Back in June, Mark and I spent a relaxing week hiking, swimming, reading and eating in Snowmass, Aspen and Denver, Colorado. We were lucky enough to stay at The Timbers Club in Snowmass – a gorgeous property right on the side of the mountain with a friendly and accommodating staff, comfy big beds, our own grill, afternoon cookies and multiple hot tubs to choose from.
One night for dinner, we popped across the street to a tiny strip mall with an excellent gourmet grocery store and a pizza place called Taster’s. (There’s one in Aspen too I think.)
We got a carry-out cheese pizza and ate it on the couch in front of a roaring fire and a flat screen TV.
We had heard mixed reviews from people who had eaten there before, and I think it lends itself to be that kind of pizza place.
Overall, it’s kind of what you would expect from a ski-town pizza place. It was warm and doughy and filling, with a good flavor and a lot of cheese. It wasn’t gourmet pizza by any stretch, and it wasn’t really even New York thin crust. It was kind of like a puffy bread with sauce and cheese and grease and spices. Quite comforting.
Would be good on a snowy afternoon when you don’t have to wear a bathing suit afterwards.
At the tail end of our relaxing vacation out West in Colorado, Mark and I spent the weekend in Denver. We were in Denver last fall as well, but only for a brief moment, so we were able to do some different things this time around.
We drove in to town Friday afternoon, after stopping for a lunch of pizza and ice cream in historic Leadville – a town that looks like it’s out of the Old West.
Leadville main street
colorful buildings in Leadville
Once making it to Denver, we changed and headed out to Union Station – a beautiful train station that has a bunch of bars and shops inside. We met some friends there, but being that it was overrun with the happy hour crowd, we made our way across the street instead to a Mexican restaurant for some pre-dinner margaritas. Then on to Range for a delicious dinner, where the thickly cut, crisp and sweet bacon appetizer was the best thing ever.
We used our Hilton points to stay at The Curtis – a downtown DoubleTree property – that has been ranked one of the best “art hotels.” Each floor has its own theme and the room and lobby art is more pop than your typical birds-and-flowers hotel pastels. Our floor was the “dance floor” and there were framed record albums lining the hallway.
It was a fun place to stay, but frankly, it was more Hilton-tries-to-be-boutique-hotel than actual independent boutique hotel. Oh well, staying on points is a win.
Let’s be honest, I don’t mind dreaming underneath a giant ice cream cone!
Saturday morning, we got together with our cousins for an al fresco brunch before heading to Coors Field for a Colorado Rockies baseball game. The cool thing about Coors Field is that there is a huge open rooftop over right field with a few bars and interesting food options. You can wander around and chat with people, or take a seat in the upper deck to actually watch some of the game. For a bit more money, you can also rent out a lounge-y cabana, however you couldn’t see the game from there, so why bother?
It was super stinking hot, but I was glad we went and saw some of the game and the stadium. I’m thinking it must have been built in the same era as Camden Yards because it has the same spacious and open, brick and brightly-painted steel feel. Fun fact: there’s a row of seats in the upper deck painted a different color to mark where you hit a “mile high” above sea level. Also fun: drinking a Coors Light at Coors Field, duh.
We wandered around town back towards the hotel and had an early dinner of pizza (of course) at a cute restaurant called Osteria Marco on Larimer Square. Interestingly enough, we had the same waitress as the prior evening at Range – weird!
We were so exhausted that we called it an early night and hit the airport early the next morning. It was such a great trip, I was sad to come home!
What a wonderfully relaxing vacation visiting Aspen a few weeks ago! Every morning Mark and I did a different hike, came back to The Timbers Club where we were the only ones enjoying the sunny pool deck, and then went out to delicious dinners in Aspen or Snowmass.
We accidentally found a perfect week to visit – the temperature was warm but not too hot, restaurants had reopened after the Off Season, and the town was still fairly quiet prior to the unofficial summer season kick-off: The Aspen Food & Wine Classic that brings chefs and foodies together for a huge, town-wide party. We were tempted to book our trip during that exciting weekend (which was this past weekend), but in the end, I’m glad we didn’t because we had zero trouble getting reservations at the some of the best restaurants, our hiking paths were quiet and there were probably more staff than guests at our residences.
Having done a bit of pre-research on the dining scene, I made a few reservations at Aspen’s heavy hitting restaurants: Chef’s Club by Food & Wine in the St. Regis Hotel (there’s also one in NYC), AJAX Tavern (the place to be seen apres-ski…although there was only one day left of skiing during our time there), and Matsuhisa (amazing sushi from chef Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu restaurants around the world).
Not wanting to whip out my camera (aka phone) at these upscale establishments, unfortunately I don’t have any photos from these places.
Chef’s Club – A. I loved the decor: stark white with snowflake-inspired lattice across the ceiling; an open kitchen that was framed by rustic wooden beams, making it seem like you were peeking through a knot in a tree Keebler Elves style and a long row of seats facing in to the numerous chefs working within; contemporary, colorful pop art and drawings of famous chefs around the walls.
B. The food was decadent and over the top rich but beautifully executed and delicate. Mark and I split the branzino (served whole and upright like it was swimming across the plate) and the halibut. Both were buttery and delicious and the branzino was served in a sweet and spicy coconut curry broth with other seafood. The light and slightly sparkly Albarino I drank with my whipped ricotta appetizer was delightful, as was the stoney Sancerre I had with the fish.
C. Each year after the Food & Wine Classic, a new line up of chefs work at the restaurant, each creating his or her own unique dish(es). Since we arrived before the Classic, the new chefs weren’t yet installed, so the menu was made up of the “best of the best” of the prior year’s menus.
AJAX Tavern was good but standard food and nothing more to really comment on there.
Sushi at Matsuhisa was AH-mazing. I had yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno and a spicy crunchy tuna roll (that they made without mayo for me), and Mark had the miso black cod which was rich and flaky. Everything was so good. Not cheap. But delicious and the service was excellent as well.
Some other food highlights from our trip:
Sitting at the bar at the historic J-Bar in Hotel Jerome which has the original wooden lattice work behind the bar and tin ceiling tiles. After our morning hike, Mark had their famous Aspen Crud, which is a bourbon and vanilla ice cream milk shake.
Taking the J-Bar bartender’s recommendation to go to a new cocktail bar, Hooch, where we had the bar to ourselves and the bartender mixed us all sorts of different drinks with rye and fernet (not together).
Dinner at New Belgium Ranger Station in Snowmass Village, where we had a salty pepperoni pretzel roll and New Belgium beer (the Colorado brewery that makes Fat Tire).
So I didn’t get to our Denver adventures yet…next time!
Mark and I just got back from an awesomely relaxing week in Colorado: Aspen, Snowmass and Denver. We were lucky enough to be the recipients of an extremely generous offer to stay at The Timbers in Snowmass – a club with a friendly and welcoming staff.
We hit the timing perfectly between seasons: restaurants and shops were reopen after the April/May offseason, but everything was pretty quiet prior to next week’s Food & Wine Classic which is the unofficial kick-off to summer that brings thousands of visitors to the villages.
Our apartment set up was perfect and 180 degrees opposite from our NYC apartment, in that it was HUGE! Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, an enormous kitchen with every appliance and amenity you could ever want, a fireplace, large deck and a grill. It was fabulous to lounge about reading books and snacking on chips and salsa that the staff had pre-bought for us, along with other breakfast and lunch groceries.
Each day while we were staying in Snowmass, we took a morning hike on Snowmass or Aspen trails (we were staying on East Coast time as much as possible so waking up bright and early), spent the afternoon by the pool (which we usually had all to ourselves) and then cleaned up and went out for a yummy dinner.
One day we also took a day-trip to the town of Basalt for lunch, gallery-hopping and to march around the self-guided tour of the historic sites.
historic cabin in the town of Basalt
the huge kilns are basically in people’s backyards
historic kilns in Basalt where we did a day trip for gallery-hopping and lunch
Hike #1: Maroon Bells & Crater Lake – One of the most photographed spots in Colorado, Maroon Bells mountains were picture-perfectly reflected in the lake below. We only went the one morning, but I would’ve loved to go back at different times of the day to see the varying colors and light. There were very few people around, and Mark spotted two moose before we hiked another mile or two past to Crater Lake, a peacefully quiet spot for a snack.
crater lake hike
Snowmass Wilderness @ Maroon Bells
Hike #2: Smuggler’s Mountain – Definitely the hottest trek we took, which was also one of the steepest up an unpaved road to a cool look-out over Aspen.
Hike #3: Rim Trail South – In Snowmass there is a fairly quick hike to a look-out called Yin Yang (due to the marble yin yang symbol embedded in the marble slab at the top of the mountain). We then trekked further on, coming to Sinclair Road, where the lovely staff came to pick us up. As the name implies, the trail following the ridge of the mountains, with great views down both sides. Some sections were slightly vertigo-inspiringly-cliffy.
Hike #4: Hunter’s Creek Trail – This was one of my favorite hikes that took us through the woods along the “creek” which was really more like a raging river. We took it almost until the point that it met up with Smuggler’s Mountain, but once the incline started getting really steep, I turned us around to head back.
Hike #5: Grottos – In Independence Pass (a scary cliff-hanging road out of Aspen that’s only open in the summer), there are ice caves and “cascades” (again, an understatement since this was also quite the river/waterfall sequence) that you can climb around and over, with great spots for relaxing and lunching.
looking down into the grottos
Town of Independence in Independence Pass
the ghost town of Independence – spot the log cabins