Winter on the Mountain returns to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Editor’s note: This article contained a wrong price of gondola tickets and didn’t have the Nov. 18 Santa visit.

The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, the only mountaintop theme park in the U.S., is turning into Winter on the Mountain, an event they’ve been doing since 2015. 

Nancy Heard, general manager of the Adventure Park, said everyone is welcome to bundle up and come enjoy the Caverns’ annual holiday celebration.

“Our annual Winter on the Mountain celebration is now underway and runs through January 7th! During this joyful event, Glenwood Caverns transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with a half-million magical lights, ice sculptures, rides, attractions, live music and festive food and drinks, as well as the occasional visit from Santa,” she said.

From Nov. 10 to Jan. 7, the park is adorned in half a million lights and some of them were set to decorate a 26-foot tall Christmas tree. The tree is said to be choreographed, the lights dancing to music. 

The Adventure Park will provide s’mores kits by the fire pits and marshmallows to roast. New items on the menu include hot chocolate, cider, and adult versions of them as well. 

One of the most important parts of the Winter on the Mountain event are visits from Santa. A part of the park will be turned into the North Pole to help Santa feel at home. Santa will visit from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 18, Nov. 25, Dec 2, Dec. 9, Dec. 16, and Dec. 23.

A secret about Santa is that, if children say they’re going to the park to see Santa, their admission fee will be waived; however, the adult accompanying them must still pay their own fee. 

Another great thing about the Adventure Park’s Winter on the Mountain is that they’re active at night. Not only that, but the Alpine Coaster will be running after the sun goes down as well — the track will be lined with lights and the carts will have headlights on them. Remember, the faster you go, the safer you are. 

Gondola Giving

Additionally, the Adventure Park will have musicians playing at the Lookout Grille from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday nights. Some of the caverns get spruced up with lights and finally, the Park has ice sculptures for children to run around and play on. 

In addition to Winter on the Mountain, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park likes to find ways 

to give back to the community and one of those ways is something they call Gondola Giving. 

“In the last few years we’ve had the opportunity to help our community with the Gondola Giving program and our nonprofit partner, LiftUp – a local food bank that works to help individuals and families who face food insecurity,” Heard said. “From November 10-22, park visitors who bring in a $25 City Market or Natural Grocers gift card for LiftUp will be gifted four gondola tickets from the Caverns for their generosity. The gondola tickets are worth $120 and can be used through February. This long standing partnership is a win-win-win for our guests, for our community and for LiftUp.”

The Adventure Park also holds other events to give back to the community, like Music on the Mountain, collecting over 20,000 in charitable donations for nonprofits and supporting local youth groups. 
These tickets are only for the gondola, which are usually $30 each. Take the opportunity to not only turn four tickets into the price of one, but to help the community of Glenwood Springs. More information can be found here:

Hotel Colorado bartender named Best Frontline Tourism Worker

Raise your glasses: Hotel Colorado bartender Ashley Efraim has been recognized as the Best Frontline Tourism Worker for the great west region.

Efraim, also named Best Bartender for this year’s Post Independent locals’ choice awards, was presented the statewide recognition at the Colorado Tourism Conference in Fort Collins in September, a news release from Hotel Colorado states.

The Colorado Tourism Office recognizes Colorado frontline workers for their tireless efforts in ensuring memorable and amazing hospitality. Efraim not only qualified for those standards, but exceeded them by winning, the news release states. 

Efraim was born in Pretoria, South Africa and moved to Glenwood Springs during the COVID-19 pandemic. She previously worked on cruise ships for eight years, the news release states. 

She became Glenwood’s favorite bartender while working at the Hotel Colorado. Her passion for making people happy and her ability to make friends with any stranger comes from her extensive travel experience. She makes entire rooms full of patrons feel cared for and comfortable with a genuine smile and lovable personality.

Her coworkers had wonderful things to say about her.

“Her energy level and joy are contagious to all who are around her. From her silly dance moves to her outrageous earrings, her big personality shines,” Human Resources Director Angie Apostolik said in the release.

“Her service skills are exemplary, and her character is one to be admired. Any business would be lucky to have her on their team!” Keefer said in the release.

“Her people skills are top notch, she is always starting friendly conversations with her guests and goes above and beyond, to offering them top notch hospitality along with hand crafted amazing cocktails,” Haga said in the release.

Hotel Colorado Marketing Director Taylor Thulson agreed.

“She is not only an exceptional bartender, constantly honing her craft to make unique cocktails for our guests, but she also leaves an impression on every person she interacts with,” Thulson said in the release.

Efraim had this to say about how she feels for winning these awards. 

“Absolutely on top of the world. I feel so honored that I get to represent our beautiful region. I definitely think it shows that, when you’re treated right at work, great things come from it,” she told the Post Independent “Hotel Colorado has done nothing but take fantastic care of me ever since I’ve started that, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I won’t lie though, I never saw any of this coming. The bartender of the year award, the Frontline tourism award, none of it. I’m just in complete awe, still don’t really know how to comprehend it. 

“I do know though that I am so happy to represent the hotel in such a glorious way and I look forward to keeping on making them proud. I couldn’t be happier with the situation I am in and I look forward to what the future holds!”

El Dorado opens its doors in Carbondale, adding a new chapter to an old legacy

El Dorado, the newest addition to the Carbondale bar scene, is making waves not just for its signature cocktails and vibrant atmosphere, but for the rich history encapsulated within its walls. 

Located at 358 Main St., the bar officially opened on Aug. 16, a symbolic date mirroring the town’s zip code: 81623.

“This building has a ton of history to it,” Owner Michael Arnold said. “It’s been a saloon. It’s been a million different things. You can see some of the metal patching in the floor where they used to patch bullet holes back in the day.”

Arnold’s journey with El Dorado started unexpectedly. After securing the building, previously housing Batch Provisions, in late January, he was initially unsure about the path ahead.

“The short story is I wanted to do something for Carbondale,” Arnold said. “I wanted to give something special to this community but I didn’t know what I wanted it to be. I never thought it would be a bar.”

The final concept became clearer when Arnold saw a need on Main Street.

The entrance to El Dorado, which was formerly Batch Provisions, located at 358 Main St., Carbondale.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

“People were looking for a nice place to have a good bottle of wine, or a cocktail or a beer,” Arnold said. “We wanted a place with no TVs, where people want to get off their phones, and so that’s where we are today.”

With the recruitment of General Manager Ben Simonette and Bar Manager Jess Clutter, both of whom were working at a beach bar in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, the vision for El Dorado became more clear.

Simonette’s own journey to El Dorado had familial ties. He flew out to Carbondale after being referred by his uncle, Charlie Berger — the contractor for the bar.

“My interview was actually to go fly fishing,” Simonette said. “After the interview, they mentioned they needed another bartender. I mentioned it to Jess while we were cleaning bar mats one night and we were both in a good position for a life change. Now, here we are.”

Clutter found the new bar to be a natural extension of her persona. 

“If I was a bar, I would look like this place,” she said. “It’s a perfect fit for me.”

Beyond its experienced staff, El Dorado has a distinct ambiance. Chris Rullet, a fellow visionary of the bar alongside Arnold, pictured a blend of Carbondale’s western heritage with a psychedelic twist.

“We wanted to make this an environment where the western heritage, specifically of Carbondale, meets a psychedelic feel,” Rullet said. “This place is extremely unique and I can’t really think of another place like this in the valley. We spent a lot of time on detail and people will be able to notice that when they walk in here.”

The mantra for El Dorado, “Stay Gold,” greets customers while they enter the back of the lounge.
Taylor Cramer/Post Indpedent

Musical choices further accentuate the bar’s vibe, promising tracks from artists like Tame Impala, Colter Wall, Khruangbin and A Tribe Called Quest. The bar’s mantra, “Stay Gold,” reflects its mission — to offer an authentic, inclusive and memorable experience. That mantra is also represented in the entrance to the bar, which consists of a large gold door.

Guests can savor locally-made Argentinian empanadas or partake in the bar’s weekly cocktail specials. And in a nod to affordability, a beer and shot combo is priced at just $7.

“We brought these bartenders in from across the country because they are already awesome people and then we sent them down to a bartender bootcamp and upped their cocktail game,” Arnold said. “They were already great bartenders but we wanted to make them that much better so that we can generate the best possible experience.”

El Dorado beckons with its rich past and a promising future, aiming to be a haven for everyone in the valley.

“This is not a corporation, but a family,” Arnold said. “Everyone here has bought into what we are doing. The people that we have brought in are here because they are creative and we know what they can bring to the table.”

The El Dorado bar features plenty of unique art from thrift stores throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Now with its door open, Arnold said he is excited to see what other unique concepts flood Main Street in the near future.

“For the most part, this is a lounge which is something that you really can’t find on this street,” he added. “We are just one of the few places on this street hoping to make it better than it already is, and hopefully whoever comes after us also comes up with a great concept.”

For El Dorado events and news, follow @eldoradostaygold on Instagram.

A Valentine’s Day love affair with chocolate at Carbondale’s new Pollinator shop

It’s a love story about the birds and bees, but not in the way you’d think.

Mark Burrows, the owner of Pollinator Chocolate in Carbondale, has a love affair with chocolate and pollinators, marrying the two into Pollinator Chocolate. The store/cafe opened in late January after months of preparation in the Red Rock Plaza on Colorado Highway 133. 

“They are both really fun, and they are both very complicated,” Burrows said. “You have to be straightforward with each one of them. There’s no tricks”

The longtime hobby beekeeper has one thing he loves equally to a perfectly made chocolate bar, and that is pollinators, mostly the bees.

“Honeybees to me, are the bellwether species, where if honey bees are doing poorly because of climate change or insecticides or pesticides or herbicides or fungicides, the other 20,000 species we’re not paying attention to are doing worse,” Burrows said. 

Although he loves honeybees, too, he’s not worried about their future.

Pollen that Burrows uses to sprinkle on select chocolate bars.
Cassandra Ballard/ Post Independent

“Honeybees are insanely resilient,” Burrows said. “They bounce back so fast. They’re fine. They’re not going anywhere.”

In his pursuit of delicious chocolate, he decided to take it into his own hands and make his idea of the perfect chocolate while also making people more aware of the different pollinators that keep world populations fed.

“Chocolate is very specific about how it has to be treated,” Burrows said. “It’s called the princess tree in a lot of places because it’s very specific about how it grows. It needs a lot of water and well-drained soil.”

Burrows is just as specific with his methods and appreciation of working with the beans.

The beans are ground meticulously to a perfect cocoa butter with a machine he imported from India for the ideal texture. 

He then stores the butter in a honey vat before mixing the cocoa to his ideal texture.

Creating chocolate at Pollinator Chocolate in Carbondale.
Cassandra Ballard/ Post Independent

“Chocolate has a natural structure of six different crystal properties at any one time,” Burrows said. “So what we’re looking for is crystal structure number five, and that’s a beautiful temper chocolate that doesn’t melt in your hand easily. And snap, it’s got to snap.”

He said he likes to have a gradient of five, which is incredibly smooth in comparison to something like Mexican chocolate which is known for being more coarse.

The only ingredients he uses are cocoa and sugar, everything else is sprinkled on top when he sets the chocolate in the sleeve to be shaped into a bar.

“I sprinkle it on after shaking out the bubbles,” he said.

This way he can add flavor, but it’s more of a complimenting factor so as not to deter from the main treat, the chocolate itself. It is also easier to add than to remove ingredients in the mixing process.

Some of the most popular bars are the ones that he sprinkles pollin and or crystalized honey onto as a nod to some of his favorite flying buddies.

He features chocolate from the different countries he receives the cocoa from, like Bolivia, Tanzania and Ghana. Each country he sources his beans from produces different flavors and notes. 

The beans are bought from private brokers to avoid the humanitarian struggles that are commonly found in the chocolate trade, like slavery. His thoughtful purchasing extends to the coffee he buys, too.

“I buy from brokers who specialize in working directly with farmers to make sure there’s no slave labor,” he said.

The truffle case at Pollinator Chocolate in Carbondale.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

The truffles that are also made in-house are hand painted with bright colors, popping out to people right as they walk in the door. Each truffle is hand painted and created with care by Pollinator’s chocolatier, Jewel Lerato.

“I have full creative freedom,” Lerato said of a perk she enjoys about the job.

Don’t let the beauty of the truffles fool you, though. They look too good to eat, but the flavor matches the beauty. You can have your truffle, but you should prefer to eat it, if you can’t have both.

Lerato blends flavors that would not always be expected, like mango, lemongrass and coconut, creating a flavor that almost feels heavenly. 

“They all just melt together,” Lerato said about creating the new mango truffles. “I was excited.”

She said she gets inspired by recipes she finds, and extrapolates on things she sees, she said.

Eventually, Burrows plans to have a tasting bar for chocolate that will pair chocolate and desserts with wine and cocktails. He already has the coffee machine and menu running, but most know that all coffee pairs well with chocolate. 

The wine and charcuterie bar are slated to be ready for launch by May 5, according to his manager and the person writing the menu, Crystal Colantino. Burrows considers Colantino his right hand and the person who keeps him grounded.

“She fires me at least once a day,” Burrows said jokingly.

Chocolate bars at Pollinator Chocolate in Carbondale.
Cassandra Ballard/ Post Independent

Colantino is hoping to get the grand opening and the menu launch complete by May, because that is when her baby is due. The two joked that then her baby would be happily raised in the shop.

Burrows hopes to make the location a place where people in the community can hang out and enjoy a nice atmosphere, whether it’s to enjoy some chocolate with coffee or to come after dinner for dessert and wine. 

He wants people to have their celebrations there, or to get a tarot card reading. He said the one thing he won’t do is have a shot-ski kind of bar. He’s not there for people to get drunk, he’s there for people to enjoy every sip and bite as a full experience.

That attentive attitude in every aspect of the company continues in his drive to bring the community together. Every idea he has is another way to bring in and make the space a community space.

“Community is very important to me, and I’m looking for partnerships with other community minded people like the mountain biking community,” Burrows said. “I want to invite the community in and give people the opportunity to relax and get a cocktail or coffee.”

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at or 970-384-9131.

Epicure and TACAW launch supper club series

Julia and Allen Domingos, owners of the boutique-catering company Epicure, are expanding their culinary offerings at The Arts Campus at Willits with a bimonthly supper club that launched Jan. 4 and runs through March.

The longtime locals and food-industry veterans retired their operations (SO Café) on the top floor of Aspen Art Museum in 2021 and joined TACAW in the spring 2022 to run the food-and-beverage program. Their approach has been to create specific, unique, and appropriate menus for the various events at TACAW, as well as opening the onsite summer café Tabl. 

The Domingos were drawn to TACAW for the creative vision of the organization as a community hub and were inspired by the idea of incorporating their food into the programming at the campus.

“Although we still live and operate our business out of Aspen, so many of our friends and colleagues have moved to the mid-valley. We were really impressed with the creative and diverse cultural vision of TACAW and wanted to have a creative way to work with them and participate in the community,” said Allen Domingos.

Owner and executive chef Julia Domingos said she enjoys being unrestrained with the dishes she can create to complement the larger programming experience, whether it be small snacks at the bar, dinners for a musical or comedic act, or showcasing locally-sourced ingredients at Tabl in the summer.

“I like having a rotating menu,” she said. “It challenges me creatively and allows me to work with what I can source during a given season. In the summer, we source almost 100% of our products from Colorado. Obviously, we can’t do that in the winter but are able to source ingredients like honey and meat from local ranches and rely on Farmrunners, a fantastic company, for produce and other items.”

Foodies will get a chance to sample Chef Julia Domingos’ food at TACAW’s newly launched supper club.
Courtesy photo

She described her food as “clean but accessible with international influences” and acknowledged people are “probably over mashed potatoes and other heavy holiday food.” Thus, the first offering on Wednesday was a prixe-fix, French-inspired meal including a salad, a choice of a couple of entrees, including a vegetarian option, and a light dessert.  

For each event, tables will be set up in the lobby of TACAW, and the space can accommodate up to 60 diners.

Much like her former concept at SO Café, the dinners, which will be held every other Wednesday, will feature a rotating menu with no two dining experiences alike, with options ranging from Asian to Middle Eastern and family-style to buffet, with an emphasis on cuisines and flavors that aren’t easily available in the valley. Tickets include food, nonalcoholic beverages, tax, and gratuity.  Alcoholic drinks can be purchased from the bar. 

“We just want everyone to come, have fun, and connect with the community over a meal in a creative way,” she said. “We really need that right now.”

If you go…

What: Tabl Supper Club Series
Where: The Arts Campus at Willits, 400 Robinson St., Basalt
When: Every other Wednesday continuing Jan. 18 through March 15. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. | Dinner: 6-8 p.m.
Tickets and More Info:

Doctor’s Tip: Two tasty plant-based holiday desserts

Chocolate Raspberry Tofu Pie

This is a relatively healthy holiday dessert from It does contain quite a bit of sugar, but don’t feel too guilty for splurging a few times over the holidays. If you’re a purest, you could try substituting date paste for sugar if you make your own crust, but date paste would likely change the texture of the tofu/chocolate part.

Following are the ingredients:

· 1 ½ cups of vegan semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand available at Natural Grocers and Whole Foods)

· 12.3-ounce package of firm, shelf-stable silken tofu (unrefrigerated—Mori-Nu brand in foreign food section of City Market)

· 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

· 1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen (thawed), plus more for garnish

· ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

· 1, 9-inch graham cracker pie crust


· Put chocolate chips in a medium microwavable bowl. Microwave on medium for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving on medium, stirring every 20 seconds until melted.

· Place tofu in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add the melted chocolate, maple syrup, and vanilla. Process again until smooth. Add raspberries and confectioners’ sugar and process until very smooth; scraping down the sides as necessary. Spread the mixture into the crust. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm. Garnish with raspberries.

Makes 10 servings. Nutritional data per serving: 310 calories; 15 g fat (6 g saturated, 6 g monounsaturated); 0 mg. cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrate; 31 g added sugars; 5 g protein; 3 g fiber, 153 mg sodium, 210 mg potassium.

Pioneer Gingerbread

This is from the Fall/22 edition of Forks Over Knives magazine.


· 3 cups spelt flour (Natural Grocers)

· 1 Tbsp. baking powder

· 1 tsp baking soda

· 1 tsp. ground ginger

· 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

· 1 tsp. ground allspice

· ½ tsp. ground nutmeg

· ½ tsp. ground cloves

· ½ tsp. sea salt

· 1 cup pure maple syrup

· ½ cup applesauce

· ¾ cup molasses

· 2 Tbsp. white vinegar


· Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 3-qt. rectangular baking dish with parchment paper. In a medium bowl whisk together the first nine ingredients (through salt).

· In another—large– bowl stir together the remaining ingredients. Add 1 cup boiling water; stir to combine. Slowly add flour mixture while stirring just until combined. (The batter will be quite thin.). Pour batter into a prepared dish.

· Bake 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in dish 20 minutes. Remove gingerbread from dish. Cool completely on a wire rack.

· Serve with a vegan lemon sauce (find recipe online) or plant-base “whipping cream” available at most grocery stores.

Have safe, healthy, happy, tasty holidays!

Dr. Feinsinger is a retired family physician with special interest in disease prevention and reversal through nutrition. Free services through Center For Prevention and The People’s Clinic include: one-hour consultations, shop-with-a-doc at Carbondale City Market and cooking classes. Call 970-379-5718 for appointment, or email

Making the holidays sweet: Vail Valley bakers and confectioners share their favorite traditions

Since well before the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, the holidays have been associated with sweets. The tradition of giving kids candy started about 350 years ago in Germany when a choirmaster handed children sugar sticks shaped into a shepherd’s crook to keep them quiet through the long Christmas service, according to “The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets.”

These days, the Vail Valley offers plenty of sweet treats to help celebrate the holidays (or quiet kids at church); here are several starting points.

Sundae’s Egg Nog
Courtesy photo

A variety of sweets

From chocolates to cakes and cookies, specialty sweets make holiday memories all the more pleasurable.

While Cornerstone Chocolates in Edwards can incorporate cinnamon, chai and all kinds of spices into its artisan chocolates, it also makes eggnog truffles and Irish cream or liquor-based truffles.

“Chocolates are very popular because with all the food and festivities, you don’t want a heavy dessert,” said chef and owner Felicia Kalaluhi.

The Yule log, or buche de Noel, just might be the most festive way to celebrate the holidays. The thin and pliable chocolate cake is rolled with a layer of raspberry jam or chocolate or vanilla cream into a log. Kalaluhi creates two versions: a classic Yule log and a more modern log, shaped like a terrine, which resembles more of a loaf, “like a mousse dessert, instead of a jelly roll,” she said.

At Cornerstone Chocolates, you can also buy sugar cookies in the shape of mittens of snowflakes; cranberry orange pecan cookies; a variety of chocolate barks (including cranberry orange, peppermint and white chocolate); and caramel pecan chocolate turtles, which she said are also quite popular around the holidays.

Avon Bakery & Deli, known for its organic artisan bread, bakes fresh pumpkin bread with organic flour, pumpkin, sugar, sour cream, eggs, butter and a handful of spices, avoiding any and all preservatives. Its thick snowflake cookies, with their mild gingerbread flavor, are also a great way to celebrate the season.

Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Co. is known for its unique and sweet gifts: You’ll find gondolas, Christmas tree forms, sleighs, Santas (and Santa britches) all filled with festive cookies, chocolates and other candies, like eggnog taffy or peppermint Lindor bells. Other packaged cookies and candies include reindeer noses (chocolate-covered malted milk balls with a red one standing out), chocolate Santas, white-chocolate-covered pretzels and mor

Frozen sweets

Sundae’s Miracle on Bridge Street.
Courtesy photo

Both Häagen-Dazs and Sundae turn a portion of their premium ice cream into holiday specialties for the season.

Häagen-Dazs Dessert Café in Vail offers Peppermint Bark, a vanilla-based ice cream with chocolate chips and chopped peppermint candy, which can be savored in scoops, shakes or sundaes.

“It’s a really popular flavor,” Ric Almas said, so get it before he switches it out in mid-January.

Sundae’s flavor of the month is Miracle on Bridge Street. It has been running as the December flavor of the month since 2017 — Sundae’s first holiday season. Named after the location in which it was created, at Sundae in Vail, Miracle on Bridge Street swirls sweet-cream ice cream with peppermint candy bits and dark chocolate cookie pieces.

“As the quintessential holiday ice cream flavor, it is widely loved by guests and staff — it’s my personal favorite — and we are excited to bring this flavor back for its sixth year,” said Molly LaBrecque, executive assistant to Sundae founder Kent Beidel.

Sundae’s holiday seasonal flavor, available at all locations until New Year’s Day, comes in the form of eggnog ice cream, made by combining sweet cream ice cream with Sundae’s artisan eggnog spice blend, which includes cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.

“It was created last holiday season by Marie, our production supervisor, and was just too delicious to not bring back this season,” LaBrecque said. “Even though Sundae’s eggnog is frozen, it still exudes the same feelings of warmth and celebration as a glass of eggnog.”

Cornerstone Chocolate’s yule log
Courtesy photo

DIY and more

While it’s convenient to buy sweets, making them at home can become a beloved tradition.

Allana Smith, personal chef and owner of FOODsmith, grew up participating in mother-daughter cookie exchanges in East Aurora, New York.

“We made gingerbread men — my mom did it every year I can remember,” Smith said. “The number of cookies you bring would be the number you take home with you, plus a half-dozen extra to eat during the party.”

She continues that tradition here in the Valley with her three daughters, using her mini-gingerbread men recipe.

“They have a nostalgia to them,” she said. “The earth spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses are so fragrant, especially when you bake them.”

She also has cut snowflakes or animals out of the gingerbread recipe, and anyone can order her already baked gingerbread people to take home and decorate, to simplify the process during the busy holiday season. She and her husband also create custom gingerbread houses, which can be used as centerpieces; they’ve built everything from ski chalets to a miniature replica of a client’s condo in Florida, with chocolates and cookies displayed around the houses.

In the spirit of DIY, Sweet Mustache continues the candy cane tradition started long ago in Germany, particularly in its Kids Cooking Club this month. While the fun starts with gingerbread house decorating 4-6 p.m. Dec. 19, they’ll be guiding kids through candy cane making noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 26. That same day, kids can make rainbow bars from 3-5 p.m. Email for more information or to register.

Sweet Mustache also sells premade sets of cookies and icing to take home to decorate, including an 8-inch Santa kids can assemble. Plus, it offers a variety of holiday sweets at the shop, including shortbread dipped in chocolate, gingerbread, cranberry bliss bars, pecan bars, pecan and apple pies and sugar cookies in the form of snowmen, candy canes, gloves, boots and more in two different sizes.

“People love the holiday spirit of spending time with family and having something sweet to share with them,” said pastry chef and Sweet Mustache owner Amaya Laws.

Try these

FOODsmith Gingerbread Men

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar- cream ingredients together
  • ¾ cup molasses -add to butter and sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 ½ cup AP flour
  • combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl
  • 1/2 cup water

-alternate adding wet and dry ingredients to the butter, sugar and molasses mixture until it comes together -roll out to ¼” thick, cut into mini (or large) gingerbread people, place on parchment  lined baking sheet, approximately 1 inch apart from each other, bake at 350° for 4-6 minutes -Yields 50-60 mini cookies

Royal Icing

  • 2 egg whites, whip till stiff
  • 4 cup powdered sugar

Add slowly to whites while mixer is running, then add juice of ½ lemon and add water until reaches desired consistency.

New Castle holiday chili cook-off, mac-and-cheese competition, tree lighting ceremony Dec. 2

Nothing like a hot bowl of chili on a cold winter’s day.

New Castle ushers in the holiday season this year with a tasty chili cook-off and tree lighting ceremony next week. The event also includes live music, fire pits, a mac-and-cheese competition, beer garden, photos with Santa Claus and more.

Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at Burning Mountain Park, 450 W. Main St., in downtown New Castle, Town Administrator David Reynolds said.

“This annual event brings together the community to enjoy one final town-hosted event before the end of the year,” he said. “As an added treat this year we are adding a mac-and-cheese competition to the event.” 

New Castle uses this event to accrue enough capital to enhance holiday decor around town and to support future holiday chili cook-offs. For the 2021 event, there were 270 participants in the chili cook-off and an estimated additional 150 attendees for an estimated $1,500 in profit.

Attendees sample chili during last year’s cook-off in New Castle.
Courtesy/Rochelle Firth

New Castle Recreation Coordinator Kelley Cox said the event is the perfect kickoff “for our little town.”

“It is a chance for all of us to come together to enjoy music, Santa, good food and the Christmas spirit with our neighbors and friends,” she said.

Tickets for the chili cook-off and mac-and-cheese competition can be purchased in advance at, with adult tickets $10 and kids $5.

Any interested chili and mac-and-cheese cooks interested in competing in this year’s event can contact the New Castle Recreation Department at 970-984-2311.


  • Chili cook-off competition: 5:30 p.m.
  • Mac & cheese competition: 5:30 p.m.
  • Elk Creek Elementary Choir performance: 6 p.m.
  • Holiday tree lighting ceremony, hosted by New Castle Mayor Art Riddile: 7 p.m.
  • Holiday music, hosted by Two Rivers Productions: all evening
  • Fire pits: all evening
  • Hot chocolate: all evening
  • Photos with Santa, hosted by Samantha Gates, photography, sponsorship by EMBRYN Keller Williams Colorado West Realty: all evening
  • Beer garden sales: all evening

What: New Castle holiday chili cook-off, mac-and-cheese competition, tree lighting ceremony

When: 5:30 p.m. Dec. 2

Where: Burning Mountain Park, 450 West Main St.

How much: Tickets for the chili cookoff and mac-and-cheese competition can be purchased in advance at, with adult tickets $10 and kids $5


Ditch the beer for Oktoberfest and celebrate the seasonal harvest Farm Fest in Carbondale

Carbondale has replaced Oktoberfest in order celebrate the local harvest and local food with this year’s inaugural Farm Fest from Oct. 14-16.

“Farm Fest will have the feel of Carbondale’s signature events, such as First Friday,” said Andrea Stewart, Executive Director of Carbondale Tourism in a press release.  

The weekend-long event will promote eating locally and healthily with the participation of Carbondale’s restaurant community, some fun farm activities, ranch tours and an evening farmers market downtown. 

“There will be a downtown night farmers market with live music, our restaurant community will be showcasing local ingredients on their menus and farms and ranches will open their doors to the community,” she said.

The festivities will wrap up with a community lunch at Spring Creek Ranch, featuring a line-up of local culinary champions who will create a feast from produce sourced throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and Western Colorado, according to the release. 

Farm Fest is designed to connect residents and visitors with the agricultural heritage, and it will showcase and promote small agricultural businesses, food producers and restaurants.

It will be a celebration for local ag and food to tell their stories and highlight their connection to regional heritage.

“Carbondale’s unique ranching and farming legacy is thriving with a “gastro renaissance” driven by the young farmers and ranchers who are carving out boutique and micro-farming projects, while developing relationships with custom-grow chefs, brewers and distillers — resulting in unique flavors from the local terroir, while minimizing the distance food travels from farm to fork,” according to the release.

For more information, partnership opportunities and to purchase passes, visit

Carbondale agritourism ventures strengthen understanding of farming and ranching lifestyles, provide a first-hand perspective

Merrill and Pam Johnson hang out with the alpacas in the pasture at Cedar Ridge Ranch near Carbondale.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The first thing you notice is the resounding quiet. Driving a ways up the bendy road from Colorado Highway 82, visiting Cedar Ridge Ranch is like entering a different world — one where you’re just as likely to make eye contact with an alpaca or rooster as you are with another human being.

“We have alpaca hats that come straight from the alpacas,” Pam Johnson, co-owner of Cedar Ridge Ranch said. “So you can go out and kiss the alpacas and then get a hat, and learn about the alpaca.”

Three alpacas look towards the camera for a glamour shot at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The Johnson family — parents Randy and Pam and their only daughter, Merrill — moved from the hustle and bustle of the Chicagoland area over 20 years ago onto Cedar Ridge Ranch and began offering an educational, boutique ranching experience to those who came out to visit. Randy said they’ve had visitors come from not just Denver, but Saudi Arabia, Germany and Portugal, as well.

“It’s really interesting the kinds of people that we do meet here,” (Randy) Johnson, a Vietnam-era veteran and former salesman, said. “And some of the kids go, ‘Mom, the eggs aren’t white!’ you know?”

Garfield County passed an agritourism proposal back in 2013, which enabled the Johnsons to offer even more to their guests. Now, instead of just giving farm tours, horseback riding lessons, alpaca yoga and allowing visitors to collect eggs from the hens on the property, people can spend the night on the ranch in one of the various hospitality setups on the ranch property.

Pam Johnson collects eggs from the chicken coop at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“I think agritourism too has this really strong capacity and opportunity to help farmers, because farming is not easy work, and it’s 24/7. … They’re just undervalued,” Merrill Johnson said. “I think agritourism opens up a place where farmers can be valued and seen more than they are today. Agritourism in general allows for the opportunity for other farmers to do something very, very similar and to be able to share what they do so other people can back or support them.”

Morgan Beidlemen was a recent agritourist to the Cedar Ridge Ranch and said she stumbled upon them by Googling ‘glamping in Colorado.’ She said the Johnson’s ranch was a perfect balance of far enough from Denver but still close to other nearby towns, so without an isolating feeling.

“I love horses and I love cows, just kind of walking around and saying ‘hi’ to them. And the alpacas were so curious; I just loved how curious they were,” Beidlemen said. “Being able to get eggs from the chickens and go back down to the yurt and cook eggs you just purchased … having that complete break from work … and (an) immersive experience of being on the ranch and all that it has to offer. … That was really what I was looking for.”

A pair of roosters sit on a doorway at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

She also spoke to the Johnson family’s hospitality and openness to educate folks who had questions about the lifestyle and the workings of the ranch itself.

“Their willingness, you know, to talk about things … talking about having a totally different life before. … Human connection, connection to nature, disconnection from technology and just beautiful (scenery).”

Sarah-Jane Johnson, a tourism project manager for Carbondale Tourism, said Garfield County is rich with opportunities for Agritourism, and Carbondale specifically has a long history of farming. Carbondale tourism recently launched a Farm + Food map highlighting local farms with Agritourism opportunities and restaurants that specialize in farm-to-table menu options.

Pam Johnson hangs out with the goats near the barn at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“I love the fact that this is a visitor education tool, but I think our local community will connect with it as well and use it perhaps,” Johnson said. “You can learn about history and you can enjoy a cocktail and then you can enjoy a lovely meal. There’s just so many different layers to connect with the destination through agritourism.”

Lucy Perutz is the co-owner and chef at The Beat restaurant in Carbondale, which started as an entirely vegetarian eatery but shifted its business model during COVID-19 to accommodate local farmers who were experiencing a produce surplus and individuals who were hesitant to visit grocery stores at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We were like, ‘well, let’s translate our business to something that makes sense for the moment,’ and that turned into an online order-ahead grocery store that specialized in local foods and your staple and bulk items, too,” Perutz said. “… We had meats and some dairy, which we’ve never served meats before, but we found it kind of important to keep the farmers going … to support the entire model of local food.”

Merrill Johnson feeds an alpaca at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The restaurant is now in a transition phase from being a grocer back into being an eatery, but Perutz said their focus will now prioritize locally grown crops on the menu, instead of being sure to offer staple dishes guests had come to enjoy but may require produce out of season to Colorado or from farther away.

“I think what we realized is really exciting is we’re gonna make awesome food and are going to provide good, quality tasty stuff that’s going to change a lot more often now because that’s just what we want to do,” Perutz said. “We want to better support the farms and if they can tell us they have a surplus of this one particular item, that’s going on the menu.”


Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or