24 Jul 2013, 5:09pm
Aspen Colorado Hotels & Lodging Restaurants:
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Great Dining Experiences in Aspen and Snowmass

Corn Soup at Element 47

Corn Soup at Element 47

On a recent visit to Aspen, Colorado I had the pleasure of discovering two of its newest restaurants:  Element 47 at The Little Nell and Snowmass Kitchen at The Westin Snowmass Resort. I also carved out the time to revisit Venga Venga Cantina & Tequila Bar, another one of my Snowmass favorites. What a gastronomic trip this turned out to be! All three of these establishments rank tops on my list for ambiance and for providing exceptional culinary moments in a variety of forms.

Aspen, indisputably the swankiest of all our Colorado mountain towns, now offers one of the most sophisticated dining experiences in the Rockies with Element 47 at The Little Nell. I must admit, I felt trepidacious about this renowned hotel’s new signature restaurant. Being the Francophile that I am, I of course loved the classic and oh-so French dining experience offered at La Montagne, The Little Nell’s original restaurant and a landmark of sorts to people from all over the world—just like the hotel’s sunken lounge. Fortunately the lounge was remodeled enough so that it looks fresh and in step with the times, yet not so much that you wouldn’t recognize this “old friend,” a familiar meeting place for the tony crowd of Aspen. The look, however, of Element 47, was changed up completely and the end result is one of sleek, timeless elegance.

Foie Gras at Element 47

Foie Gras at Element 47

Aspen's Newest Sensation:  Element 47 at The Little Nell

Aspen’s Newest Sensation: Element 47 at The Little Nell

Named after the periodic chart name for the silver that put this old mining town on the map, Element 47 serves up a refined epicurean journey within their sleek, silvery decor. It’s hard not to fill yourself up on their housemade Parker House rolls, served warm in a cast iron pan with whipped butter and Utah red salt. From that point on, it just gets better and better. From a mini gougère amuse-bouche, to a cup of cream of cauliflower soup topped with Maine crab, to a beautiful piece of bass prepared Thai-style, to house spun ice creams, served with cocoa nibs, meringue and amarena cherries, the meal didn’t cease to woo my partner and me. When the waiter placed an après dessert consisting of white chocolate lemon gel effervescent lollipops and salted caramel shortbreads on our table, I almost swooned. Or perhaps my euphoria was somewhat enhanced by the velvety Gevrey Chambertin I sampled after my Reisling. No matter, Element 47 most assuredly creates outstanding memories at each table. Wine connoisseurs, in particular, revel at their remarkable wine list. And travelers such as myself, will remember it as being one of the top restaurants in the Rocky Mountain West.

Snowmass Kitchen at The Westin Snowmass Resort

Snowmass Kitchen at The Westin Snowmass Resort

Another View of Snowmass Kitchen

Another View of Snowmass Kitchen

Relaxing at Vue at The Westin Snowmass

Relaxing at Vue at The Westin Snowmass

The ambiance at Snowmass Kitchen, the restaurant of the new Westin Snowmass Resort, offers a more low key—yet just as enjoyable—dining experience. I love the feel of this restaurant which exudes homeyness and understated sophistication with their use of natural materials such as wood, stone and glass. Reserve a table by the window where you can take in mountain views while admiring the expanse of their large dining room. The menu, very much a reflection of the restaurant’s casual chic decor, offers tantalizing selections such as a grilled, melt-in-your-mouth rack of elk, Colorado lamb T-bones and Neiman Ranch pork chops, to name a few. Most of the products—especially the meats and produce—are sourced regionally and prepared with just enough fanfare to dress up let’s say a cowboy ribeye. Their salads rate among the freshest of fresh and I especially delighted in their Mixed Field Greens topped with roasted beets, watermelon radish and pickled onion and dressed with champagne vinaigrette. My partner savored a crispy Caesar distinguished by brioche croutons. Of course we had to shoehorn in a few forkfuls of their molten chocolate cake for dessert (served with fresh berries and a berry coulis). But here, too, we were determined to sample the full panoply of Snowmass Kitchen’s offerings.

Afterward we ambled back up to Vue, the lobby bar at The Westin, to listen to some Brazilian Jazz and sip a nightcap. We had come full circle since we’d started out here earlier with a speciality cocktail, one of the highlights of this happening place that will surely become the hub of Snowmass (if it hasn’t already).

Venga Venga

Venga Venga

Our Noon Hour Spread at Venga Venga

Our Noon Hour Spread at Venga Venga

We were staying in Snowmass, so grabbing lunch at Venga Venga, one of many creations by renowned chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval, had become a must. We felt no urgency in our dining experience here, however, since all we wanted to do was savor, savor, savor. From the guacamole prepared tableside to the fire-roasted salsa served with chips to the sour mix for their renowned margaritas, everything comes homemade at Venga Venga Cantina & Tequila Bar and it’s all incredibly fresh and delicious. The margs go down way easy here—likely because they’re all made with top shelf tequila and there are many from which to choose. Do indulge in at least one though, since they serve as the perfect accompaniment to this authentic Mexican cuisine. Dine inside or out on the deck where you can enjoy panoramic views of Fanny Hill, a happening Snowmass spot summer and winter. If you’re not sure what to order, may I suggest the Tacos Baja, made with grilled tilapia, Tortilla Soup and Green Chile Pork Stew. Muy bueno!

All this makes me happy that I live in a state that puts a high value on exercise and outdoor activity. Sandwich these dining experiences with a hike, biking and/or skiing and  you’ll do just fine. You’ll actually fare extremely well and enjoy some of the benefits of being a real Coloradan.

Thank you to Element 47, The Westin Snowmass Resort and Venga Venga for the images in this post. My trusty iPhone helped, too.

Venga Venga Deck:  The Perfect Place to Go After a Good Day on the Slopes

Venga Venga Deck: The Perfect Place to Go After a Good Day on the Slopes

 
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