Aurum part of the changing face Steamboat’s Riverside restaurant row.
As we strolled down Steamboat Springs’ Yampa Streeet, I kept spotting signs with new names where I expected familiar ones. Aurum Food & Wine at #811 was one. Previously the family-friendly Sweetwater Grill occupied the riverside space that it is now more urbane. Past the lively bar and door to the patio with firepit is the large dining room. Woodwork, quiet wall colors and vintage photos make for a great look but don’t really tone down the noisy crowd. The name relates to Au, the chemical designation for gold, referencing Steamboat Springs’ short-lived gold days.
Since this is low season, I’m guessing that the current special of 50 percent of entrées (through November 15) is drawing in lots of locals. The menu features sprightly dishes that are intensely seasonal and therefore currently feature lots of dark leafy greens, squash and other root veggies. Only the exemplary Jumbo Lump Crab Cake is always on the menu. Steamboat insurrection might break out if they were not available. Chase Wilbanks, a 2004 CIA grad who worked in such diverse Colorado locations as Cooks Fresh Market in Denver and La Tour in Vail, is executive chef. Seasonal cocktails, a changing wine list and custom house wines from Sutcliffe Vineyards in Cortez make the beverage list as interesting as the menu. I couldn’t get to photograph everything, especially the mountains beef and lamb shank entrées before my companions dug in, but here are just some of the dishes a group of us tried:
Aurum’s owner is Phillips Armstrong, whom I’ve previously met when he partnered in the launch HUSH, whose roving pop-up dinners gave up-and-coming chefs a chance to cook in usual venues. I wrote a post about Kate Horton of Black Pearl cooking at the Infinite Monkey Theorem’s original location off Santa Fe in Denver. Our paths crossed again when he produced a series of dinners prepared by visiting chefs at the Hotel Stanley in Estes Park.