Head for the Hills

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Coming down from the mountains, I was eating tafelspitz with my fingers. I was scooping up spaetzle -- sticky with gravy, dyed purple by the pickled cabbage it’d snuggled up against on the plate -- and shoveling it into my mouth. Like a caveman (or just another unprepared culinary day-tripper), I was lifting a slab of dripping top round to my mouth and tearing off bites with my teeth: Westfaelischer sauerbraten, the glory dish of Westphalia, one of the most recognizable in all of the German canon.

Laura was driving. My mom -- in town for another lightning visit, having arrived at dawn as if air-dropped from some sort of blacked-out parental commando flight -- was in the back. The two of them were talking about something; I had no idea what. I was oblivious to the conversation, the fruited plains, the purple mountain majesty all around me. Oblivious to everything but my impromptu, rolling lunch from Westfalen Hof: one of Colorado’s oddest, most maddening and most unique restaurants.

It’s all about the mountains this week, with visits to Westfalen Hof (Edward and Patricia Gumieniaks’s 9,000-foot-high love letter to all things Teutonic), the Georgetown Valley Candy Company, Kneisel & Anderson and the Raven Hill Mining Company in Georgetown.

I spent a long time talking with the Candy Company’s Rube Goeringer last week, and got a fascinating glimpse into the history of Georgetown – particularly that part of Georgetown now occupied by his candy shop. I got even more of a peek into the past just by hanging out at Kneisel & Anderson, the general store/grocery store/hardware store a few doors down 6th Street, and came away wishing that I either had a place like this in my neighborhood or that I lived right down the street from it in Georgetown. Not that I’d be willing to give up any of the weird little Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern groceries I already do have close to home, but a store like Kneisel & Anderson (where I can get a bag of Doritos, a couple bottles of root beer, a round of Danish Havarti, some French chocolate and instant, Japanese wonton soup) would certainly be a welcome addition.

All this road-tripping served to remind me that Colorado’s culinary (and occasionally retail) history stretches far beyond the bounds of what I usually consider to be my beat. And with spring already here and summer fast approaching, I intend on expanding my boundaries to include more time in the mountains and beyond.

Of course, I’ve been saying roughly the same thing for the past five years and haven’t yet managed to get in more than a couple out-of-the-way culinary destinations, but who knows? Maybe this year will be different.

I’m certainly going to try and make it so.– Jason Sheehan

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