Restaurant: Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro
Cuisine: Swiss and Continental cuisine
Chef: Michael Johnston
Location: Aspen Highlands, Top of the Cloud Nine Lift
Note: Ski-in ski-out only
I can’t tell you how many times we finished our lunches at Cloud Nine with champagne duels, dancing on the chairs in our ski boots (not the easiest thing to do) and singing along to the DJ’s tunes with other like-minded guests.
People are drawn to this legendary restaurant for its unique and fun atmosphere. On the day of this shoot it was no different. My heart is pounding just thinking about it!
But Cloud Nine is not only famous for its afternoon parties and champagne spraying, but also for its upscale Swiss Alpine cuisine where Chef Michael Johnston is at the helm of its culinary glory.
The former ski patrol hut is nestled between mountains in Highlands. When you ski down to the restaurant, beautiful views of the iconic Maroon Bells and mountain range with snow covered peaks open up creating a magical feeling, especially on a sunny day like the one we were lucky to have on the shoot. The real trick though is getting back down after all the bubbly you consume at lunch – all of a sudden skiing gets much more difficult:). So let’s begin….
Warm up by the fireplace and taste their hot chocolate, it is insanely, heavenly silky and and considered the best on the mountain by many!
How exotic and unusual it is to have fresh raw seafood at 11,000 feet above the sea level?! The seafood platter with oysters, shrimp, lobster and crab is just glorious.
The freshest crustatians are served on ice and arranged in a superbly refined presentation.
We tend to always start our lunches with chilled seafood; it sets the mood and wakes up the taste buds. Of course we must have a perfectly chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot to wash down the succulent shellfish.
Friendly staff is up to speed and very attentive.
If going with a group of friends, share chef’s smoked trout spread, served in a jar with crusty, charred toast and some frisee.
Also try the beef tartar with egg yolk; it is very fresh, finely diced, and I love the garnishes.
My husband and I enjoy meeting chefs and talking to them about their experiences like where the produce is sourced from? What kind of grass the beef was feeding on? And so on. Chef Michael was charming and engaging with us.
Chef Michael in action- not one dish is released without his final check and touches- garnishing, fixing, making sure the plate is clean.
Braised beef short ribs on a bed of polenta, tender baby carrots, crispy green beans, gremolata and golden raisins.
A glass of medium-full bodied red wine goes perfectly well with it!
This is a gorgeous meat course – just look at all the colors – and is super flavorful due to those long hours braising in wine, stock and other aromatics!
Salmon seared to perfection with crispy skin served on a bed of green lentils, baby spinach & fine herbs. Reminds me of my time in the Alps!
I am a big fan of lentils especially during the cold winter months, and paired with salmon makes for a superb meal.
If you don’t yet feel full just from looking at all these mouthwatering images of the food we tried, here is our dessert- chocolate fondue with berries & tiny marshmallows. We like to finish on a sweet note before the battle ( aka champagne duels).
And if you’re not fast enough, it will be drowned in champagne splashes. There’s so much of the bubbly sprayed that the wooden ceiling beams practically ooze it!
The man to know is restaurateur Tommy Tollesson who is always there, pleasant looking with a nice smile and a bit mischievous twinkle in his eyes, like he knows what going to unfold later on at the two o’clock seating.
If you are the person who hits the slopes first thing in the morning, makes plans to meet with friends by noon for a gourmet lunch, and then plans on skiing again after, go for the twelve-noon seating. If you decide to make a reservation for the two o’clock seating (and if you’re lucky enough to get it), there isn’t any skiing afterwards. You’d be lucky just to make it back down the mountain! The second seating is when the fun mayhem rules the place. Tommy is playing excellent tunes on an awesome sound system (which by the way is the first thing he replaced after he took over the place), open kitchen is jamming, servers are weaving through the crowd of happy revelers and the atmosphere is electric.
Don’t get me wrong, Cloud Nine is not a teenage party place; it is a top-notch restaurant with a very capable chef and mostly sophisticated clientele. It just has that extra oomph at that two o’clock seating. You can feel it in the air when you get there – the mass anticipation that something exciting and fun is just about to happen. But don’t be late for the two o’clock; at three the Champagne starts to spray and then your food is done!
LOOK: Bogner made amazing one-piece ski suites this season, mine was in baby blue. I paired the look with messy braid tied with my daughter’s Hermes scarf and Michael Kors pink hat. I like to accessorize my ski outfits, it adds a touch of mountain glamour and makes the outfit interesting when I take off the jacket. I tend to refrain from dark colors under the jacket.
Photographed by Michele Cardamone.