Whenever Qantas’s creative director of food, beverage and service hits the Rockies, you’ll find him on the other side of the kitchen at his favourite eateries – on and off the mountain.
Aspen, in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, is a fantastic ski town because it’s a proper town, not just a resort. What that means is fun – and good food – all year round. There are four mountains to ski on and transport between them is free and easy. The view over the town from the Silver Queen Gondola is spectacular.
The best restaurant is Element 47 at The Little Nell hotel. It has a bar where cocktails are prepared tableside (such as the Margarita 47 made with liquid nitrogen) and an incredible wine list, with some 20,000 bottles in the cellar. Chef de cuisine Matthew Padilla is creating wonderful New American-style food, including charred octopus with fingerling potatoes and black garlic; egg-yolk raviolo with spicy tomato, basil and spinach; and dry-aged duck breast with parsnips and pomegranate. I always want to order all of Matthew’s dishes!
Another one of my favourites is Cache Cache, a French restaurant that serves a lovely frisée salad with poached eggs and lardons in the classic Lyonnaise style and rotisserie chicken with a large pile of crispy pommes frites. There’s also a pretty impressive wine list. It’s a great night out.
The place to be seen is Matsuhisa, which is part of the Nobu group of restaurants. Sitting at the sushi bar is a fun experience and there’s a great saké list, too. Ask for a yellowtail and jalapeño sushi roll with ponzu; it’s not on the menu but it’s great and seems to fly out of the kitchen.
For more casual dining, I love The White House Tavern. There’s nothing better than sitting at the bar after a hard day’s skiing, ordering a crispy chicken sandwich or Thai steak and noodle salad, plus a beer, and watching American football on the TV.
Across the road you’ll find Meat & Cheese, which is divided into a casual restaurant on one side – serving salads, sandwiches and a selection of boards, including rotisserie chicken, porchetta, cured meats and cheese – and a deli on the other. Have dinner or lunch there or take some produce home and cook it yourself – the best of both worlds.
If you’re skiing at Aspen Highlands, a great place for lunch is Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro. On a beautiful day you can relax on the sundeck and enjoy the views of the stunning Maroon Bells peaks and European-style food while the Champagne flows and the music pumps. Cloud Nine underwent a major refurb in summer so I can’t wait to drop in again.
At Snowmass you can’t go past Elk Camp. With food stations offering salads, sandwiches, roast meats and wood-fired pizza, this is one of my favourite places to eat on the mountain. It’s really close to the new snow-tube park, which the kids absolutely love.
At Buttermilk we like dining at Cliffhouse, where you can choose your own protein, vegetables and sauces and then the chefs cook it for you on their Mongolian grill.
On Aspen Mountain, Ajax Tavern at The Little Nell is a great place to watch people ski to the bottom of the gondola. The double cheeseburger and moules mussels marinière are fantastic, especially if you’ve worked up an appetite on the slopes.
Get your caffeine fix at Victoria’s Espresso, a coffee shop across the street from the bus terminus. It’s run by an Aussie so you can order a flat white here and they’ll know what you’re talking about! Happy skiing (and eating). ￼