Lower fares up there
Whet your appetite in Aspen off-season
Scenery, spa and specials are just some of the reasons to enjoy Aspen sans crowds.
The scenery in and around Aspen is majestic. Flowers and trees bloom; rivers flow as the snow melts and summer ushers in warm weather activities.
Aspen’s summer beauty shines in May and June, but the pace in this hectic ski town slows. Some of the restaurants are closed, and staff at open ones happily seat you without reservations. What a wonderful time to enjoy unbeatable dining in this culinary gem.
Though it’s a long way from the sea, you don’t want to skip sushi at Matsuhisa, renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s outpost here. The signature black cod, marinated in sweet miso for 48 hours and paired with a hint of cilantro, is a crowd favorite. The celebrity chef personally trains the staff and visits often.
The Wild Fig specializes in Greek fare. Start with a sampler platter of tabouli and hummus. The best dish (and seemingly most healthy) is their salmon. It’s wrapped in parchment paper and steamed for 15 minutes.
With its fishbowl window setup, Mezzaluna (serving modern Italian food) is a blast. The lively bar is a great spot to enjoy a tomato, mozzarella and fresh bread appetizer. Half-moon artwork adorns the walls, a nod to the restaurant’s name.
Aspen’s dining scene is evolving with Euro-Asian, Pan-Asian and other fusion cuisines. Jimmy’s separates itself from the crowd by serving what he calls “Fierce American Food: strong and straightforward.” The house special is the 28-ounce Big Rib-Eye, bone-in and dry-aged for 35 days.
Many locals say Cache Cache serves the best fare in the area. Intrigued by the claim, we tried the escargot and crab and lobster salad. The service was impeccable and the food delightful.
Woody Creek Tavern is a casual eatery eight miles from town on the bike trail. People ride here by the droves. The margaritas are so fresh, Rachel Ray called them the best stateside. The pulled pork sandwich is a specialty, and there are many vegan options.
If you don’t get enough barbecue at home, your last Aspen meal should be at Hickory House. En route to the airport, this Aspen institution serves some of the best ribs around.
Food is not the only way to indulge in Aspen off-season. Rates at the St. Regis Spa are 20 percent off list prices.
The Wild Fig, 315 E. Hyman Ave.; 970-925-5160 Matsuhisa, 970-544-6628 Mezzaluna, 624 E. Cooper Ave.; 970-925-5882; www.mezzalunaaspen.com
Jimmy’s, 970-925-6020, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cache Cache, 205 S. Mill St.; 970-925-3835
Woody Creek Tavern, 0002 Woody Creek Plaza; 970-923-4585
Hickory House, 730 W. Main; 970-925-2313
The St. Regis, 315 East Dean Street; 970- 920-3300