Ajax Tavern: Farm to Après-Ski

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Located at the base of Aspen ski mountain, Ajax Tavern offers a complete menu for everything from an après-ski beer and basket of truffle fries to a fine wine and multi-course dinner. On a sunny day, the slope-side patio is a perfect place to kick back and watch other people finish their runs down the mountain. Inside, cozy booths and an intimate bar provide a perfect place to warm up and fill up after a day on the mountain or around town. Whether you’re wearing ski pants or a fur coat, you’re welcome here. And as their website says, “Don’t let the people-watching put you off your game – the food is the main event.”

Led by Chef JD Baldridge, the kitchen serves up bistro-style fare full of locally sourced ingredients. In between the bustle of lunch hour and the onslaught of après-ski traffic, Farm Runners was honored to sit down with Chef JD to see what he’s been up to with our local products.

Chef Baldridge, the chef de cuisine at Ajax since 2015, has spent several years creating food with a farm fresh focus. Growing up in Oklahoma, he was surrounded by agriculture and has fond memories of the changing seasonal flavors. As a student at the Culinary Institute of America, he was immersed in the farm-to-table movement through stints in kitchens of notable restaurants like Blue Hill at Stone Barns Center for Agriculture.

We also met Ingrid Stern, one of JD’s sous chefs, who introduced us out some of her favorite menu items featuring Farm Runners ingredients. Right out of the gate, she stunned us with her beef tartare, topped with a Dayspring Eggs egg yolk cured in coffee and South River Aquaponics “compressed” arugula. Other favorites were the Colorado Camembert cheese plate featuring Sandy Basin Farm’s lady finger popcorn and the Kale & Quinoa Caesar salad with White Mountain Farm quinoa.

Baldridge has designed his menu so as not set up any roadblocks for creativity in the future. Allowing for flexibility in the menu makes it easy to introduce new local products and experiment with new flavors. For example, the roasted chicken dish with winter vegetable hash (amazing, by the way) has featured a variety of different root vegetables from Farm Runners this season. “I like to order things and see how they come in. It’s fun to see the different ingredients straight from the farm.”

JD also brings local farm flavor to his winter menu by preserving ingredients at the height of summer growing season. The popular artisan charcuterie board features housemade pickles made in the dog days of summer. The jalapeno jam on the cheese board was also a fantastic way to highlight the flavors of our region all through the winter.

As the ski season wraps up in Aspen, the kitchen at Ajax is still busy creating. During their mud season break, they will finalize their spring and summer menus. JD is looking forward to the days of imperfectly perfect heirloom tomatoes and bright summer fruits. He’s also got us licking our lips for fun events like the BBQ cookoff. We can’t wait to see what they dream up next with Farm Runners produce. Thanks, Chef JD and Ajax for supporting local farms with your delicious dishes!

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