Best Aspen Restaurants
The Little Nell Living Room
F&W’s Dana Cowin and Ray Isle swing by late to see which wine geeks are drinking with sommelier Jonathan Pullis, and what they’re all pouring—usually rare, French, insanely good bottles like the 2001 Thierry Allemand Les Chaillots Cornas. 675 E. Durant Ave.; thelittlenell.com.
“It’s always fun to find out just how many famous faces I can spot at Ajax Tavern, eating a burger and a cone of truffle fries,” says Dana. “I invariably see Mario Batali or Drew Nieporent at a table, commanding an audience.” 675 E. Durant Ave.; thelittlenell.com.
Devin Padgett, who produces the Classic, runs into Ink in the morning to grab a cup of coffee (made with beans from Ink’s private roaster) and chat up food celebrities like Tom Colicchio or F&W’s own Gail Simmons. Everyone’s need for caffeine is a good measure of how late they were out the night before. 520 E. Durant Ave.; inkcoffee.com.
The Cheese Shop
Before the scheduled parties begin, F&W’s Kate Heddings likes to host an unofficial get-together with selections from The Cheese Shop, like Bellecombe Comté. (Cheese whiz Laura Werlin, a frequent Classic speaker, often checks out the selection, too.) Little Nell hotel alums Sarah and Andrew Helsley took over the shop last year. 601 E. Hopkins Ave.; aspencheeseshop.com.
This new spot in the St. Regis is F&W’s debut restaurant project in collaboration with Starwood, featuring dishes from former Best New Chefs George Mendes (Aldea, NYC), Sue Zemanick (Gautreau’s, New Orleans), Alex Seidel (Fruition, Denver) and James Lewis (Bettola, Birmingham, AL). 315 E. Dean St.; stregisaspen.com.
After-hours, the bar at Jimmy’s is packed with F&W editors like Kate Krader and locals lined up for the great margaritas and outstanding tequila collection. We hear that Eben Freeman, who heads up the cocktail program at chef Michael White’s NYC restaurants, will do a guest stint this year. Chefs like Jimmy’s, too: Daniel Boulud often shows up there, sometimes even later than the editors. 205 S. Mill St.; jimmysaspen.com.
When there’s a big sports event going on, everyone loves Hotel Jerome’s J-Bar for its big TV screen and hefty burgers. In World Cup years, F&W’s Christine Quinlan hangs out with star chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and Bobby Flay to watch as much soccer as she can between demos, tastings and parties. 330 E. Main St.; hoteljerome.com.
Nobu Matsuhisa is often in town for the Classic. So going to his restaurant for stellar sushi is a great way to see him (plus other celebrity chefs who might be eating there, like Thomas Keller). You can also spot star winemakers like Randy Lewis of Napa’s Lewis Cellars, who brings incredible bottles from his collection. 303 E. Main St.; matsuhisaaspen.com.
Main Street Bakery & Cafe
Dana always stops in for scrambled eggs and a big biscuit before the day’s first seminar and usually leaves with a doughnut. “The very first time I went there, in the ’90s, I spotted Jacques Pépin,” she says. 201 E. Main St.; 970-925-6446.
Woody Creek Tavern
In the little downtime editors have in Aspen, F&W’s Pam Kaufman bikes to Woody Creek Tavern along the gorgeous Rio Grande Trail (where she’s seen restaurateur Danny Meyer jogging impressively fast). She loves the nachos—the ones topped with faux chorizo are improbably delicious. 2858 Upper River Rd., Woody Creek; woodycreektavern.com.