As the head mixologist at the Sky Hotel's 39 Degrees, Aspen's hippest après-ski lounge, Denis Côté practices the work-hard-play-hard lifestyle with a twist—you'll find him busy behind the bar in the evenings, and playing hard in the hills during the day.
Côté grew up in a small town in Québec. After landing a job at Cosmos, a trendy restaurant in Québec City, Côté developed a taste for the hospitality industry, and spent time traveling the world. Before landing in Aspen in 2002, he held such diverse positions as a sports counselor at Les Elfes winter camp in Verbier, Switzerland, and as a bartender at Schnappa Rock, a beach café on the Tutukaka Coast of New Zealand.
For dinner parties, Côté and his wife, Carla, simply order fondue to go. "We go to the Jour de Fête deli because the owner, Olivier, has a prepared mix of shredded cheeses with white wine, garlic, and a little bit of kirsch. He can provide everything you need, including renting the pot and forks. We'll buy a nice big baguette and serve little onions, cornichons, and cured meats." Jour de Fête, 710 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, 970-925-5055
Meat of the Matter
"My wife and I go to this shop called Epicurious for fresh fish and meats. We like going to a traditional butcher shop, plus they have other great things, like side dishes and good oils." Epicurious Fine Foods, 400 E. Valley Road, #H, El Jebel, 970-963-8353
"I put maple syrup in everything, because I'm Canadian and all," jokes Côté. He'll make a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, garlic, and apple cider vinegar. His favorite steak marinade includes red wine, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon, maple syrup, olive oil, and black pepper.
Côté and his wife use two different French cookbooks when they want to try new recipes at home. La Guide de la Cuisine Traditionelle Québécoise is a collection of traditional French-Canadian dishes by Lorraine Boisvenue, and Bouchon reveals Thomas Keller's intricate recipes from his French bistro of the same name.
"I love chocolate and cheese—especially the Vacherin and the Val de Bagnes cheeses—so I loved living in Switzerland," Côté says. Find the seasonal Vacherin Mont d'Or cheese in March and April at the Truffle Cheese Shop, 2906 E. Sixth Ave., 303-322-7363
In New Zealand, Côté would scout for fresh abalone. "You have to free-dive for them, and you have to knock them with a knife just right to peel them off the rock. Then you pry the meat out, and just pan-fry them with garlic and butter."
Côté loves skiing, and when he's on the mountain he doesn't pause for lunch. "I'll just stuff my pockets full of dried fruits and energy bars," he explains. "I like Clif Bars the best because they don't freeze too hard."
RECIPE: Mile-High Hot Chocolate
- 1 ounce Hennessy VSOP Cognac
- 1/2 ounce butterscotch Schnapps
- 1/2 ounce Godiva white chocolate
- 3 ounces of your favorite premium hot chocolate blend
- 1 ounce Carnation milk
- grated dark chocolate
- whipped cream
Heat Carnation milk and hot chocolate blend together. In an Irish coffee mug or your favorite cup, pour in the Cognac, Godiva, and butterscotch Schnapps. Add enough Carnation milk and hot chocolate mixture to fill up the glass. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with dark chocolate shavings.