s gin, rhubarb shrub, lime and tonic — and the Strawberry Sublime — with Desert Door sotol, Cointreau, strawberry puree and agave — are fitting sips for the tail end of warm weather.
As the uncertainty of winter looms just around the corner and the leaves approach their most radiant crescendo, the merits of sneaking west seem all the more valuable. For anyone seeking romance, escape or a bit of contrast, Plato’s is a fitting place to vanish into the exquisite.
Aspen Meadows is currently offering a 40% reduced rate for Colorado locals hoping to enjoy the tail end of the fall season. Rooms begin at $197 with the reduction.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.