Tag Archives: hiking

Aspen #FoodandWine

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.

J-Bar at the Jerome Hotel
J-Bar at the Jerome Hotel
J Bar
J Bar
J Bar at the Hotel Jerome
the restaurant part of J Bar

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!

Maroon Bells

Aspen Hiking

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.

driving to Snowmass
driving to Snowmass

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.

at the top of Aspen Mountain (we took the gondola up)
at the top of Aspen Mountain (we took the gondola up) – it was the last day of skiing at the top!

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.

the huge apartment!
the huge apartment!

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.

lounging by the pool
lounging by the pool

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.

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.

Maroon Bells - look at that reflection!!
Maroon Bells – look at that reflection!!

 

crystal clear reflection at Maroon Bells
crystal clear reflection at 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.

the trail names are like Candyland! We unfortunately didn't make it to the Lollipop or Tootsie Roll trails
the trail names are like Candyland! We unfortunately didn’t make it to the Lollipop or Tootsie Roll trails

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.

View from the Rim Trail
View from the Rim Trail

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.

Hunter's Creek
Hunter’s Creek

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.

Next up: The dining scene and Denver