Law update: text of the proposed legislation being introduced by State
Senator Gail Schwartz"
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the team (no, make that the army) of chefs who cooked for the Slow Food Summer
Harvest Social dinner at Six89 on August 27th. This was the ninth year in
a row for the benefit, and it will be the last one at Six89, since the restaurant
is closing soon. We'll all be back with a new fund-raiser next summer!
SLOW FOOD BENEFIT DINNER
27 August 2012
time at six89 in Carbondale
Special to The Aspen Times Aspen, CO, Colorado
CARBONDALE -- "We're closing because it's time,"
Mark Fischer said of the impending Oct. 27 closure of six89, his popular, longstanding
restaurant on Carbondale's Main Street. "We've come full circle, and it's
become an issue of sustainability. I think it's far more important we go out
on top of our game than to eke out a few more years."
The move to close was prompted in part by the restaurant's lease not being renewed,
as well as lack of interest by Fischer and his wife-business partner, Lari Goode,
to purchase the building, which, in Fischer's words, "needs a lot of love."
But the bottom line is the couple's desire to move on to the next thing.
"Although it's important, we've never been driven by dollars and cents,"
Fischer said. "We could put a million dollars into a hundred-year-old building,
but that doesn't make any sense. Purchasing it doesn't fit with our business
model. It's time for something new."
The couple also owns Phat Thai, with locations in Carbondale and Denver, and
the Pullman in Glenwood Springs.
Six89's tenure began in the spring of 1998, when the aforementioned lease was
first signed on the unassuming, turn-of-the-century house.
"It was serendipity,"
said Fischer, who was returning to the Roaring Fork Valley after a stint at
the Fog City Diner in San Francisco. (He had previously cooked with Charles
Dale at the former Renaissance and at the Caribou Club, both in Aspen.) "We
saw the possibilities, did a lot of demolition and remodeling and opened that
From the start, Fischer was ahead of the trend. His menus featured dishes made
with ingredients sourced from local farmers and purveyors, as well international
flavors. Some, such as ponzu, aioli and gremolata, which were less familiar
then than they are today, inspired the addition of a "Menu Lexicon."
"Our idea has always been not to pigeonhole the food into one category,
like French, Asian or Italian,"
he said. "We worked with the seasons and the location, changed the menu
often and tried not to take ourselves too seriously."
Categories such as small plates included tasty bits like crispy goat-cheese
gnocchi salad with truffled oregano vin (a version is still on the menu). "Bowls"
included fiery red mussel stew or smoked duck mu shu. And such dishes as North
Atlantic salmon with roasted pepper relish and tapenade came under the heading
of large plates. If you couldn't decide, there was always the possibility of
opting for "Random Acts of Cooking"
-- family-style servings of whatever the chefs felt like preparing that night.
Over the next 14 years, six89 grew steadily from a local neighborhood darling
to a culinary destination. Diners who originally made the journey down from
Aspen and over from Grand Junction or Edwards for Fischer's confident, quirky
cuisine, were joined by others from far-off sea-level cities. While customers
became regulars and then friends, writers heaped praise in such publications
as Food & Wine, Gourmet and Bon Appetit. Fischer himself was a James Beard Award
nominee several times in the Best Chef Southwest category.
Although the closing of six89 has been confirmed only recently, some of the
restaurant's 20 or so employees had been aware of the possibility.
"I'd been in the loop for a while,"
said Bill Bentley, six89's wine director, who has been at the restaurant from
the start and is responsible for both the front of the house and the collection
of good-value wines from all corners of the world. "The lease goes through
June, so it was a surprise for some folks that we're closing so soon. But we
typically close for November and most of December anyway, so it made good sense."
While Bentley hasn't committed yet to future plans, he said that family time
and skiing will be on his agenda this winter and he will consider starting a
business he's always wanted to pursue -- high-end, gourmet fishing trips.
According to Fischer, once six89 closes, about half of the employees will be
placed in various positions at his other restaurants, both in the valley and
Denver. Chef de cuisine Bryce Orblom, who has been at six89 since August 2008
and in charge of the kitchen since the following October, will make a move downvalley
to the Pullman and has hopes of continuing with Fischer and Goode in their next
About what that venture might be, Fischer said first that it will definitely
not be another version of six89.
"Six89 will always have that place in my heart -- that it's the nearest
and dearest and the more precious," he said. "But
this is definitely an ending."
After moving the iconic galvanized cow (a custom piece the couple had shipped
from a New Zealand art gallery) that long has stood guard on the front lawn,
as well as the backyard chicken coop, to their house in Missouri Heights --
and taking some time off to ponder -- plans to open a new restaurant with an
all-new concept and menu might come to fruition as early as next spring in another
Main Street location.
"We are not departing the scene,"
Fischer said. "We're pretty committed to Carbondale. We think it's an awesome
place and would like to do things that are going to make us a part of it for
a long time, whether that involves owning real estate in town, or operating
a business or a combination of both."
Fischer has confirmed that they have signed a lease on the space that currently
houses the restaurant Hestia, which, in turn, is expected to close this fall.
Serendipity once again.
Linda Hayes is a freelance travel and food writer who lives in Old Snowmass.