Cottage to the Core at the Bistro

by: S.W. Kirch

Right now, who doesn’t need a way to relax? Since traveling nowadays is so fraught, many alternatives, which more and more people are choosing, tend to be in the form of virtual escapes. There’s a popular way of going about this, which is referred to as “Cottagecore”; it’s a concept that is, thanks to Instagram and Taylor Swift’s new album cover, becoming mainstream. Seen as an antidote to “doom-scrolling”i.e. reading the myriad of overwhelming negative news feeds – Cottagecore is a conceptualization of what it means to live during a more down-to-earth, wholesome and less stressful time. 

Thanks to owner Karin Derly’s ability to successfully implement her alpine design ideas, a visit to the French Alpine Bistro – Crêperie du Village in Aspen, Colorado, is a sort of physical experience that’s evocative of the same feeling that Cottagecore is trying to capture through images. Let yourself be immersed in Karin’s quintessential cottage of the Alps. From carefully curated music, and expertly prepared dishes, to the details of the design: here’s a real-world place to escape.

In fact, many of the antiques on display, which contribute to a cottage atmosphere, are sourced by Karin, a native of Austria. Her family entrusted her with many heirlooms that have their roots in the Europe of decades – even centuries – past. Some of these include a coffee roaster, a milk pail, and a specialized blueberry rake. All three artifacts hearken back to bygone days before high-speed internet…when gardens and children were tended and grew in sync with nature – true Cottagecore

“First, we have coffee….” might have been something Karin’s great-grandparents, the original owners of the coffee roaster, could have said. In order to do so, the coffee beans would have had to have been roasted, and 200 years ago, the coffee roaster was a common kitchen appliance. This particular cast iron roaster was heated atop a wood stove and had to be constantly cranked by hand, so that the bean rotating blade could do its job in transforming the chemical and physical properties of the green coffee beans into consumable beans with an even roast. Afterwards, the coffee beans would be quickly cooled in order to avoid an “after-roasting”.  Initially a luxury of the well-to-do, it eventually found its way into the homes and hearts of rural families.

“Next, we add cream to the coffee!” Cue the milk pail, which, while not quite as old (approx. 90 years), was just as vital to Karin’s family. In fact, her Austrian father, Walter Schwendtner, had many important daily chores, one of which was to go to the neighbor’s farm for fresh milk.  Simple enough, but he didn’t always come home with the milk pail full to the brim. Why not? Well, because, true to little boys the world over, he made a mundane task into a game! The rules of this particular game entailed seeing how he could apply centrifugal force to defy gravity by swinging the pail in big circles over his head without wasting a single drop of milk. Right: he wasn’t always successful; however, he did make the task more fun. These and other memories live on as a restaurant detail. Maybe you’ll notice it next time you’re at the French Alpine Bistro – Crêperie du Village, and, hopefully, you’ll smile.

Finally, more than likely, at least in the late summer, Karin’s family would’ve enjoyed blueberry pancakes with their coffee. However,  as anyone who’s picked blueberries knows, it can be backbreaking work. One way to make it easier was to utilize a device called a “Heidelbeerrechen” that looked like a mix between a giant comb and a common rake. By systematically going over the blueberry patches found in the woods, one would get many more blueberries in considerably less time. Both of Karin’s parents remember hours of required blueberry picking, which resulted in delicious homemade jams. Nevertheless, Karin’s father didn’t see the point of all this picking, and would’ve much rather have been playing soccer. As a result, he’d use the blueberry rake to finish the task as quickly as possible. There’s a drawback though, since it meant that the rake also collected a lot of blueberry leaves, all of which had to be painstakingly separated from the fruit…also a time-consuming task: he just couldn’t win. In the end, the blueberry rake now enjoys its retirement as a decorative piece at the restaurant, along with the coffee roaster and milk pail. Next time you’re here, Be sure to raise your glass to Walter, the pail swinging, blueberry-picking-boy, who is now an esteemed grandfather.

In the end, life goes on, whether we think it should, or not. Do what you need to in order to make the inevitabilities of life worthwhile and bearable. Tolerate setbacks. Celebrate triumphs. Whatever you need/whatever it takes, know that we, here at the French Alpine Bistro-Crêperie du Village, recognize and empathize with all the trials and triumphs that are inherent components of a life well-lived. Whether you live in a castle, or yearn for a cottage, we are capable of supplying vital threads, with which you can weave your own tapestry of memories. Join us!