By Kelly J. Hayes | May 22, 2015 | Food & Drink
Grey Lady brings owner Ryan Chadwick's New England roots to the mountains.
The Aspen seascape: the Grey Lady lobster roll with house pickles, Old Bay french fries, and mussels from Canada’s Prince Edward Island, steamed with prosecco and chiles.
A gift from the Atlantic arrived in the Rockies this winter. It was something one would have thought, perhaps, out of place—a Nantucket lobster shack. But Grey Lady, a collaboration between Ryan Chadwick and Ian Perry (they dealt us Escobar in 2010), has quickly become one of the most gabbed-about places on Aspen’s restaurant scene.
Clean lines, rustic details (the circa-1902 pressed-tin ceiling is an “import” from Chadwick’s Manhattan apartment), and a staff steeped in the ways of craft cocktails, fine wine, and stellar seafood have quickly made “The Lady” a must-do dining destination. “We wanted to create a place that felt like your living room, but with better food and drink,” says Chadwick, who is at work on a third Grey Lady location, in Nantucket, to join those in Aspen and New York. “It’s like an extension of your house.”
It is a rare house that offers such superb shellfish and seafood, shucked and prepped by chef Kathleen Crook, a rising star in Aspen who moved from turf to surf following a stint at Steak House No. 316. The seafood is startlingly fresh. Live lobsters are flown in from Maine for authentic New England lobster rolls. “They come in wiggling, and we steam and pick them in-house,” says Chadwick, a Maine native, who enlists the expertise of his uncle, himself a Maine lobsterman and purveyor. Oh, and the to-die-for, pillowy-soft roll is made just down the street at Annette’s Mountain Bake Shop from a recipe that riffs on the famous baguettes from New York’s Balthazar Bakery.
Equally fresh are Grey Lady’s oysters, which are farm-raised on the Damariscotta River in Maine. (Where else?) Petite, briny, salty, they are sourced from an estuary that is, to oysters, what the vineyard of Romanée-Conti is to Pinot Noir: the very home of excellence. Complement a dozen with the bright aromas of a Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, from Napa Valley, or the effervescence of Champagne (say, a 2003 Dom Pérignon).
Other menu favorites include a killer chowder, Maryland blue crab cakes, and the spicy, crisp, Asian-inspired duck confit wings served with veggie kimchi. “And we can’t make the Old Bay french fries fast enough,” says Crook.
Grey Lady’s bar and wine program places heavy emphasis on local productions. Tap cocktails use Escobar vodka, made in collaboration with Basalt’s Woody Creek Distillers, and a barrel-aged old-fashioned features Breckenridge bourbon as its base. Of course, for the summer, an Aspen Brewing blonde ale is also available, on tap. 305 S. Mill St., 970-925-1797
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICOLE BARKER