Everyone thinks about skiing in Aspen, but two underrated activities we love partaking in before the first frost are eating and drinking. There are dozens of delicious, high-end places serving an array of cuisines, plus many of them offer an expert cocktail list to boot. From famous chefs to hotel bars and sushi, Aspen offers a little bit of everything to appease the senses, all year long.
Chefs Club by FOOD & WINE
Each season, this winning eatery in Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The St. Regis Aspen Resort features a few Best New Chef winners from Food & Wine and a wine program overseen by the magazine’s executive wine editor, Ray Isle. Over the last few weeks of summer, nosh on dishes prepared by Greg and Gabrielle Denton (Portland, Oregon), Paul Qui (Austin) and Cara Stadler (Portland, Maine). While the menu features bites composed by these talented toques, the rest of the lineup comes from resident chef Todd Slossberg. This means on any given day you could have a meal featuring Colorado lamb with harissa, grilled maple-brined pork chops, spring rolls stuffed with crab, freshly caught trout or burrata topped with hearts of palm puree. All of this can be enjoyed in a modern dining room that looks as if it were designed for a stylish TV executive in Santa Monica. Large, brightly colored pictures of celebrities oversee the main room, but if you’d prefer to look at real people, book a seat at the chef’s counter and watch the kitchen staff work.
Though the name is pronounced “cash-cash,” there is nothing flippant about this classic French bistro. It’s fine dining mixed with the relaxed attitude of a mountain town, which translates to pairing your escargot, foie gras, filet mignon and white tablecloths with jeans, boots and a cold beer. Even if you aren’t skiing, the temperature drops enough in Aspen that you want hearty fare for dinner, and chef Chris Lanter’s osso buco or three-cheese and truffle macaroni are sure to make you feel cozy. When it’s warmer out, make a point to sit on the charming patio, a space accented by potted flowers and large, sun-protecting umbrellas. Sommelier Alex Harvier’s cellar features nearly 5,000 bottles, so choosing a wine is a pretty tasty pastime as well.
The Living Room
Stepping into the historic Four-Star Hotel Jerome is like walking into fashionable baron-cum-cowboy’s ranch. The original brick structure was built in the 1880s, but now, with taxidermic heads, leather seating, colorful rugs, carved wood accoutrements and antique furniture, it’s beautifully rugged while being refined — and you will want to drink here just to soak in the ambience. As a bonus, the food and beverages served in The Living Room prove just as delightful. Warm up with a giant bowl of house-made chicken noodle soup with seasonal vegetables or a plate of creamy polenta topped with juicy meatballs and Sunday gravy. You also can’t go wrong snagging one of the many well-balanced cocktails. For a hearty drink, try the Bourbon Banshee, a tipple made with Bulleit bourbon, Joseph Cartron crème de cassis, vanilla, rooibos, lemon and angostura bitters. On the simpler-and-more-refreshing side, order the lemonade, a concoction that’s tailored to your tastes with infusions of items like lavender, mint or cucumber, and mixtures of gin, pisco, vodka, rum or tequila.
The name of this Five-Star fine-casual establishment in the chic Five-Star The Little Nell hotel speaks to the area’s past as a silver mining hotbed. And though the décor is done in browns, taupes and golds, there is plenty of silverware gracing the tables, waiting for diners to spear chef Matt Zubrod’s charred-eggplant tortellini or cut into a dry-aged duck breast. Also found on the seasonal menu is the signature cobb salad with poblano-ranch dressing, pickled onion rings, house-smoked salmon and brown-butter cake with local peaches. Wash things down with a glass from a superb wine list curated by master sommelier Carlton McCoy or try a local Dry Dock or Boulder Beer Co. brew. Come for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a bar snack. Who knows? You may even see a celebrity. After all, this is the spot where we found Drew Barrymore during June’s Food & Wine Classic.
Just because you are in the middle of the mountains doesn’t mean you can’t experience amazing sushi. After all, chef Nobu Matsuhisa is famous around the world for his suave Japanese restaurants and expertly prepared fish. You can expect the same refined, upscale dining at this cozy, wood-paneled outpost of his culinary empire. Order the Omakase Tasting Menu, an option that allows you to sample a wide range of the dishes, including sea bass with truffle, lobster with wasabi pepper and Washugyu beef tataki. While the food won’t necessarily reflect the surroundings, you can at least find a bit of the Rockies on the cocktail menu. The Colorado Sky (Hokusetsu sake, Blue Curaçao and Svedka raspberry vodka) is a nod to the stunning landscape while Liquid Yoga (TY KU Soju and coconut water) is a subtle hat tip to the other popular sport in Aspen.