Aurum is a New Eatery on Yampa

Aurum part of the changing face Steamboat’s Riverside restaurant row.

P1100997As 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:

Crisp, lightly curried cauliflower with fiery shishito peppers, pine nuts, golden raisins and a sweet and sour reduction.
Crisp, lightly curried cauliflower with fiery shishito peppers, pine nuts, golden raisins and a sweet and sour reduction.
Seared diver scallop with broccolini puree and greens -- a special of the evening.
Perfectly seared diver scallop with broccolini puree and greens — a pair constitutes a special of the evening.
Fall salad consisting of greens, cranberries, toasted hazelnuts,  tomato, orange supreme, brioche crouton and aged cherry vinaigrette.
Fall salad consisting of greens, cranberries, toasted hazelnuts, tomato, orange supreme, brioche crouton and aged cherry vinaigrette.
Wild mushroom ravioli with Gorgonzola fondue, cherry tomatoes, toasted walnut and crisp leeks. There are usually two to an order, but for this abundant sampling, I requested just two.
Wild mushroom ravioli with Gorgonzola fondue, cherry tomatoes, toasted walnut and crisp leeks. There are usually two to an order, but for this abundant sampling, I requested just two.
Two prime beef burgers with foie gras mousse, Taleggio cheese, caramelized onions, house-made and savory gaufrettes.
Two prime beef burgers with foie gras mousse, Taleggio cheese, caramelized onions, house-made and savory gaufrettes.
Pumpkin tart with cinnamon caramel, powdered sugar and Chantilly cream
Pumpkin tart with cinnamon caramel, powdered sugar and Chantilly cream
Who doesn't like crème brulee? This is a cold version made with Grand Marnier-macerated beans and a bit of mint on top.
Who doesn’t like crème brulee? This is a cold version made with Grand Marnier-macerated beans and a bit of mint on top.

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.

Price check: At dinner, appetizers, $39-$16; Salads & Soup, $8-$12; entrées, $22-$42; desserts, $9-$12. (This price range does not reflect the current half-off entrée special.)
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