Aspen is a very weird place. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. It’s ruggedly stunning, the climate is perfect (in the summer. In the SUMMER), and it’s a foodies’ paradise. That being said…Aspen is a weird place. I don’t understand the affluent outdoorsy kind. You know, the kind whose hiking boots are Armani or some sh*t. I’m not judging. Good for you. You make sweaty hiking couture look good. But what we don’t understand we must learn to embrace because otherwise that breeds ignorance and racism and a lot of other bad voodoo. So anyway, yes, Aspen is absolutely beautiful…but it is a weird place.
I gave up any attempt of trying to find the “local” Aspen while out there this weekend. Truth is, it’s a dying breed. “Our local bars are slowly being eaten up by Gucci and Prada,” said Erik, the bartender at Aspen’s Ajax Tavern (try the pork meatballs. Just do it.). If you are really in need to hang with the locals, I was told that Little Annie’s and the Red Onion are two of the last surviving local Aspen bars.
But honestly, if you have the money, there is something in Aspen for everyone. EVERYONE. Skiers, hikers, bikers, shoppers and the undeniably lazy and gluttonous (me). And so, I set out to find my inner Aspen. The Chef’s Club by Food & Wine at the St. Regis Aspen has been getting quite a bit of buzz as of late. The Chef’s Club, which debuted at this years Food & Wine Festival in June brings in four up-and-coming chefs per season to design and execute a menu. This season’s chefs include James Lewis, George Mendes, Alex Seidel and Susan Zemanick (plus Jim Meehan, who created the cocktail list. He’s the only mixologist to have won a James Beard Award).
Aspen is a veritable foodie town. And why shouldn’t it be? The town has access to some of the country’s freshest, most obscure and most interesting ingredients. AND there’s money in the town, so you know that obscure things of high quality sell like gangbusters.
Let me tell you. This was one of the best meals I have ever had. And I eat…a lot. I went with the Duck Confit Crostini with fig jam and goat cheese, a Sue Zemanick creation, and the Colorado Lamb Saddle with ricotta gnocchi, baby artichokes and pine nut gremolata, from Alex Seidel. I was also tempted to order the Warm Green Asparagus, but my waitress kindly told me that I would be rolled out of here on a gurney because that would be way too much food. I was disappointed.
Tip: If you do decide to make this endeavor (and I really, really suggest that you do), be sure to sit at the open chef’s table for a view into the kitchen to check out the action.
I’m not outdoorsy. I don’t ski, I don’t particularly get a thrill from mountain climbing, and the idea of biking down a rocky hillside makes me beg the question, “why?” So if you’re like me, all you can do in Aspen is eat and take in the views. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. What kind of Aspen are you?