Aspen: Zocalito

February 18th, 2009
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I’m not sure how long ago Zocalito opened up in Aspen, but I had never seen it before this trip. It’s not unreasonable to think it may have been there for years given it’s location. It’s situated downstairs in a side alley off the outdoor mall on East Hyman.
I noticed it once early on and wasn’t sure if I wanted to try it. The signs declare it a “Latin Bistro,” which hinted of a pan latino fusion concept that seemed pretty annoying. Later, I heard a few good things about it, so I decided to give it a go.
The place was empty. The only ones there were the Bartender/server and his friend sitting at the bar. I was concerned, but figured it was worth a try. I’m glad I did. On closer inspection, the menu presented some really interesting options, that were if nothing else educational.
My main course, below, was a T-bone steak covered in a Mole sauce made from various exotic chile peppers. Apparently, this is one of the Chef’s focuses in authenticity. He travels to Mexico every summer to find suppliers items that he can’t get in Colorado. The first is chiles, the other is Mezcal. The waiter showed me a book of photos they took when last down there. The piles of peppers dried and fresh at various markets and the collapsed shack that distills the Mezcal make me think their chef would be a pretty awesome travel companion.
T-bone with Red Mole
To be honest, I ordered it less for the steak than the sauce and sides. The mole was thick and earthy.The steak itself didn’t have a whole lot to offer, but that was for the best. Whatever a better steak might have had to offer would have been lost in this powerful sauce.
The other thing that drew me to it was the slices of cactus leaf that decorate the top. I’ve seen them in Mexican Markets before and really wondered how they taste, but never been willing to pick one up and cook it myself. Turns out, it’s sort of like okra. Take that how you will. It’s firm on the outside and sort of slimy in the middle. Like I said, it was very interesting. Also mixed in with the sides were huitlacoche, corn ‘mushrooms’ that added a distinctive flavor and texture.
The potatoes on the side were gratineed, crisp around the edges in just the right way.
My starter was, predictably an order of Queso Fundido, which I have raved about in the past and so will refrain now. Suffice it to say it was all I had hoped from a bowl of hot, melty cheese.
I can’t say Zocalito made my favorite meal in Aspen, but it was the most challenging I had had in a while and I really appreciated that. It was great ot be able to actually try something new there. With that comes the risk of the unfamiliar. I would go back if I find myself there again next year, just so I could explore their more interesting options further.
420 E. Hyman Street
Aspen, CO
970.920.1991

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