My son Sasha Heller, a newspaper designer and journalist, has lived in Denver, Colorado since August 2018. Sasha and I are standing in front of Chris Lanter’s smoker eyeing delicious briskets to be sliced up in his Home Team BBQ restaurant in Aspen, Colorado. We’ll explain why.
I visited Sasha Aug. 6 – 10, 2019 to spend time together. My son had not had a chance to see much of his new state since moving there from Austin, Texas, so we headed to Aspen Aug. 8 – 10 for some fun and sightseeing.
I first visited Aspen in 1972 with Sasha’s mom when it was a small hippie enclave where Jack Nicholson and four girl-friends were known to hang out. My impression was of a modest mountain village of small wooden buildings, some frankly a bit dilapidated.
I returned thirty years later in 2002 with my friend Steve Shine who was living in Breckinridge at the time and found a hugely expanded and opulent city of serious affluence. Seventeen years later I was again returning to an even larger and richer city of 7,400 that my son marveled about supporting two daily
This time I was coming to visit Chris Lanter, the celebrated chef-owner of Cache Cache, Aspen’s best restaurant located in the heart of town at Main and Mill. I was Chris’ social studies teacher at Northside High School in Atlanta, GA 1988 – 90 and his chaperon to the Soviet Union at the end of
1989. For more information, please see the video One Moment in Time on
Facebook reconnected us and he extended an invitation to stay with him and his lovely wife Rena in their beautiful Snowmass condo. Chris and Rena are terrific hosts and made Sash and I feel right at home.
They are also very generous hosts and invited us to be their guests at Cache Cache that Saturday night.
I found a Southern Coterie friend’s letter to Chris that reflected my own similar mission to Aspen.
I apologize that the rest of the background information got cut off – Chris’ son is skiing the blacks. Chris, through hard work and a genius for cooking, has
created a special dining experience. Welcome to Cache Cache where the staff is lined up at the entrance to show their support for a friend’s Olympic skiing quest.
Sash and I entered the cozy bar, sat on the right side, ordered a drink, and were drawn in by the warm welcoming vibe.
The restaurant is tucked away snug in the corner of a retail mall a stone’s throw from the main plaza. There is a cute outdoor plaza for dining – weather permitting.
Chris brings every friend or VIP in to his kitchen for a look. Sash and I were amazed that the relatively small kitchen served a fairly large dining room. The team did not miss a beat – they form two lines around a long serving table.
Chris is with the son of another former student of mine, Tristan Probst, who visited Aspen with his family another time. Observe how compact the kitchen is yet the staff is comfortable and relaxed.
Chris’s supplier of beef is supposedly the best in the world – note the New York strips. My son would order one of those steaks – I’ll reveal the price when
you see it cooked.
Chris’ philosophy is to creatively blend the highest quality ingredients into attractive and flavorful plates for a superb dining experience. He personally took our order – I pleaded that I can only eat one appetizer these days – he brought us three.
All of the ingredients in the above extraordinary prosciutto plate were sourced in Colorado.
The second appetizer included slightly torn green pasta tubes with crumbles of feta, tomatoes, spinach and an exceptional dressing. We failed to photograph the third dish, a delectable roasted beets plate.
We checked the price on the menu for Sasha’s New York strip – $82. My son smiled as he ate the most expensive and scrumptious slab of meat he’d consumed in his life to date.
Observe the perfect char, the drizzle of garlic butter, the double fried hand cut potatoes that were to die for. The steak was medium rare – perfectly pink on the inside.
I ordered the calves liver that was the best that I ate in my life. The texture reminded me of Flatiron steak, the onions were indescribably delicious – can’t figure out how he kept the crunch through grilling. The sauce, mashed potato base, sautéed greens – it all came together for a magical taste bud treat. At $35, it was a bargain – can’t imagine where one could obtain liver of this quality.
The chef personally delivered our dessert, a Panna Cotta that is a must experience.
I felt compelled to include a few more of Chris’ famous dishes that we did not have an opportunity to sample. First, I recommend Chris’ famous crab cake with shaved cabbage side.
Second, the loaded potato pancakes sour
cream whipped into crème fraiche, scallions, and I think pancetta
chunks) approaches food porn.
The next morning, Chris and Rena invited Sash and I to join them for brunch at their Home Team BBQ restaurant. Home Team serves as the hotel restaurant for the Inn at Aspen located at the Buttermilk ski run base, a great location. Shelly Allison, another former student who has also moved to Aspen, and her husband joined us.
My two former students and I took this picture in front of Chris’ sign. Shelly has built a successful family law practice. Seeing your students do well in life is one of the great rewards in life for a retired teacher. Home Team BBQ probably has greater growth potential than the very successful Cache Cache.
I ordered the smoked salmon on a bagel plate. It was the first time in my life that I’d consumed lox in the place where it was cured or smoked. One sits at a table and looks out on the meadow and mountain beyond – the sight is spectacular, the food is incredible, the owners are great restaurant people and human beings.
Look at the brisket smoking away – also the below sliced chunks of juicy brisket.
The following shot was taken by my girl-friend Patty’s grandsons Max and Brendan on their recent trip to Yellowstone National Park. The photo has been on my desk top for a few months and today I decided to use it to end this web page on Chris Lanter, Cache Cache, and Aspen, Colorado.
This picture of wild flowers describes my feelings as Sash and I left Aspen to return to Denver. I felt like I had just been to a place where the best and most beautiful of nature’s bounty was gathered and appreciated. The result was living the essence of a special place in real time.
And don’t forget – when you’re in Aspen, you got to go to Cache Cache and Home Team BBQ. And say hello to Chris and Rena for us.