| February 26, 2014 | Food & Drink
Four Aspen tastemakers divulge where they go for an unforgettable culinary experience—as well as the comforts of home cooking.
Laura Werlin (INSET) indulges in the cheese plate, featuring decadent domestic varieties.
I’ve been coming to Aspen since the mid-1990s, and I can’t count the number of iterations The Little Nell bar has undergone in that time—nor can I count the number of spectacular glasses of wine I’ve had there. No matter what the bar is called, it’s unquestionably one of my favorite places to go for a drink and a bite. Element 47 may be one of the fanciest bars in town, but the experience is decidedly down-home. I guess they don’t call the extended bar area the “living room” for nothing.
Who to know: Wine guys Carlton McCoy and Csaba (aka Chubby) Oveges. One of these knowledgeable sommeliers is usually opening something to taste practically before you’ve handed your parka to coat check.
Not-to-miss dishes: Cheese, of course! Local dairy queen Wendy Mitchell’s aged goat cheeses from Avalanche Cheese Company, Fort Collins’s ultra-creamy MouCo Cheese Company cheeses, and Oregon’s Rogue Creamery cheeses make up the stellar menu. I also brake for chef Robert McCormick’s house-cured gravlax, sliced paper-thin and bursting with flavor.
Wine notes: Element 47’s extensive and meticulously curated wine list is, by now, legendary. What may be less known is the Element 47 Champagne, which was carefully chosen by the wine staff. If it’s going to have the Element 47 name on the label, it had better be good—and it is.
Only-in-Aspen: The five-star hotel and restaurant does not discriminate against the barking set. Think Jack Russell meets Jack Daniel’s.
Little-known fact: The Little Nell has had more master sommeliers come through its wine program than any other restaurant in the nation—not bad for a town of 6,700 people. Element 47, 675 E. Durant Ave., 970-920-6330
Chris Klug (INSET) loves the beet and kale salad topped with trout at Justice Snow’s.
I love the location and the history of the Wheeler Opera House, where Justice Snow’s is located. My friends Michele Kiley and Marco Cingolani, who used to own the Cheese Shop in Aspen, opened Justice Snow’s in January 2012. It’s a fun scene with really unique dishes. I’m not normally a beet fan, but I love the beet and kale salad with trout on top. It’s so healthy that I can afford to start with the fried pickles and a root beer.
Top table: Sitting in the bar, where the action is.
Who to know: Award-winning bartenders JP and Brandon, and Marco Cingolani, one of the owners—he’s an Aspen legend and a good cyclist and skier.
Best wintertime cocktail: Personally, I’m a rum fan, so I go with a Dark and Stormy or Mojito.
Important wine notes: I favor Oregon Pinot Noir, but Marco has been a sommelier his whole life, so trust him; he’s the expert.
Little-known fact: Justice Snow’s used to be a bank.
Insider tip: It’s a great late-night bar scene with fun live music.
Other not-to-miss dishes: Fried pickles as an appetizer, and chocolate cake is my favorite for dessert. Justice Snow’s, 328 E. Hyman Ave., 970-429-8192
The wild salmon with seasonal vegetable and quinoa stir-fry at Pyramid Bistro is a favorite of Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson (INSET).
As someone who appreciates food that is as nutritional and healthy as it is aesthetically pleasing and tasteful, the Pyramid Bistro is my personal favorite both for dinner and professional lunches. As executive chef for our ArtCrush summer benefit since its advent, Martin [Oswald] never ceases to amaze our museum guests with his culinary skills, and I enjoy his fresh, innovative, delicious creations throughout the year.
Top table: I particularly like sitting outside.
Who to know: Chef and owner Martin Oswald is the force behind the Bistro. A vegan himself, he knows firsthand how hard it can be to experience truly delicious food that is also good for you.
Little-known fact: Martin also prepares fresh-squeezed juices that are fantastic and specifically created to cleanse the system of toxins—something his entire culinary practice is based on.
Insider tip: You can browse and buy a vast and impressively curated range of fiction at Explore Booksellers before or after you eat (as Pyramid is located upstairs from in the bookstore). Pyramid Bistro, 221 E. Main St., 970-925-5330
Marc Ganzi shares a meal with his daughter, Riley, at Cache Cache (INSET), where she orders her favorite: the prime NY strip steak.
Three generations of my family have eaten at Cache Cache. Jodi Larner [co-owner with Chris Lanter] has been feeding my wife, Melissa, and me for more than 20 years. For us, it’s an Aspen institution. We love taking the whole family—and everyone has his or her favorites. My son, Grant, 15, starts with the Caesar salad, which he says is “the best in the world,” and he prefers the sirloin steak, with pommes frites. For my daughter, Riley, 13, French onion soup is a great starter, especially on a cold night, and the NY strip is her “favorite steak in all of Aspen.” I love the burrata when Jodi has it, and for the main course, I’m always torn between the osso buco and the free-range chicken.
Wine list notes: While the focus is on great French red wine, some people miss Peter Michael’s Ma Belle-Fille. This is the best white wine—period—and Jodi knows how to find it and get allocation.
Not-to-miss dish: When I think of true comfort food, I love the natural rotisserie chicken, pommes frites, and kale. It’s my go-to dish.
Insider Tip: The key is not to eat too much (which is hard) to save room for the peach cobbler at the end, good for the whole family to share. Cache Cache, 205 S. Mill St., Ste. 106, 970-925-3835
photography by brooke casillas; aaron davidson/getty images (werlin);