Montagna Since chef Ryan Hardy came to Aspen last fall from the Coach House on Martha's Vineyard, he's made Montagna as amazing as the hotel where it's located, the Little Nell. Not only does Hardy produce his own cheese, he's also transforming a broom closet into an aging room for his charcuterie. I love his farmhouse cooking: bruschetta topped with silky serrano ham, grilled asparagus and anchovies, and extra-crispy chicken with favas, radishes and pecorino shavings. That chicken dish is so good, it's inspired me to create a version of my own.
D19 There's no sign outside this new pan-Italian spot, but it's around the corner from the Mediterranean-style Wild Fig; chef Dena Marino oversees both places. At D19, she serves what I think is a quintessential Aspen dish—a hearty minestra soup with tiny meatballs and all the requisite vegetables—and some great entrées, like Tuscan marinated grilled skirt steak.
The Wine Spot Instead of a big-deal restaurant, the recently opened Hyatt Grand Aspen installed a comfortable wine bar off of its lobby. The sweet little menu includes a "stinky cheese plate" that includes Epoisses and the Spanish Cabrales blue cheese. Each suite, in Hyatt parlance "a residence," has a Viking kitchen (range, refrigerator, the works), and the chefs will take guests to the farmers' market and then teach them to prepare what they just bought.
More Summer Picks from Chefs
Moody's Bistro & Lounge near California's Lake Tahoe Traci Des Jardins of San Francisco's Jardinière finds it amazing that an old western town offers foie gras dishes and pig trotters. Des Jardins adores the bacon and egg pizza, topped with slices of pork belly, a poached duck egg and nicely dressed arugula.
The Pearl on Nantucket, MA Michael Schlow of Boston's Radius frequents this creative seafood spot. He recommends the Hawaiian spiced margaritas (made with sweet-tart lihing powder) and the crispy salt-and-pepper wok-fried lobster. "It's exactly the kind of dish chefs want when they're on vacation," he says.
Updated August 2009