A bug by any other name would…taste as delicious? According to the Little Nell’s executive sous chef Keith Theodore, that’s exactly what crisped crickets are: delicious. “I’d never worked with edible insects before receiving some samples from Wendy McGill, founder of Denver’s Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, and I must say, I like the flavor. They are almost reminiscent of roasted hominy or corn nuts.”
Similarities to snack foods aside, there’s a more compelling reason to eat insects and arachnids (the human consumption of which is known as entomophagy): dwindling agricultural resources and a booming global population are creating a need for nutrient-dense, sustainable alternative protein sources. It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of the planet’s population already consider bugs a dietary staple. Chefs, food manufacturers, and bug farmers here in the States are following suit, creating a market for edible insect products like cricket flour (used in energy bars, cookies, and other baked goods), as well as whole critters, used in everything from street tacos to fine-dining fare; locally, check out the cricket empanadas at Linger.
On March 6, you’ll have a chance to taste some critters for yourself. The Wheeler Opera House in Aspen will premiere the documentary Bugs, which follows chef Ben Reade and scientist Josh Evans around the world as they seek solutions for feeding our growing populace. A pre-film “Bubbles & Bugs” reception will include complementary cornets of maguey worm ice cream with salted caramel grasshopper cookies.
After the screening, the Nell’s signature restaurant, Element 47, is hosting a four-course, bug-centric dinner. The menu was developed by Theodore, executive chef Matt Zubrod, and acclaimed Mexican chef Jose Carlos Redon, a co-producer and star of the film; Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, a Denver insect farm, is a co-sponsor of the dinner. Diners can expect dishes like “chicatanas” (flying ants with beef tartare, coffee-poached egg yolk, and arugula), as well as crispy pork belly with cricket mole and collard greens.
“Aspen Skiing Company [which owns The Little Nell] is committed to forward-thinking and sustainable solutions. If we can approach this in a refined manner and serve insects at a five-star level like a number of great chefs are doing internationally, then we can have a strong impact on this important initiative,” Theodore says.
Tickets for the film and the “Bubbles and Bugs” reception are $15 (the reception starts at 5:30 p.m.); tickets for the dinner (which begins at 8 p.m.) are $47. Tickets for both events are $60. Purchase yours here.
Wheeler Opera House, 320 E. Hyman Ave, Aspen, 970-920-5770
The Little Nell, 675 Durant Ave., Aspen, 970-920-4600