Chef Martin Oswald dreams of broccoli. Specifically: a crisp-tender, neon-green vegetable with edges charred just so. Oswald — who opens a new fast-casual eatery, mix6, in The Collective building in Snowmass Base Village on Dec. 7 with a free community dinner and celebration with live music — has spent dozens of hours studying high-tech “combi ovens” and programming the machines’ algorithms to perfect his recipe.
“If you put broccoli in a sauté pan, you can never achieve that,” Oswald declares. “In a combi oven we’re injecting steam first so it gets nice bright green, then we take all the steam away so it gets charred with the Maillard reaction, which creates so much flavor.”
Mix6 chef de cuisine Kyle Raymond was deeply impressed with Oswald’s dedication to this single ingredient, one of some 30 nourishing items on the line. Raymond will prepare everything fresh at the new counter-serve restaurant, where customers may combine a cornucopia of flavors into big bowls for eat-in dining or takeaway.
“We went to do the combi-oven training in Denver, and it really is a game changer, what these ovens are capable of doing,” says Raymond, who recently visited the Rational brand facility with Oswald and mix6 general manager Fabio Bianchi for a full day of instruction. “Instead of blanching, shocking, and then roasting to get the color, all of this can be done in the oven. It kind of blew my mind.”
The technology finds a natural match in nutritarian cuisine — food prepared to contain the highest possible concentration of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients — which Oswald has pioneered since opening Pyramid Bistro above Explore Booksellers in Aspen in December 2010. The same philosophy infuses mix6.
“When I worked for Wolfgang Puck (in 1992-1993), we had an oven-roasted broccoli,” Oswald shares. “It came out wonderful — we put garlic and Parmesan on the dish, really great flavor — but when you roast it you lose the color. I wanted to take it to the next level and inject steam into it to get the bright green color, and get the roast out of it. We’ve worked hard on this.”
Such precision to create what Raymond calls “foolproof” recipes is also evident in mix6 spices, blended in-house. Diners will find distinct Asian influences with lemongrass and kaffir lime, French-Indian vadouvan spice blend on cauliflower, Tuscan chicken, South American chimichurri steak and North African harissa shrimp. That broccoli, too, is kicked up with a handful of spices including two kinds of chile pepper and ground coriander, then topped with pickled kumquats.
“Every food item option is seasoned individually — that’s the fun part,” Oswald says.
Diners have many choices. A bowl begins with hot or cold “base” items, including baby kale with Meyer lemon dressing; ancient grains with dates and green onions; a Tokyo-inspired crunchy salad with mango and ginger; forbidden black rice with tamari; red quinoa; Spanish rice with peppers; and sweet potato puree. The mix4 option offers two hot or cold bases, one vegetable (Brussels sprouts with toasted sunflower seeds and balsamic glaze; butternut squash with coffee spices, pepitas and pomegranate molasses), and one protein (Tuscan chicken, crispy chicken or pulled pork with blackening spice and barbecue sauce) for $11.95.
The mix6 option (two bases, two vegetables, two proteins) starts at $14.95. Premium proteins, such as steak, shrimp, or ginger-miso salmon with nori spice, may be added for $2.50 more. Ginger-mandarin-miso tofu, interestingly, is counted as a vegetable, and flavor add-ons (two included per order) range from tomatoes with red onion and mint to spicy kimchi.
Oswald is most excited about his “chef-curated mix” of predetermined six-item combos. The “nutritarian mix” is a vegetarian delight for $14.95; Oswald, personally, would pick the premium “surf & turf” selection with steak, shrimp, crushed avocado, sweet soy cremini mushrooms, forbidden rice, Tokyo mix and that supreme broccoli for $21.95.
“You really can customize your food; anybody with any food allergy of any kind, or on a Paleo, Ketogenic, or nutrient-dense diet,” says Oswald, who a few years ago was the chef-consultant for the opening of Bolay, a bowl-based, fast-casual chain in Florida. “I’ve worked so long on the molecular food — Syzygy in the ’90s — but what really gets me interested is how to build the most dense phytonutrient composition. How can I create the most flavor?”
Raymond, a veteran of Aspen establishments including Mezzaluna, Caribou Club and Grey Lady, is stoked to unveil a different kind of affordable dining concept to Snowmass, a veritable family activity hub. In addition to world-class skiing, the Base Village ice skating rink and the indoor rock climbing wall at the Limelight Snowmass, The Collective comprises an 8,000-square-foot multipurpose event space with moxiBar (with a separate menu of snacks by Oswald and extensive cocktail list, plus beer, wine and coffee), fireplace lounge, space for live music and art programming, and eye-bogglingly awesome subterranean game lounge. Visitors are encouraged to explore; a traditional restaurant simply wouldn’t jive here.
“Coming from plated, more elevated cuisine … we’re taking a lot of higher-end products and applying it to a fast-casual operation,” Raymond says. “It’s similar in terms of using the best ingredients we can; it’s (different) in how it’s received to the customer. You’re not dependent on a server. You can bring in your family and sit down, get something nutritious and delicious, but not have to allot the two-hour dining time.”
While Oswald has devoted the past decade of his career to nutrition, he’s not an extremist. Desserts include hazelnut-chocolate mousse and a peanut butter-chocolate bar, among other treats. The kids’ mix3 menu will feature wholesome base items, vegetables and crispy chicken tenders, which happen to be gluten-free. Buttermilk pancakes at brunch (see sidebar, above left). Youngsters seeking creamy, gooey, cheesy goodness will find that, too.
“It’s not just about being super healthy, whole-grain, and gluten-free,” Oswald promises. “There are plenty of healthy options — the mac and cheese is not gonna be one of them.”