Category Archives: Review

Lather up with the Breckenridge Soap Company

The story below was a feature on The Breck Connection

When Breckenridge local Rene Bartnick first started lathering lotion on her son Jackson when he was a baby, she paused for a moment to take a look at the ingredients and realized she couldn’t pronounce a single one. Determined to find a more organic alternative, she took matters into her own hands and started experimenting with a few homemade concoctions.

Homemade and handcrafted soaps in Breckenridge, Colorado

Once I found out this was something I could do on my own, it opened the door for lots of experimentation,” Bartnick said. “I realized it was almost like an art project. Working with different colors and scents… it allowed me to be very creative.”

After setting up a makeshift work space in her kitchen, Bartnick started dabbling in soaps, salves, lotions and lip balms. Friends and coworkers became guinea pigs as she handed out her new products to anyone that wanted to try them and in just a few short months the Breckenridge Soap Company was born

Bartnick will be the first to admit that creating the right line of products didn’t come without some serious trail and error, and she laughs when she recounts the time she actually had to lick her own soap to test if the ration of ingredients was right.
“I remember I had to look online to see how other people were making soap and one review said you had to lick the actual bar to see if it had the right amount of Lye,” Bartnick recalls. “It tasted horrible, so bitter that it almost burned my mouth. That’s when I realized I had to start over.”

The now famous Pine Tar Bar

Once things were dialed in, Bartnick set up a business account on Etsy and began selling her products alongside other established vendors. Her all-natural angle helped her to stand apart from other companies as she only uses organic ingredients that are mostly locally sourced.

When a co-worker approached her about creating a soap to help with his Eczema, Bartnick did her research and developed her now most popular selling soap, the Pine Tar Bar.

“I found that pine tar has been used for centuries for dry skin and when used in the right percentages it can really help with Eczema symptoms,” Bartnick said. “I used the needles from our Colroado Blue Spruce Christmas tree and when I ground them up and added them to the soap that became the exfoliating aspect. Hearing that it actually really works for people is such a great feeling.”

When she’s not using products straight out of her living room Bartnick enlists the help of local famers for ingredients like honey and goat’s milk. She infuses her own oils with herbs for color and fragrance and is proud to say that nothing in her line of products is chemically based.


“I would love to go bigger with this business,” Bartnick admits. “The idea of having these products be sold outside of just Breckenridge is really exciting.”

Those looking to get their hands on products from the Breckenridge Soap Company can find them at several Breckenridge retailers like Bboutique, Zoe’s Hair Salon and the Local Market. Not in Breckenridge? Well don’t fret because you can buy all of Bartnick’s products on her Etsy shop by visiting


Breck Biz Spotlight: b boutique

When you begin talking to b boutique owner Cathy Cleary about her new shop on Main Street in Breckenridge you quickly realize this was a business born out of necessity.

“When I moved to Summit County I noticed there were hardly any places to buy high-quality makeup, hair or skin products,” Cleary said. “The brands that I used when I was working with salons weren’t accessible to people living in the mountains and it usually meant driving to Denver and spending more money.”

Now ladies need to look no further, tucked away at 301 N. Main Street behind The Fall Line, b boutique sits in a completely renovated ski tuning shop. Lines of skis and snowboards have now been replaced with handcrafted tables stocked with hair care brands like Pureology and Aquage, makeup lines from Stila and highly sought after skincare products from Ole Henriksen.

Starting on November 11th through the weekend b boutique will be celebrating their Grand Opening complete with giveaways, goodie bags and a jewelery trunk show.

“I feel like it’s great to finally have a place outside of the salon setting where people can shop and have someone there to educate them on which product will best suit their needs,” Cleary said. “Plus, there have to be plenty of testers. That’s what makes it fun!”

Originally hailing from Chicago, Cleary attended the Aveda Institute for Cosmetology and later joined Trio Salon in Chicago’s Gold Coast. After migrating westward for a  job in Vail, she realized she had her own ideas for a business model and launched Weemala Wedding Hair and Makeup, a mobile venture with fellow local Kelly Richardson. With business growing, the logical next step for Cleary was to set up a more permanent location for wedding consultations and an onsite boutique was something she had always envisioned.

Catering to locals and visitors alike, b botique carries a host of products perfectly suited for life in the Rocky Mountains. Skin feel dry and scratchy from too many cold days on the ski slopes? Try the Pine Tar Soap Bar from Made In Breck, a locally made, all-natural alternative to soaps that further dry out the skin. Lips feel chapped? Slather on a sample of the Sara Happ lip scrub followed by the shimmery gloss and you’ll quickly realize it’s impossible to walk out without buying at least one of the many lip-smackin’ flavors. Or, maybe you forgot your sunscreen on your way to the gondola just a few steps down the road. To keep your skin protected you can pick up a tube of Zinka, the original zinc oxide waterproof sunblock in a variety of retro neon colors that will remind you of the good ‘ol days on the mountain.

Custom jewelry and pottery creations from local resident Regina Signa and her company ArTraveLove are artfully displayed throughout b boutique as well as colorful wrap bracelets and assorted jewlery from BB Dharma. Those interested in checking out more of the jewelry offered at b boutique should make it a point to stop by the shop on Sunday the 13th for jewelry trunk show with BB Dharma’s creator Mary Beth Brush.

Whether you are a full-0n beauty diva or just looking to battle split ends, b boutique is a clear choice for those in the High Country looking to treat themselves. So do yourself a favor and stop by this weekend to check out the Grand Opening, free samples guaranteed.

Twist arrives in Breck just in time

Truth is, some of us were getting bored.

Menus plastered outside local eateries in Breckenridge were starting to curl up at the edges, watermarks obscuring old standby options that were starting to look uninspired. We were feeling blase by overexposure to the same burgers, pizza and pasta options

Enter chef Matt Fackler and Twist, a new Ridge Street restaurant boasting an innovative take on comfort cuisine.

Having already garnered national acclaim for his Main Street restaurant, Relish, including a favorable mention in the New York Times travel section, Fackler opened Twist in June of this year.

Open for Happy Hour and dinner starting at 4p.m., Twist boast one of the best patios in town. Nestled just far enough off of Main Street, the property is situated at the perfect level for stellar mountain views and charming lights strung through the trees add a touch of romance to the casual atmosphere.  Walking through the door, the servers dressed in jeans and t-shirts let you know that there are no pretentious attitudes here.  Simple, intimate and bright, the interior of Twist seems cheery and welcoming even if there is a thunderstorm raging outside and the friendly vibe of the staff is the perfect compliment.

The menu at Twist is familiar and far reaching but in all the right ways. Classics like corn dogs and macaroni and cheese get a funky modern makeover with lots of focus on keeping many ingredients locally sourced. Dinner entrees are incredibly reasonable price wise given the quality of ingredients and the care in the preparation. Having worked in several restaurants around town I have an idea of what goes on behind the scenes and you can always tell when there are people in the kitchen that actually care about the food they are putting out.

While I have to admit I have done more visiting during Happy Hour, my favorite dinner entrees were the “fish and chips” (with amazing rosti potatoes) and the “chicken and waffles” (this wild rice waffle ‘aint yo mamas Bisquick), a must try if you ask me. Now, Happy Hour is a time I know quite well. Focusing again on the locally sourced, Twist enlisted the help of the boys over at the Breckenridge Distillery to create a watermelon infused vodka that flies off the shelves as the main player in their signature Watermelon Vodka Lemonade. It’s the perfect after-work cocktail and, if it’s been a particularly bad day at work, you can kick it up a notch to the Green Tea Martini, a personal favorite of mine.

The food served during Happy Hour is also a great deal for the price and diners will be pleasantly surprised with the softshell crab sandwich, the clam strips (ask for extra tartar sauce, it’s awesome!), sweet potato fries or the shrimp “cocktail” with seaweed salad. Neil and Tom at the bar are great for conversation or a menu recommendation and there is plenty of local flavor around the bar during the after-work rush.

Twist is a welcomed addition to the Breckenridge restaurant scene and given the man in charge isn’t afraid to shake things up a bit, I’m excited to see the menu change with the seasons, a sure way to keep the local foodies interested.

Get ready to wrap your mind around electro-acoustic

I first met Nic Coolidge somewhere between nap time and snack time at the aptly named Country Munchkins daycare in our small town of Bolton, Massachusetts.  Our friendship had no where to go but forward as we navigated through bad school photos, field trips, birthday parties, first loves and finally moving away from home to follow our dreams.

While mine lead me out west in search of more wide open spaces, Nic’s journey lead him to NYU to study music. Frequent phone conversations keep me in the loop and although we live a few thousand miles apart I still try to check out his projects and am always so proud to see what he comes up with.

Musical talent runs in the family with those Coolidge’s and Nic’s latest project, Knox,  is a collaboration with his beautiful and talented younger sister.  Their unique, dream-like sound is truly like nothing I have heard before. Haunting, energetic  and supernatural, every track I’ve listened to blends smooth vocal harmonies over countless layers of fragmented sound, and it works.

Check out the write-up they were recently featured in at as they get ready to drop their debut EP! 

So stoked for you Nic!!

Digging up some old work

Sometimes you never know where a freelance career will take you.

Last summer I got connected with  folks at High Times Magazine that were looking for a freelancer to do some online entertainment content, and I was fortunate enough to do a couple album and concert reviews.  Here is an article that appeared online last year and I don’t know why it has taken me so long to put it up here.

Album Review: Keller & The Keels’ Thief
By Ash D

Keller Williams’ 15th studio album, Thief – due out May 25 – is an eclectic all-covers collection that has the one-man band once again teamed up with the Virginia-based husband and wife bluegrass duo, The Keels.

Thief marks the second compilation project for Keller and Larry and Jenny Keel. Their first album, 2006’sGrass, featured a collection of both original songs and some unique takes on classics from the likes of Tom Petty and Pink Floyd. -

The notion of putting his own spin on different artists’ work is something that has always been prevalent in Keller’s live shows, and for this compilation he sought inspiration from some of the most unlikely sources. From Kris Kristofferson to Amy Winehouse to the Butthole Surfers, the 13-track album reads like an off-the-wall mix tape. But, through their signature twangy, grassed-up sound, Keller & The Keels accomplish the seemingly impossible task of blending it all together.

The album opens with Kris Kristofferson’s “Don’t Cuss the Fiddle,” and you get your first taste of Keller’s smirky sense of irony when you listen to the lyrics, “We’re in this gig together so let’s settle down and steal each other’s songs.” Larry Keel also takes charge of a couple verses in the opening track, and his rough and tumble cowboy voice makes you feel like you should be sitting around a campfire passing around a bottle of Jack.

The second track is a very smooth version of “Uncle Disney,” originally written by Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers. The group’s organic vocal harmony shines through on this cover, and Larry’s fast-paced, precision flat-picking proves this isn’t the kind of bluegrass your parents were probably listening to.

Fast-forward to track number five and the trio picks up the pace a bit for their version of “Cold Roses” by Ryan Adams. With Keller leading on the vocals, the song is very much in line with the sound of his own work, but if you’re a fan of the original, this version might leave you longing for the steady electric guitar riffs.

“Mountains of the Moon” is a Grateful Dead cover that works pretty well on this album. Although Keller goes a little bit out of his range to keep the tune low and hushed, the song’s lullaby effect is soothing and easy on the ears.

The seventh track, “Teen Angst,” is a Cracker cover drenched in irony, and it’s hard not to crack a smile when you get to the chorus and Keller belts out, “Cause, what the world needs now, is another folk singer, like I need a hole in my head.” Keller and Larry play off of each other beautifully in this track and the clean acoustic quality completely overshadows the fact that the lyrics contradict the style.

Unless you were living under a rock in 1997, you probably remember Marcy Playground’s most notable (and possibly only) hit “Sex and Candy.” The song’s mellowed out vibe had the strange ability to make you feel a little bit dirty just by listening to it, and Keller & The Keels’ version couldn’t be more different. The up-beat, playful guitar is a stark contrast to the dark and heavy original, and Keller’s attempt to mimic John Wozniak’s whispered, breathy voice is a great example of his willingness to branch out of his comfort zone, even if it does come off a little forced.

One track that does seem to stick out is a sped-up, boot stompin’ version of Amy Winehouse’s breakout hit, “Rehab.” Keller has been playing the unlikely cover in his live show for a while now, and although the trio’s recorded version sounds a bit more sober than Amy’s, the twangy pitch is borderline whiney after the repeated “No, No, No” every other line.

Overall, Thief is a solid showcase of out-of-the-box thinking and musical creativity. Larry and Jenny Keel lend a lot of bluegrass credibility to the album, and Keller’s laid-back, barefoot style helps keep a consistent vibe going throughout the whole CD. As an added incentive to pick up a copy of Thief, Keller & the Keels have formed the “Keller On Your Couch” contest, and those who buy the album through the official merchandise store before August 31, 2010 will be entered for a chance to win a private, living room concert for them and 49 of their friends.

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to get the group to come to you, Keller will be touring throughout the summer both with The Keels and as a solo act. On May 28 Keller heads to the Bella Madre Music Festival in Geneva, Minnesota, before heading west to Colorado for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival on June 17. Also on the summer lineup for Keller is the Mile High Music Festival, which features some 40 other artists ranging from hip hop to reggae to folk.