Meals issues: Caribbean-Indian flavors at Capitol Creek Brewery in Basalt

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When Farm Runners first delivered a whole lamb to Capitol Creek Brewery in July, Chef Abhay Nair was out of the office.

“Hey, cook, I think you canceled this by accident,” recalls Nair of a cook who told him over the phone. “I thought, no, no, no, just put it in the fridge. They had never seen a carcass in the kitchen before. “

When Nair returned – probably from the Aspen Public House, where he is also the head chef – he began to smash the animal with a sharp knife.

“Everyone crowded around me like a fight in high school,” says Nair, chuckling. “Lamb in this form is a bit more expensive because you have to pay for processing and delivery. But the fact that (my team) understands where a rib or fillet is and why those meats are the way they are … the educational part was worth it. “

Since June, Nair has been redesigning Capitol Creek Brewery’s gastropub menu to showcase its new identity as a “curry house,” guided by the Caribbean-Indian flavors that Nair grew up with in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. It was an extremely rewarding aspect of Nair’s new post at APH’s sister restaurant in Willits to teach a handful of novel techniques and familiarize them with alien flavors to a team of mostly Latin American chefs.

“We felt compelled to stick to the menu (at APH),” says Nair. “Yesterday a guy came to Mitteltal just for a chicken sandwich because the public house is closed (because of the construction of the Wheeler Opera House out of season). People come for the pierogis! That feels good.”

Zane’s Tavern opening an outpost in Willits this summer gave CCB even more reason to break away from all-American bar food. In addition, the 10 to 12 beers on tap by “Grain to Glass” master brewer Jerod Day form a thirst-quenching counterpoint to Nair’s exotic cuisine (for our region). “It’s been a positive thing over the past few months to slowly bring this to people’s attention,” said Bill Johnson, owner of CCB / APH. “Abhay breathed life into our nutritional program.”

Still, CCB serves a juicy double cheeseburger, kale Caesar salad and “The Fried Chicken Sandwich”. The latter winks at the fans of APHs with buttermilk marinated chimichurri aioli giants in the Mediterranean style. Almost everything else has a unique twist: smoked habanero hummus; a salad with shaved radish, smoked bacon, crumbled blue cheese, toasted sunflower seeds, and truffle and bacon vinaigrette; the Indian-flavored quinoa burger; and three different curries (Vindaloo, West Indies, Tikka Masala) served over vegetables or protein of choice (chicken, lamb, trout).

Nair’s autumn menu at CCB, refined over nearly four months, gives the chef the constant opportunity to share fresh flavors and techniques with his eager kitchen crew – and guests seem to love it too.

Spicy lamb vindaloo curry

“Sixty percent of my employees here ate curry for the first time… and these guys had never braised before,” explains Nair, continuing the story of the lamb butcher’s shop. This particular curry is reminiscent of owner Johnson’s love for hunting and nature and is “more like a hearty campfire stew with Colorado lamb,” explains Nair. “Liquid from the braised lamb flows into the Vindaloo sauce – the only one that isn’t vegan because we use this lamb broth to keep it traditional.”

From there, it’s an APH-style cultural fusion: Nair tops French fries with lamb vindaloo curry, curd cheese, and chopped herbs in a bestselling poutine, and braises braised lamb with homemade tzatziki, pico de gallo, and shredded purple cabbage a naan Wrap instead of pita. “

Trinidad Fried Chicken (TFC)

“(My cooks) were honest enough to say, ‘We don’t know where Trinidad is. ‘That was also an apprenticeship,’ says Nair. Instead of chicken wings, Nair serves boneless tenders coated in a fragrant, golden tempura batter (thanks to turmeric and garam masala) with a flight of dips: buffalo sauce, buttermilk blue cheese dressing, and sweet and sour tamarind chutney.

“My mother used to make tamarind chutney because we had a tamarind tree in our backyard,” recalls Nair. “I want people to come and get something new! But also identifiable. “

West Indies curry

The green preparation, also known as “Caribbean curry”, is made from coconut milk and culantro (not to be confused with coriander), a leafy herb that, together with Trinidadian pimento peppers and spicy local garlic, forms the “holy trinity” of Trinidadian cuisine. “We call it chadon beni – like a cousin of coriander without the disinfectant, the lemony taste,” says Nair. “With trout, it’s a great meal on a cold winter’s day.”

Salad with vegetables and grains with cashew pesto and passion fruit vinaigrette

“We’d scoop the fruit out to make fresh juice for Sunday lunch,” says Nair, recalling passion fruit that was harvested from vines on his family’s property. A neighbor’s coffee and cashew plantation inspired him to make this alternative pesto in a cooking competition (which he won) at the age of 20.

At CCB, Nair combines both influences – and contains every ingredient. “We use coriander, basil, and kale stalks that are blanched and pureed to give the body body. We recycle a lot here. “

Truffle potato pierogis

Using a mortar and pestle to mash roasted spices instead of opening a jar of ground powder was an early lesson in Nair’s kitchen at CCB. These pierogis are another APH favorite and feature warm nuances of crushed cumin in the potato filling.

“My mom would only make aloo pie if I had a good report card or if I played a game of cricket and the team won – it was a reward dinner,” says Nair, who attributes her strict standards as a demanding home cook to his own training style. “I always tell my boys, follow the recipe, but stick to your taste buds. Taste buds are your real recipe card. “

Amanda Rae is the editor of “The Aspen Cookbook”, which is the family recipe from Chef Abhay Nair for Tikka Masala Curry, due out November 11th.