BY ROBERT GLAZE
I am just back from two weeks in Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado. Unlike Chicago, which has just had nine consecutive days of snow, they have been lacking in snow this season. Only 85% of the runs have opened. For the first time, I did not ski while there, in order not to break anything. I hope the conditions improve before you head out this spring. But just in case, your après-ski activities will be even more important than ever!
My top recommendations and recent finds include:
Where to Eat
One of the hot spots in town is Chef’s Club by Food & Wine at the St. Regis Aspen Resort, with its contemporary and sophisticated décor and unique concept. Food & Wine has several of the chefs from its “Best New Chefs” list consult and curate new menu items in collaboration with the culinary team of the restaurant to create a new dining experience. The menu changes several times a year as new chefs are invited to participate.
The St. Regis also has a fun new restaurant, the Velvet Buck, for Colorado-centric cuisine. Its new bar and lounge, called Mountain Social, has a great mural that is reminiscent of Maxfield Parrish’s famous installation at their King Cole Bar in New York City.
Also new and trendy is the White House Tavern (302 East Hopkins). Located in an old house built in 1883, with a warm decor and great art, this gastropub has an extensive cocktail and wine list, plus great burgers and excellent salads at reasonable prices.
One of my favorite restaurants of the past in Aspen was Mogador. Barclay Dodge, the former owner, is now back in town and has opened the sleek BOSQ at 312 South Mill. Featuring “new world cuisine,” the menu features a number of creative appetizers, salads, entrees, and sides.
La Creperie Du Village is a casual spot located at 400 East Hopkins. The attractive, eclectic decor is warm and inviting on a cold night and, therefore, the perfect spot for trying raclette, fondue, or one of their sweet or savory crêpes.
Members only hot spot, Caribou Club (411 East Hopkins), is expensive but has wonderful food and wines in a perfect setting. See if your concierge can arrange for you to dine there. I was just there last week and had another great meal. I love the warm décor!
Campo de Fiori Ristorante (205 South Mill) serves great Italian food at in Aspen. I was recently there for dinner with Chicago friends and loved the branzino entree. Next door, Cache Cache has great French cuisine in a warm bistro setting. The bar menu is a great alternative, and the bar itself was recently remodeled and has a fun, contemporary vibe.
The J-Bar or Jerome Bar is the iconic Western saloon, which has been there since the Jerome Hotel opened in the 1880s. The hotel’s Prospect Restaurant is also perfect for lunch or dinner. I enjoyed my first breakfast in the same space at the original Jerome restaurant over 30 years ago when it still looked like it was right out of the Wild, Wild West. The Living Room in the back is wonderfull as well for a drink. It is now an Auberge Resort and is located at 330 East Main St.
Pine Creek Cookhouse, located on Castle Creek Road in Ashcroft, is one of my favorite places for lunch with amazing views. During the winter you can snowshoe, cross-country, or take the sleigh from the Ashcroft parking area.
At 2858 Upper River Road in nearby Woody Creek, is Woody Creek Tavern, a rustic tavern with great Mexican and American food. It is a popular spot with many locals.
Another Aspen classic is the Red Onion, which opened in 1892. It is a fun bar and restaurant that serves salads, burgers, sandwiches, and daily lunch specials. I went back recently after several years and really enjoyed my lunch.
Rustique (216 South Monarch) is the best French country bistro in town. I always love going with friends when I am visiting. They recently opened the Cooking School of Aspen downstairs, so be sure to check out the website for a schedule of classes and events.
L’Hostaria (620 East Hyman)has wonderful Italian food. The bar menu is the best in town and very popular with the locals.
Pyramid Bistro (221 East Main), above Explore Bookseller, is a place I have to go every time I am in town. The have very good vegetarian food in a bright room with great views of Ajax. Don’t miss it. Make sure to wander through the bookstore before or after your meal.
A favorite of locals for many years is the Hickory House at 730 West Main. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they are known for their burgers, ribs, and BBQ. With an extensive breakfast menu, I went back after many years for brunch and enjoyed the experience. It is a fun, casual spot that you are sure to enjoy.
Another great addition to the dining scene in Aspen is the opening of Home Team BBQ. This is a local outpost of the Charleston, South Carolina-based BBQ chain. It can be found within the Inn at Aspen at the base of Buttermilk, which is located at 38750 CO Hwy. 82. It is a great spot if you don’t want to deal with parking or crowds in town. They feature a number of sandwiches, tacos, and combination platters. I had a really good smoked brisket meatloaf entree.
In the Snowmass Village Mall, a great new find is the newly-opened Slow Groovin’ BBQ at 67 Elbert Lane. The Marble-based restaurant opened this location as their winter destination. This is a new hot spot with a casual decor and bar. They feature barbecue ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and chicken plus smoked items like sausage, salmon, and turkey. You can get a number of soups, salads, sandwiches, and combination platters. I loved the brisket with corn bread, slaw, and baked beans. To top it off the smoky old fashioned was the perfect cocktail!
Two new Snowmass spots I tried on my last trip were TORO Kitchen & Lounge at the Viceroy Snowmass and State 38. TORO, recently opened, is a sleek new spot that features contemporary Latin American cuisine. I enjoyed my meal with a local friend. State 38 is a fun spot for a casual lunch or fine dining dinner in the Snowmass Base Village. My Snowmass/Winnetka-based friend and I enjoyed dinner.
What To Do
After dinner in Aspen, you might enjoy seeing a performance or film at the historic Wheeler Opera House. They feature concerts and performances from The Met, live in New York City, and comedy from the Aspen Laugh Fest.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass has a really outstanding JAS Cafe in downtown Aspen at the Little Nell Hotel with great headliners throughout the winter.
The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is not only a nationally recognized dance company and a leader in the dance world in terms of repertoire, acquiring and commissioning work from top choreographers, but it is also one of the largest dance presenters in the country, welcoming the best in dance in both Aspen and Santa Fe. Aspen performances are held at the Aspen District Theater. The ASFB also hosts other dance companies throughout the year.
Each April, Aspen Film hosts Aspen Shortsfest, one of the world’s premier international short film and video showcases. This is one of my favorite festivals of the year, with selections of drama, comedy, animation, and documentary, all at 40 minutes or less.
The Aspen Art Museum’s new $45 million building recently opened to great fanfare (and some controversy) in downtown Aspen. The contemporary building was designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and has three floors of galleries with a rooftop deck and cafe overlooking the mountains. There is no permanent collection, just temporary exhibitions, so make sure to check out the website to see what is happening (590 North Mill).
Anderson Ranch Arts Center, located in Snowmass Village, this is one of nation’s premier art education institutions in the country. In the winter months, it offers residency programs for qualified artists and offers many community outreach programs, art exhibitions, and lectures. Check the website and local papers for special events while you are in town.
In case you are driving in through Carbondale, don’t miss the Powers Art Center. Recently opened, this is a stunning private museum, designed by Japanese architect Hiroshi Nanamori, that was built as a memorial to the life of John G. Powers and showcases the limited edition works on paper by famed artist Jasper Johns. There are also ceramic works by Takashi Nakazato throughout the museum.
Enjoy your time in one of my favorite spots! Just hope the snow improves.
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