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TOP PICK FOODIE GUIDE: ASPEN

Dec

30


Aspen feels like heaven on Earth!

Aspen feels like heaven on Earth!

ASPEN… how I love the.

Super glammy sought-after ski town. Perfect champagne snow. Amazing restaurants. World-class shopping. Celeb-spotting during the holiday season if that’s your thang.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Ever since middle school I dreamed of spending the holidays with my family in the snow. So the first time we spent the holidays in Aspen, just the two of us, we were living a childhood dream.

Over the years, we’ve been super blessed to explore so many restaurants, cuisines, and dining experiences that truly hold special places in our heart (and belly).  The restaurants notated with an asterick ( * ) are our faves that we frequent almost every Christmas.  

*Ajax Tavern {Glam après ski}

675 E. Durant Ave

Located at the base of Ajax Mountain in The LIttle Nell this people-watching hot spot has quickly become our new fave as soon as we land. Come hungry and order the Ajax Truffle Fries (best in Aspen, if not the world), Cauliflower Gratin + bubbles. They used to have a trout special and roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate option but ugh, you know how menus change all the time. I guess I love the healthy foods that aren’t the best sellers.

PRO TIP: don’t scoff at the $16 price for the fries, they really are the BEST you’ll ever stuff your face with, I mean eat mindfully. I promise you’ll be happy to pay that and more. I literally don’t eat fries in Atlanta because I ONLY want these. Oh, and the Cauliflower Gratin is insane, it’s hard to believe that it’s vegan. If an ATL restaurant made this they’d be overwhelmed with reservations.


Ajax Tavern Truffle Fries are truly the BEST fries in the WORLD :)

Ajax Tavern Truffle Fries are truly the BEST fries in the WORLD 🙂

*BOSQ {New World Cuisine}

312 S. Mill St

Bosq just moved into the 1st spot for my Favorite Aspen restaurant. The Wild Fig held it for a long stretch of time but after a fond FOND first night in Aspen ‘18 with my cousins who joined us for the holidays from No/So Cal + an epic meal last night, it now tops my list. The menu has some of the most super creative appetizers, entrees and ingredients, I basically wanted to order everything. This year we dined on the most succulent Ora King Salmon with pumpkin seed sauce that blew our minds and tastebuds away. Creative award goes to the Celery Root & Chanterelle mushrooms with hazelnut “soil” appetizer.  Last year we ate foraged + fried LEAVES. First time for everything.

PRO TIP: make reservations and ask for the cozy window table next to the bar (behind the entrance curtain in winter months) and you’ll have 2 walls of windows for watching the snow fall while you dine on absolute YUM. Order EVERYTHING and leave room for dessert. The donut last night was insane with equally impressive presentation. Oh, and I don’t like donuts.


“You can curate the most perfect bite” (our server Victoria) to enjoy mindfully…. this dish was one of the top 3 fish meals I’ve ever enjoyed!

“You can curate the most perfect bite” (our server Victoria) to enjoy mindfully…. this dish was one of the top 3 fish meals I’ve ever enjoyed!

*Cache Cache {French American Glam}

205 S. Mill St 

First class meal with a beautiful ambiance at Cache Cache (pronounced cash cash) – grab a hot seat at the bar and mos def order the Mac & Cheese, Crispy Rainbow Trout and a glass of bubbles!  Make rez for a table and enjoy the Marinated Beet Salad, Housemade Black Fettuccine or the Cauliflower Rice Entree with brussels leaves, delicata squash, mushrooms, broccolini, onions, roasted garlic, chopped kale, saffron & coconut sauce. You might wind up rubbing elbows with Jack Nicholson or Lance Armstrong. Usually our au revoir A-town restaurant.

PRO TIP: just sit at the bar during the holidays because the restaurant is usually booked until Jan 2, even if you call at the end of November. They used to have insane Truffle Mac & Cheese but I don’t see truffle on the menu… boo.

Campo di Fiori {Authentic Italian}

205 S. Mill St 

Charming trattoria that serves some of the most authentic, yummy Italian dishes in Aspen, delish side veggies, GREAT bar scene. Friendly diners who will ask about what you ordered and you wind up fast friends, spending the rest of the evening laughing the night away.

PRO TIP: eat at the bar since that’s where the party is. Tables are so close together you’ll feel like you’re sitting in your neighbors lap so get cozy with the fun crew at the bar instead.

Caribou Club {G6 Glam}

411 E. Hopkins Ave

All the privates you saw parked at the ASE airport will be hanging out dining here during the holidays since they are members of this lux club. Grab a bottle of bubbles and boogie down on the dance floor. 

PRO TIP: go with a “Boo” member and dress to impress – bust out your best Prada, Dior, or Gucci (it’s Aspen…no Gap or Banana Republic allowed). The holidays are PACKED so expect a lil’ line.

Mr. Grey

305 S. Mill St

Formally Grey Lady… will have to investigate the new scene. Went to Grey Lady for drinks and was okay, have other faves that I frequent so hopefully this is an worthy upgrade. Menu looks good with Roasted Cauliflower, Hamachi Crudo, Grain Salad and Grilled Fish of the Day but will likely stick to our faves because nothing really is super eye-catching.

J-Bar at Hotel Jerome {Best Drinks + Memories}

330 E. Main St

This historic hotel is a must-see. Grab a cocktail or nibbles in the legendary J-Bar and you’ll find yourself in the middle of Aspen’s social spot. The Aztec Hot chocolate looked so good that I had to order it. Legendary. This has quickly become one of my fave places to hang w good friends during the holidays. The festive decor is so exceptional you can’t take a bad pic anywhere.

PRO TIP: order Charred Spicy Edamame (comes with wet napkins to clean hands), Hummus with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and for the adventurous palate try the Potato Chip Crusted Fried Pickles with Horseradish Dipping Sauce with a glass of Roederer and you’re SET!


Hello beautiful hummus with Brussels! Could easily be a meal for one… me! Excellent pita.

Hello beautiful hummus with Brussels! Could easily be a meal for one… me! Excellent pita.

Jimmy’s An All-American {um, American, duh}

205 S. Mill St

Late night bar hangout for the Aspen locals with generous cocktails.  Extensive menu options to suit every taste bud and a local institution since ‘97.  You could make a meal from the sides: Mac & Cheese, Garlicky Sauteed Spinach, Garlicky Shishito Peppers AND Truffle Fries (my fave truffle fries are Ajax forever, Amen).

Jour De Fete {French Casual}

710 E. Durant

Cozy casual locals fave cafe for breakfast, lunch and coffee located next to City Market.  Wholesome foods with healthy options. The offer premade salads in the deli case that change daily.  Salad bowls are great – Super Slaw + Amy salad is my fave.

*Kenichi {Japanese/Pacific Rim Fusion}

A local fave renown for serving world-class sushi and outstanding creative food in a hip environment.  They offer “Rock Star” booths if you need some privacy. The food is ridiculously amazing + equally expensive like most things in Aspen.  

PRO TIP: get a big gang together and book the Private Tatami room for large parties that will have everyone staring at you longing to be part of your wolfpack. 

La Creperie Du Village {French Alpine Bistro}

This cozy downstairs restaurant smells AMAZING but every. thing. on the menu has cheese so I have to down a bottle of digestive enzymes to hit this place. It’s recommended to us each year and we keep going back to our faves so perhaps we’ll check it out this time. They do serve world famous Swiss Raclette which we never ordering in Zermatt and kick myself because I could tolerate the cheese + dairy in Switzerland (got into a LONG discussion with a local about how they do NOT have factory farms in the country, don’t have or need “organic” and how it’s old school dairy… I SWEAR I had no negative GI side effects from any of the cheese or yogurt in Zermatt).

Maru

320 S. Mill St

Formally Taka Sushi and our original bookend sushi restaurant (where we at dinner at on our first and last night) – it’s changed owners and lost the charm of Taka in our eyes. We’ve dined here but now always hit Matsu (below) and Kenichi (above).  If you’re a volume sushi eater, this might be a more price-efficient option though!

*Matsushisa {Pan Asian/Sushi}

303 E. Main St

The place for sushi in Aspen by the notable chef Nobu Matsushisa who blends traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian and Argentine ingredients. Dine in the main dining room downstairs to be in the scene or if you want a casual, more serene vibe (where you’ll go if you don’t make reservations) then upstairs is a peaceful option. GREAT sushi that you’ll pay for but worth every single bite.

PRO TIP: locals call it Matsu – make reservations downstairs for the scene! Always make rez.

*New York Pizza {cheap late nite eats}

409 E Hyman Ave

There is always a LINE out the door and down the steps for a good reason. The local fave pizza is the BOMB especially after a show at Belly Up. Modest interior with wasted patrons, just enjoy the pizza or take it to go. It’s worth any belly issues you’ll have.

PRO TIP: bring cash (I know, what’s that) and pack digestive enzymes + probiotics if you have gluten or dairy intolerances. I always pack them when I travel.

*Paradise Bakery {Best cookies}

If you love really good cookies, then this is your spot! The only bakery still owned by original owners, the Patterson brothers (the other bakeries sold to Panera Bread). Our trip isn’t complete without a routine visit to Paradise. Unfortunately they’ll be moving from their coveted courtyard spot by 2021 so make sure to pop in and see why they sell so many cookies each year.

*Pyramid Bistro

221 E. Main St

Cozy restaurant upstairs in the Explore Bestseller book store, for the longest time this was our first meal in Aspen, either for lunch or dinner. Diverse menu serving healthy veg-based options (but also including goat cheese, fish and chicken) in a sunny spot. I always order a bowl of the Thai Butternut Squash soup and you could literally make a meal out of it. Hello Warm Brussels Sprout Salad and Roasted Beet Baby Arugula Salad! Sweet Potato Ravioli is ridiculous, so is the Galangal Curry Bowl and Sweet Potato Gnocchi. I had 3 meals from the curry bowl (just added more leafy greens when reheating). When I finally publish my nutrition book, Explore will be top on my list for a book tour. 

PRO TIP: grab the private table surrounded by windows on the left side of the restaurant if Don Johnson isn’t already there. And save room for dessert. Boo, I never do because the soup 🙁


Pyramid Bistro upstairs in the Explore Bookstore is one of my fave feel-good Aspen restaurants. Love the fresh bread with vegan pesto….

Pyramid Bistro upstairs in the Explore Bookstore is one of my fave feel-good Aspen restaurants. Love the fresh bread with vegan pesto….

Red Onion {Casual Fast Bar Food}

420 E Cooper Ave

When you don’t feel like the regular super Aspen swank this is a super casual (aka affordable) local dive. Surprised at how good the portobello mushroom burger + sweet potato fries were. I mean, good sweet tater fries but not better than Ajax Truffle fries.

Spring Cafe {Organic Plant-Based Cafe}

119 S Spring St 

The bright, clean interior makes this a great breakfast or lunch spot serving organic green juices, smoothies, coffee,matcha tea + turmeric latte. The Green Light, Cleanser juice is my jam; tons of vegan/GF options. We ordered the Tempeh sandwich on millet bread and the Ramen bowl. I liked the Tempeh sandwich, wish it had more kraut and a Russia dressing and the Ramen was just meh. Juices were good – enjoyed the Matcha and Coconut balls. Next time will go for either a Salad, Stuffed Sweet Potato with Black Bean Chili or the veggie burger). I was kinda disappointed because the menu looked amazing but what we ordered was a 3 out of 5 and felt pricy for bland food #aspen


The winner was the Tempeh Ramen (Tim said it was too salty) and I had high hopes for the Ramen but it was meh even with hot sauce. So grateful for the organic juice… body is dying for it!

The winner was the Tempeh Ramen (Tim said it was too salty) and I had high hopes for the Ramen but it was meh even with hot sauce. So grateful for the organic juice… body is dying for it!

SO Cafe {Casual Coffee}

Top Floor Aspen Art Museum

Ridiculous views and a fun casual spot to grab coffee or lunch while checking out the AAM.  Perfect activity for your ski/board rest day after indulgent massages at the Remede Spa at the St Regis. Great pic ops at every corner. 

White House Tavern {Fast Casual}

302 E. Hopkins

Gastropub with great burgers if that’s your thing. I found the food heavy, greasy and left me feeling bloated. BUT the locals love this place because it’s reasonably priced and a cozy restaurant. Hnat my fave but I’m not a burger/sammie kinda girl. 

*Wild Fig {Euro Brasserie}

One of my Aspen FAVES and moved down from #1 this year (see Bosq). I love the cozy, warm vibe at the Fig and always order the same thing: branzino with sauteed garlic + a ginger margarita. Old habits die hard. This intimate restaurant has become our Christmas Eve dinner celebration fave spot. We regularly sit at the bar because during the holiday season rez can be hard to come by. And after 12 years I finally remembered to get my act together and will see what it’s like to dine at the table and might order something new. Expect to see Bravo TV “stars” dining here with their entourage. 

PRO TIP: schedule a reminder in your phone to make rez 30 days in advance. Call the restaurant instead of scheduling on Open Table to secure your table.


Our Christmas Eve default restaurant… The Wild Fig!

Our Christmas Eve default restaurant… The Wild Fig!

7908 {OG Supper Club}

415 E. Hyman Ave

Sophisticated Supper Club from NYC famed restaurant EMP (Eleven Madison Park). That EMP that claimed the #1 spot on the “World’s 50 Best” list. So we had a bit of a big FAIL last year at the EMP pop-up at the St. Reg for Xmas dinner ‘18. Food was good but took 2 hours. That bears repeating… TWO HOURS. And the price was ridiculous for that kind of wait but the food and service was superb (said with French accent). Will give 7908 a go since it’s cleverly named after Aspen’s altitude and I like that kind of local creative process going into an establishment. Stay tuned for updates and pics!

*Belly Up {Live Music}

Besides the Tabernacle in Atlanta, this is my other fave live music venue. We’ve seen Jane’s Addiction here three times, Thievery Corporation (ugh their show is early this year), multiple DJ’s, Spazmatics, and countless others. It’s become a tradition for us and we love LOVE grabbing a show here. So sad Jane’s isn’t playing this year because Perry is a nut job in concert and sang the Entourage theme song, “Superhero” to me years ago. THAT’S how close you are to the stage. And YES he sang it ONLY to ME!

If you have never been to Aspen, save your frequent flyer miles and just GO! It truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world no matter what time of year you go visit! Counting down the days….

Snow in love,

Jennifer

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