On a roll | VailDaily.com

On a roll

Laura A. Ball
AE Fox Nut3 PU 1-22

BEAVER CREEK – Executive Chef Dustin Aipperspach poses a challenge to anyone dining at Foxnut.”I guarantee anyone no matter if they eat sushi or not that I can make you something off my sushi bar that you will actually enjoy,” Aipperspach said.When I walked in for dinner last Thursday night, the tiny bubble-gum pink eatery with pillowy chartreuse booths, matching watermelon-colored Japanese paper lanterns and oversized Japanese magazine ads on the walls was nearly overflowing like a fresh cup of sake. I could have walked off the streets of New York or San Francisco into this trendy, urban dwelling rather than the quaint ski village of Beaver Creek. Were all these people here to take the chef’s dare? Certainly not. They were there for the same reason I was – to check out the new sushi joint – because really, if you don’t enjoy sushi, chances are you’ve never had it.

“I’ve taken many people who say, ‘I don’t eat sushi, I don’t like it’ and I start them off very slowly with beginner sushi and build them up to where now they love sushi and it’s their favorite food,” the chef said.Aipperspach, born and raised in Montana, remembers a time when the only food he could prepare was homestyle German farmer cuisine. He got his start in the kitchen when he was 5-years-old apprenticing under his German grandmother. While the rest of the kids played outside, a young Aipperspach made schnitzel and kraut. Four years ago, Aipperspach discovered his passion for sushi when he took a second job at Sato for extra income, cultivating his skill and eventually becoming sous chef. The chef said he feels lucky to have fallen into making sushi at the same time Americans were starting to rave about it. he said. “It’s just been in the last 10 years there has been this huge craze over sushi and Asian cuisine.”

Just what is it about sushi that is so appealing? My best friend, sister and I were about to find out.We started with a glass 2004 Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc from New Zealand at the recommendation of General Manager and sommelier Mike Moran. The sweet wine favored the sweet small plate of Peking spring rolls ($9), tender duck, jicama, cabbage, scallion and lemongrass rolled into a crispy shell sweet enhanced with an orange and cardamom dipping sauce. (I would go back for the sauce alone.) And after some edamame spiked with sea salt and lime, we were ready for our sushi. In all honesty, there wasn’t a roll on the menu I didn’t want to try. And although the sushi menu is small, it has all the gems, and Aipperspach said he expects it will be three times this size in a year from now. The firecracker roll ($13), made with tender spicy tuna, crisp cucumber, avocado and fresh jalapeno relish, was brilliantly served with vibrant wasabi tobiko on beautiful Asian pottery. To my delight, it tasted just as good as it looked, a must-order. Moran’s pairing of 2004 Dr. Losen “QBA” Reisling from Germany, a sweet, crisp white, provided a fresh burst of green apple in between bites.

“It cuts right through the spice so that the flavor doesn’t get repressed,” he said.The Beaver Creek roll ($16) stands up to its name. Luxurious and rich, the meaty lobster encased in tempura, cucumber, avocado and scallion roll seemed to disappear faster than my paycheck. The Big O ($14), real crab, salmon, smelt and avocado, dynamited was nothing short of comfort sushi, satisfying and filling. The presentation of each roll was most impressive without sacrificing any flavor. Of course, sipping on the incredibly smooth Rihaku “Dreamy Clouds,” an unfiltered cold sake, said to bring out enormous flavor in sushi, didn’t hurt either. (Sake is traditionally served cold or room temperature. Warming it up is of American invention.)Aipperspach’s version of salmon sashimi ($16) stood out most on the menu, incorporating an innovative “new style” trendy joints like Nobu are using. Aipperspach mixes a blend of peanut oil and sesame oil, brings it to the highest temperature or the smoking point, and then drizzles it over the fish searing the outside ever so slightly. He finishes it with truffles and chives. You still get the light, refreshing appeal of sashimi but with a warm explosion of flavor.

Aipperspach is passionate about cooking, but it doesn’t take away from his playfulness.”You’re always learning and improving cuisine and when you stop you should probably get out of the business,” he said.To complement the sushi, the large plates offer an eclectic selection of Asian fusion cuisine inspired by Aipperspach’s many influences. The charbroiled black cod ($17) takes on a new persona in a sweet and spicy combination of chipotle miso. The light and flavorful fish sits atop a bed of wok-seared Yuzu Asparagus. Moran recommended the vibrant, fruity 2004 Borgo Magredo pinot grigio from Italy to complement the sweet and overtake the spice. The Peking duck ($20) is another of Aipperspach nontraditional fares. He trice cooks the duck, first blanching it its own stock, building layers and layers of characteristics and flavors, then he roasts it in the oven and finishes with a secret spice rub before dropping it in the fryer to crisp up the skin, a novel delicacy.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

For the grand finale, our palettes indulged in a warm confection of ginger creme brulee, which I’ve been craving ever since.Conclusion: Our love of sushi is more than just jumping on the latest trend, it’s the perfect balance of sweet and spicy, protein and carbs, comfort and adventure. What is Foxnut

The restaurant explains the mysterious meaning of its name on each menu:Foxnut (n.) – (1) an Asian spice used to stimulate the appetite and tone the system; (2) Beaver Creek’s newest restaurant, serving Asian Fusion & Sushi.

Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14641, or laball@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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