| AspenTimes.com

Rain today just makes the grass greener, farmers markets sweeter — a guide to the bounty

Send your knives out to get sharpened, it is almost tomato season! The rich agricultural offerings of the Roaring Fork Valley and the region extend beyond the start of a caprese salad or a BLT sandwich.

Ranchers and farmers raise the cattle and produce that make its way to local restaurants and home kitchens. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the bounty throughout the summer at the farmers markets and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs throughout the valley. 

Those who are not so much of a home cook, fear not! In addition to the farm and ranch offerings, markets in the valley feature the work of local artisans — goods like honey, jewelry, and soaps. 

“Dining out, food festivals, farm-to-table dinners and experiences — all of these are such an important part of travel,” said Snowmass Tourism Director Rose Abello. “These experiences and the richness and variety of these offerings that are available in Snowmass and throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, gives visitors and locals plenty to choose from.”

And the markets provide an accessible entry point for enthusiastic cooks and eaters interested in the farm-to-table and “eat local” movements. 

For a comprehensive map of agriculture, pick up a Roaring Fork & Farm Map — which illustrates the valley’s agricultural history and local food culture — from a local tourism organization. 

As the locals say, you come for the winter, but you stay for the summer.


Aspen Saturday Market: Every Saturday, June 10 through Oct. 7, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Starting Sept. 9, hours are 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Aspen Core

At the Aspen Saturday Market, shoppers will find only Colorado–sourced goods from artisans and agriculture vendors. The stalls line multiple blocks of Aspen’s core, swinging from the Galena Street to Hyman Avenue intersection to Hunter Street and back to the intersection of Hyman Avenue and Galena Street. 

Summer Saturdays in Aspen have featured a line of local goods stalls since 1998, when Aspen City Council first approved the market. Since then, locals and tourists alike peruse the booths weekly for gifts or featured ingredients in their upcoming meals. 

Basalt Sunday Market: Every Sunday, June 18-Sept. 24, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Midland Spur in Historic Downtown Basalt

Sundays in Basalt revolve around the farmer’s market. And with the newly revitalized Basalt River Park to enjoy, visitors will be able to bring the fresh fruit and other market goods just a few steps away to a show at the bandshell in the park. 

In addition to local art and food, the market is a great place for a friendly lawn game or a tarot card reading. It is a gathering place for the whole family, as town of Basalt senior planner Sara Nadolny said. Her daughter has grown up spending Sundays at the market.

“She always wants to enjoy a mango-on-a-stick and sit and listen to the musicians, run around on the grassy lawn with her friends, and create masterpieces at the Art Base’s Crafternoons setup. The market offers such a wonderful opportunity to connect with and celebrate the community,” Nadolny said. 

Carbondale Farmers’ Market: Every Wednesday, June 7-Sept. 27, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at 4th Street and Main Street in downtown Carbondale

Downvalley from Aspen and Basalt in Carbondale, passing a number of ranches and farms along Highway 82, shoppers looking to “buy local” can find Colorado goods on Wednesdays in downtown Carbondale. 

Sustainability and accessibility are top priorities for the market, as all of the vendors participate in Evergreen Zero Waste practices, using only compostable materials to serve food. And since 2019, the market has worked in partnership with the USDA-SNAP program to provide equitable access to local food. 

Be sure to stop by on the second or last Wednesday of the month, when the market features live music from Roaring Fork Valley musicians.

Two Roots Farm Stand: Every Friday, June-October, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the farm in Basalt, 100 Sopris Creek Road

For an opportunity to meet your farmer and get closer to the action than possible at a Farmers’ Market, check out the Two Roots Farm Stand in Basalt. 

Two Roots Farm is a fruit, vegetable, herb and flower farm that has used regenerative methods of farming since 2016. Their CSA program boasts 250 members and is currently on a waitlist but offers a membership program to their farm stand for 10% off purchases. 


Customers can add eggs to their meat CSA box from Dooley Creek Farm.

In the ecological wealth of the Colorado high country, consumers are tuning in more and more to the nutritional and environmental benefits of buying local meats and produce. One of the most popular ways to connect local farmers with local eaters is through CSAs, which make it easy for subscribers to eat seasonal offerings from local farms and ranches — cutting out long commutes for foods from faraway regions.

Nearly all CSAs in the valley sell out by the summer — a testament to the local dedication to supporting the region’s farmers and ranchers. But a few spots stay available throughout the season as different products come into season or subscribers opt out as summer progresses.

Here is a list of some Roaring Fork and regional CSAs, plus farms that sell directly to consumers, that are open as of May:

  • Desert Weyr, Paonia, on-farm pickup: Mutton cuts
  • Dooley Creek Farm, Carbondale, on-farm pickup or delivery: Meats (beef cuts, ground beef, pork cuts, and chicken cuts) with optional egg add-on
  • The Farm Collaborative, Aspen, on-farm or off-farm pickup: Eggs
  • Highwater Farm, Silt, on-farm or off-farm pickup: Vegetables
  • The Living Farm, Paonia, on-farm pickup: Meats
  • Mountain Freshies, North Fork Valley, delivery: Fruits and vegetables, plus a fall/winter box
  • Here is a list of some Roaring Fork CSAs that have a waitlist:
  • Two Roots Farm: Fruits, eggs, and (bi)weekly shares
  • Juniper Flowers: Flowers/floral arrangements

*Both Two Roots Farm and Juniper Flowers sell their yields at the Two Roots Farm Stand all season long. 

Juniper Flowers sells seasonal floral arrangements through their CSA and at the Two Roots Farm Stand.

Meet the mother-daughter duo behind Here House and Local Coffee

The coffee shop and social club have gone through a couple iterations, most recently this past December. The changes have confused at least some locals and visitors and have others intrigued.


Is the Local Coffee house still for locals? Yes, but geared more toward grab-and-go items that are chef-driven instead of a traditional coffee shop, where patrons might linger and check their email on a laptop.

Is the private club located in exclusive space? Yes, but the open design of the Here House allows for a more seamless transition between the spaces.

Here’s how the Local Coffee and Here House lines blur and offer completely different experiences within the same space.

Outside view of Local Coffee and Here House.

Local Coffee

In February 2018, Local Coffee opened. Created by mother-daughter duo Candice Carpenter Olson and Makelya Carpenter — New Yorkers who had permanently transitioned to make their home in Aspen — they were invested in creating a community space. 

They transformed the former high-end Italian Henry Beguelin on East Cooper Avenue into a community-forward design store and added espresso. Six months later, due to demand, it had all been converted to a coffee shop. 

Surviving the onset of COVID within their second year of operation, Local Coffee thrived with customers — both Aspenites and visitors, alike. Local Coffee has won Best Coffee in the annual Aspen Times Best Of contest every year thus far since opening (2018-22). 

Local Coffee House on a winter afternoon.

Here House, a club

In 2019, the women opened Here House in the space next to Local Coffee. There was a social membership component to the space, offering something special for the community, they said. 

“By year two, Local Coffee had become (and remains) a very successful community gathering spot, which is what we wanted. But as it got more crowded, we wanted another space where people could linger longer, get to know each other better, and which could represent the whole range of locals and second-home owners who identify as locals,” explained Carpenter Olson.

“That was Here House, which we opened next door with 75 members — a co-op model, where the members collectively share the cost of the space and the amenities. COVID began six months after we opened, and Here House became an important refuge for people who lived here and had moved here and needed a place to work/hang out during COVID.”

The membership cost $2,400 at the time. It was an immediate hit.

“In New York, I never belonged to a single club. It wasn’t for me. They all seemed too stuffy, too focused on issues that weren’t relevant to me. I wasn’t a club person,” said Carpenter Olson.

Her own persona screams New York. Dressed in all leather, walking a sophisticated poodle, she is fierce, feisty, and fine-tuned. Regardless, she was deeply entrenched in diverse Aspen networks, along with her daughter. 

Her and her daughter’s new network blossomed within Here House and reflected many threads intricately woven together communing in this newfound space. A group could be watching a ski film in the lounge, there could be a wine tasting in the café, supper clubs, live music, yoga, meditation, financial workshops, the breath of program, and comfort with a social club in Aspen.

Intimate spaces at Here House.

“Here House is like my living room in Aspen,” said Ashley Grimmel, owner of Grimmel Biometrics, a corporate wellness and performance optimization company. “They offer such fun events from mindful wine tastings to discussion with the ‘legends of Aspen.’ Being a member at Here House makes me feel like I’m part of something that’s actually making a difference and bringing the ‘Aspen’ back to Aspen.” 

“What made Aspen ‘Aspen’ was the organic community that sprung up in the late ’60s-early ’70s,” said Here House patron Juan Pablo Cappello. “The team at the Here House has worked tirelessly over the past several years to create more connection and community in Aspen through the events it has hosted. Here House has built a reputation of excellence and professionalism. Their events are always well attended and well received by the local community.”

There were additional nuances of the club that differed from other private offerings, and the Carpenters decided to add another layer to their network. Puppies and children were always welcome at Here House and Local Coffee, but there was more.

Updating Both

By August 2022, Local Coffee was the most popular coffee shop in Aspen, serving as many as 1,000 people in a given day. 

“It was taxing on the staff, the kitchen, and it wasn’t the original intention of the community coffee house,” said Carpenter Olson.

Locals could no longer go to Local and get a cup of coffee.

“Our regular customers couldn’t wait in line for 30 minutes to get a cup of coffee before heading into the office. Nor could they get a table for a bite to eat,” she said.

Local was becoming less local and more a tourist destination, which wasn’t a surprise. Nonetheless, that didn’t weigh well with the owners. 

Slow season in early winter 2022 proved to be the ladies’ speedy season as they wove a new social fabric at Here House.

New at Here House

“Now, well past COVID, we decided in late 2022 to highlight our social aspect and add even more evening programs, parties, and to bring in a new chef trained at Little Nell and Bosq with a fresh, rotating menu below the usual Aspen prices for a gracious sit-down lunch,” said Carpenter Olson.

Here House has worked on expanding its club offerings.

Here House is also currently hiring a director of fine dining and wine from a 5-star property to become a prime choice for members for their lunch and après. 

Two more membership levels were revealed, in addition to extended supported hours until 6 p.m. and even 8 p.m. several nights a week. Members have 24-hour access to the space and to the honor bar and audio-visual options.

It’s the atmosphere of a boutique hotel lobby with perks, as well: dedicated wifi, printer, scanner, and full aforementioned audio-visual capabilities. There is ski storage, day lockers, slippers, and complimentary fireside cookies just 30 seconds from the Silver Queen Gondola and local mind-and-body partners Aspen Shakti, Ajax Gym, and Tonic Method.

Co-owner Makelya Carpenter greets a customer at Here House.

The social dynamic also began to incorporate Patron dinners at members’ homes, which creates fresh collections of people who may have never met. 

There is a concierge from 8 a.m. to throughout the afternoon, a new calendar of events, complimentary drip coffee, tea, and pastries, as well as an all-day menu.

“I think there is an investment in a wine program and a sommelier. I also think it’s important to have a biodynamic and extraordinary wines at under $20 a glass,” Carpenter Olson said.

Recent wine tasting at Here House.

“Not only do I love the people that own it, who frequent it, who spend time there, it’s about the community, and we need that so badly right now in Aspen. And the gnocchi for like $12, it’s incredible,” said Skippy Mesirow.

“The private chef keeps the food offerings feeling like your mom in the kitchen — except your mom happens to be a pro chef,” said Grimmel.

The Here House membership fees aim to help keep price points well below the mean Aspen meal and cup of coffee.

In addition to coffee, there is a growing list of grab-and-go hot breakfasts like quiches, burritos by the chef, the Local bagel and hot oatmeal — all packaged to take up the gondola. 

City of Aspen extends offer to fill former Taster’s Pizza space

An affordable restaurant and bar for locals is on the horizon in Aspen.

The city extended a notice of intent to award to Brendan Berl and his concept Yogi’s to fill the vacant space at Rio Grande Place, formerly occupied by Taster’s Pizza. 

“We’re excited. We think it is a good concept and a good menu, and it’s going to be a good fit for the space,” said the city’s capital asset director, Rob Schober. 

Lease terms, insurance, and other particulars will be negotiated in early January. The offer is not definite until negotiations are complete with city council’s final approval, but both parties are enthusiastic about moving forward.

City officials and Berl aim to have the space operational by summer 2023. He hopes to hard open before peak season, which is usually the Fourth of July.

Yogi’s will offer lunch, dinner, and a full bar, plus a free arcade. Their hours will be 11 a.m. to late night, depending on the season. After 10 p.m., the restaurant will be 21+, Berl said. 

The menu is not yet finalized, but he is aiming for a price point averaging $14 a plate. According to proposal documents, alcohol will be priced at $8 wines, $6 well cocktails, and $5 beers. 

A mock-up menu includes items like nachos, fried onion strings, chicken sandwiches, reubens, and homemade ice-cream sandwiches. The kids’ menu will include dinosaur chicken nuggets.

Brendan Berl is an 11-year local and started working in Aspen’s hospitality industry in 2012. He said he started dreaming up the concept for Yogi’s last January but could not find a commercial space. Then, he found out about the city of Aspen’s request for proposals. 

“One of my regulars at my bar came in with the paper, the first article saying that the city was looking for proposals for the Rio Grande space,” Berl said. “So, I immediately started building my concept around that, requested floor plans from the city, and then just went from there.”

The initial floor plan for Yogi’s features a bar area, dining area and arcade area. (Brendan Berl/courtesy photo)

Other restaurateurs favored gourmet concepts, he said, which led to Aspen’s glaring need for an affordable, locals-focused restaurant. 

“That’s why we have half a dozen Italian restaurants and steakhouses. Everyone who comes in here expects to make all of their money in the wintertime and at dinner,” he said. “So, they’re appealing to the older, wealthier crowd. There’s nearly zero interest in people who want to serve in the summertime or lunch to the year-round locals.”

He will serve as the general manager of Yogi’s, with local Scotty Weber as the primary investor. Berl said he will have a small stake in ownership, but the exact quantity has yet to be determined. Tommy Slanga, whom Berl met when they opened the now-closed Square Grouper, will be the chef.

The city first put out a request for proposal in July to fill the 1,615-square-foot space. It has been empty since 2019, when the city renovated the building as part of its municipal offices build-out. The city narrowed their selection from ten proposals to three in November, and Yogi’s beat out the other two proposals.

The city said it will contribute up to $200,000 in hard improvements such as bathrooms, electrical sub panels, and air-handling units. Berl said he plans to take advantage of those funds, in part to convert an empty elevator shaft into an ADA-compliant restroom.

The city’s parameters in the RFP emphasized the need for a space for teenagers to gather in the Aspen core. Berl’s plan for Yogi’s includes the free arcade and $1 soft drinks to provide a welcoming space for young people to gather. He hopes Yogi’s will help mitigate mental-health struggles that Aspen’s youth face.

He also said he is in conversation with Michaela Idhammar-Ketpura, executive director at the Aspen Youth Center, about employing high-school-aged locals at Yogi’s. It is a good way to cement the restaurant’s reputation as for and by locals, Berl said. 

And, it is also a source of already-housed workers in a valley facing a housing crisis.


Louis Swiss partners with MML Hospitality

For the second time in the past 18 months, Aspen’s oldest and the Western Slope’s largest, full-scale bakery, Louis Swiss, will undergo ownership changes. A partnership between local philanthropist Jill Soffer and Austin, Texas-based MML Hospitality was formed to own and operate the bakery, along with longtime MML baker and pastry chef Jennifer Tucker.

The 40-year-old bakery was founded by Renee Tornare when he came to Aspen in 1982.
Louis Swiss Bakery/Courtesy photo

The 40-year-old bakery was founded by Renee Tornare when he came to Aspen in 1982, bringing the concept of his family bakery and that iconic sign from Switzerland — and named it after his father, Louis, who taught him how to bake.

His younger brother, Felix, joined him at age 17, and the two of them worked side by side, along with their father, who eventually moved to Aspen to build Louis Swiss into a local institution.

Over the years, the bakery changed locations three times and eventually landed in its current 3,000-square-foot space at the Aspen Business Center.

Over 20 years ago, Felix Tornare and his wife, Sarah, took ownership of the business and purchased the building in 1998.

It became a local favorite for picking up an affordable bite away from the hustle and bustle of Aspen’s core, with everyone from workers to flight attendants lined up in the mornings for coffee, pastries, and those enormous breakfast burritos.

In August 2021, Tornare decided to sell Louis Swiss to locals Andrew Helsley and Jill Soffer to focus on his other job as owner of Milagro Ranch. Tornare retained ownership of the building.

It’s uncertain what happened to the partnership between Helsley and Soffer, but Soffer was recently listed as sole owner of the business on the Louis Swiss website.

New menu item: Tuna Salad Sandwich with shredded lettuce, tomato, and red onion on your choice of house baked bread .
Louis Swiss Bakery/Courtesy photo

Enter MML Hospitality.

MML Hospitality’s love affair with Aspen began when founding partners Larry McGuire and Tom Moorman spent winters skiing and summers biking and hiking with their families and friends. In 2017, they opened Clark’s Aspen, followed by Las Montañas this year, and have recently acquired Mountain Chalet.

“MML is thrilled to further expand its Aspen footprint with Louis Swiss Bakery,” McGuire said. “The MML team will honor the bakery’s rich history, serving freshly-baked artisan breads and pastries as well as breakfast and lunch specials at its location in the Aspen Business Center.”

New menu item: Roasted tomato and basil soup with Clark’s sourdough bread on the side
Louis Swiss Bakery/Courtesy photo

McGuire acknowledged it’s important to maintain the character, charm, and affordability of Louis Swiss. Therefore, the plans to make small incremental changes to the space, retaining the walk-in retail counter, and implementing improvements, like sandwiches and salads made with nitrate-free meats and local, fresh ingredients, as well as bringing in their bread, croissant, and cookie programs.

New menu item: Grilled ham and cheese sandwich with gruyere and grain mustard on Clark’s sourdough bread.
Louis Swiss Bakery/Courtesy photo

“There needs to be affordable places for people to eat in this valley, so there will be tweaks, but it will still be affordable and accessible to everyone,” he said.

The bakery will continue serving local restaurants, hotels, and businesses through wholesale relationships and the Aspen farmer’s market on Saturdays in the summer. Many of the pastry and bread recipes from MML’s Austin bakery, Swedish Hill, will be shared with Louis Swiss.

Louis Swiss baguettes.
Louis Swiss Bakery/Courtesy photo

The group hopes to expand into downtown Aspen with a coffee and pastry shop in the future.

And, for everyone who loves the artisan sourdough bread at Clark’s, you no longer need to harass and beg the staff for leftover loaves to take home. Now, you can walk into Louis Swiss and buy one at your leisure.

Clark’s sourdough bread now available at Louis Swiss.
Louis Swiss Bakery/Courtesy photo
If you go…

What: Louis Swiss Bakery
Where:400 Aspen Airport Business Center, Aspen, CO 81611
When: Monday-Friday, 6 a..m.-3 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Sunday, CLOSED
More Info: www.louisswiss.com

Uchi pop-up takes over Hotel Jerome

If you missed the first Uchi x Hotel Jerome takeover in July, you have another chance with rare American sushi master and James Beard Award-winning Chef Tyson Cole’s non-traditional take on Japanese food from Dec. 14-17 at Prospect restaurant and the speakeasy Bad Harriet.

Dining room, the Prospect restaurant, Hotel Jerome, Aspen.

Regional Chef Lucas Chandler, who is based at Uchi Denver, called Aspen and Hotel Jerome a natural fit for an Uchi pop-up.

“Our first experience in Aspen this past July was so inspiring that it was an easy decision to come back,” he said. “The team at Hotel Jerome embodies many of the same values that we strive for in our restaurants, which makes them an ideal partner to collaborate with. We can’t wait to continue the momentum, as well as build upon last summer’s pop-up for the upcoming winter addition.”

Nigiri, Uchi.

And, the collaboration goes both ways. Hotel Jerome’s executive chef, Ross Kilkenny — from Calistoga Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection, which burned down in the Glass Fire of September 2020 — joined the Jerome last spring and has enjoyed working with Uchi. In September, he and his team joined Uchi Denver’s Garden Series Dinners, where they collaborated on a 10-course meal with Chef Cole and pop-up Che Cazzo.

For the upcoming pop-up, Kilkenny and his team will be there for support and to make sure everything runs smoothly for Chef Chandler and Chef Jack Yoss.

Kilkenny described Uchi’s style of food as special because of their use of “unique ingredients and bold flavors that you don’t usually get in Aspen, and they bring in an amazing sake master. … It’s a great opportunity for our team to experience and observe another style of service. It helps us learn and grow.”

The Prospect Restaurant, Hotel Jerome, Aspen.

For this upcoming pop-up, Chandler said guests can expect a mix of some of their classic dishes plus new dishes “that made sense to us from a seasonality standpoint. Think: Colorado wagyu short ribs with celery root, grilled cabbage, and chestnuts or lobster and caviar handrolls with parsnip furikake”, he said.  Between Prospect and Bad Harriet, there will be around 10 new dishes.

Hama Chili, Uchi.

The Prospect and Bad Harriet menus will feature signature dishes from Chandler and Yoss. In the restaurant, one of the only American sake masters, Stuart Morris, will pair food with sake, and, for Bad Harriet, small bites from Uchi will be paired with a progressive tasting menu of bespoke Bad Harriet cocktails.

“When building out this menu, we kept asking ourselves what we would want to eat after skiing all day,” Chandler said. “Translated, Uchi literally means home. Our whole approach to our guests, staff, and food revolves around this concept. First and foremost, we want to immerse new and regular guests of Aspen in our unique take on hospitality but also aim to provide a truly memorable experience. Of course, the food should be as perfect as possible but just as important is how you make guests feel. ”

Uchi Denver.
If you go…

What: Uchi x Hotel Jerome: An Epicurean Takeover
Where: The Prospect restaurant and Bad Harriet, Hotel Jerome
When: Dec. 14-17, Prospect. First seating: 5:30, 5:45, 6 p.m. Second seating: 8:30, 8:45, 9. Bad Harriett on Dec. 17: 8:30 p.m.
More Info and Tickets: https://aubergeresorts.com/hoteljerome/experiences/uchi/

Hooch remains in local hands after owner sells

In an evolving food and beverage scene in downtown Aspen, one locally owned bar will remain locally owned.

On Tuesday, Pat Flannigan and Quinn Gallagher got one step closer to an owner partnership at the bar they have run together for the past six years. The city approved the transfer of the tavern liquor license to Infinite Hooch Aspen LLC, a subsidiary of the business partnership between local hospitality group Infinite Hospitality and Flannigan.

The application will now go to the state for approval. And once the state issues the Colorado license, the city of Aspen will also issue the liquor license in their name.

“We’ve lived and breathed the place for six years already. And we just happened to be lucky enough to have an owner, the previous owner Wendy (Mitchell), that appreciated that effort and kind of gave us an awesome opportunity to continue what we’re already doing but with with our names on it. So it’s a really good feeling,” said Gallagher. “There’s this feeling of responsibility and a little bit of anxiety. But for the most part, we’re really excited about it.”

Flannigan and Gallagher both joined the Hooch team when the bar opened in April 2016. They served as bar managers until former general manager Lindze Letherman left in the fall of 2021. After that, they both assumed a GM-type role.

Their long history with the bar made them the obvious choice for former owner Mitchell, who also owns Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop, when she decided she was ready to sell.

“I think I’ve always been open to the idea that those guys do all the work, and I’m super happy to have two guys that want to keep a local place local,” she said.

While Meat & Cheese and Hooch are no longer under the same ownership, everyone involved said they will maintain a familial relationship. The two establishments share a building and are located on different floors.

“I don’t have Wendy as a boss anymore, but I have her as a friend and a mentor,” Flannigan said.

Mitchell said she decided to sell because she was in a different phase of her life and felt it would be easier to let the guys already running the place take over ownership.

“Both my kids are in college, so I’m an empty-nester. So I’ll have more time to travel and I’d just like to make my life easier,” said Mitchell.

The former co-bar managers turned co-owners officially bought craft cocktail bar Hooch from Mitchell on Nov. 1 after months of separating the business from parent company Avalanche Cheese.

Between the two of them, Flannigan and Gallagher have decades of food and beverage experience. Owning Hooch will be Flannigan’s first foray into ownership, while Gallagher has owned establishments before. But, this will be his first role in as an owner in nearly a decade, he said.

They both intend to maintain the rustic, unpretentious character for which Hooch is known going into the future.

“Anyone can come in here and they can spend $1,000 on a pour, or they can get a beer and a shot and be happy,” said Flannigan. “You walk in and we’re blaring hip hop (and) there’s bras on the chandeliers.”

The locals bar is a dying breed in downtown Aspen, but Flannigan and Gallagher hope to hold onto that spirit at Hooch.

The interior of the Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in downtown Aspen. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“Some would call it this ‘old school Aspen’ where, you know, the locals can kind of rub elbows with people that are a little bit more affluent. And we’ve been successful, really kind of walking that line where everybody feels comfortable coming in here,” he said.

Jeff Bezos and Tina Turner are just a couple of the celebrities whom they say have visited Hooch for a drink.

Many of the cocktails on the menu are creations of Flannigan or Gallagher and the decorations and furniture were all thrifted by Mitchell’s interior designer friend, they said. The collection of “creepy paintings,” as Flannigan called them, are there to stay.

The limited food menu, which is required by Colorado law for bars, might change some. And they both want to make the space even more welcoming for locals. Hiring local DJs, hosting art pop-ups and including a locals’ discount in their new POS system are all part of that plan.

“It already is slowly becoming a staple in town, even after such a short period of time, but we want to continue to see it (grow) for decades,” said Gallagher.


Correction: The original article stated that Infinite Hooch Aspen LLC was a partnership between Flannigan and Gallagher. It is a subsidiary of the partnership between Infinite Hospitality and Flannigan. The article has been changed to reflect that update.

Mawa McQueen expands empire with Mawita in Snowmass and first cookbook, ‘Mawa’s Way’

Local chef and restaurateur Mawa McQueen was born on the west coast of Africa in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and raised in Paris, where she looked after and fed her 10 younger siblings while her mother worked around the clock to make ends meet.

Like many teenagers, she was enamored with American television, especially Phylicia Rashad’s character, Clair Huxtable, on The Cosby Show.

“Everything I learned was from The Cosby Show,” she said. “I thought all black people in America were like the Huxtables, and it inspired me to not become another statistic like so many around me in my neighborhood.”

But, it was another program that would give her a first glimpse of her future home.

“I was watching an episode of The Young and the Restless in Paris as a teenager, and there were scenes of beautiful, glamorous looking people getting off a private plane in Aspen, and it was so beautiful, a sparkling, magical place,” she said. “I had never seen anything like it before and thought to myself: ‘Wow, I want to go there.'”

The reality of coming to America, let alone Aspen, was still a decade away, but her story is one of manifestation and resilience. She wasn’t the strongest student, so, when high school was ending, and she was asked which vocational school she wanted to attend, she chose culinary school.

“I sucked at school, and the only thing I knew how to do was cook,” she remembered. “There was no love for it at first. It was just a duty. I decided to go into a hotel and restaurant apprenticeship, but, as an African woman with imperfect French, it was hard to break through into the kitchen with all these old-school, snobby French chefs. Everyone in my graduating class got jobs at five-star hotels, and they wanted me to peel potatoes. I said to myself, ‘The only way I am going to be a chef is on my own terms.'”

Mawa’s Burger, Aspen.
Alexis Ahrling/Courtesy photo

After a few disappointing jobs working around France, she left Paris and moved to England, where she worked as an au pair to learn English and where she discovered her new TV hero: Oprah Winfrey.

“The woman I worked for would be glued to the TV watching Oprah every day and would be crying and and emotional, and I thought, ‘Why is this white woman so fascinated with this black woman? I asked her, ‘Why are you watching this woman?’ And, she said she’s one of the most powerful women in America, and I didn’t believe it,” McQueen said. “That’s how my mind was conditioned, but it also made me realize for the first time that a black woman could hold power and be influential in a very large way.”

Once fluent in English, she went back to working front-of-the-house jobs. In 2002, at age 28, she won the much coveted green-card lottery and took a job at the White Barn Inn — a five-star, five-diamond resort hotel and restaurant in Kennebunkport, Maine — where she met her future husband and mastered the hospitality skills and created the connections that would eventually lead her to Aspen.

Mawa McQueen in her kitchen, Aspen.
Alexis Ahrling/Courtesy photo

“As the summer season at The White Barn Inn was winding down, my boss came to me and said, ‘You don’t have to stay in Maine for the winter. Is there somewhere else in the U.S. you’d like to go work?’ And, I said, ‘Yeah, I want to go to Aspen with all the bougie people.’ I never thought he was serious,” she said.

But, sure enough, a week later, her boss returned and told her he’d spoken to a friend of his, the GM of The Little Nell at the time, and she had a job and place to live waiting for her in Aspen — but only on the condition that she came back in four months when the winter season was over. She spent the next four years working in Maine for the summer season, Aspen in the winter … but was still working front-of-house jobs. She hadn’t made it back into the kitchen.

Fonio and Arugula salad, Mawas Kitchen, Aspen.
Alexis Ahrling/Courtesy photo

That changed when a wealthy regular at The Nell approached her and asked if she’d be interested and available to help her to organize and prepare Christmas dinner at her home.

“She offered me a ridiculous amount of money to help her with Christmas dinner,” she said, “and, when I got into the kitchen with her, I realized she didn’t know how to cook. So, I told her, ‘Look, I’ll call a friend to help and cook dinner. Just leave it to me'”

The client was so impressed she offered McQueen a regular gig as her private chef, which she accepted — working at The Nell during the day and as a private chef at night, eventually opening a small catering company in 2006 housed in the same kitchen where Mawa’s stands now in the Aspen Business Center (ABC).

“At first, it was just catering. In 2012, I quit my job at The Nell and created a small restaurant space adjacent to my kitchen. I never wanted to open a restaurant; I only did it to keep my catering staff. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, not a restaurateur,” she said. Then, she opened The Crepe Shack in Snowmass Village in 2018.

Jerk Chicken, Mawa’s Kitchen, Aspen
Alexis Ahrling/Courtesy photo

But, the past decade has had its challenges. At first, it proved difficult to get locals out of town to the ABC to eat and took her many years of catering and building a loyal brunch following to get Mawa’s Kitchen to a place where she felt like things would be OK. And then, COVID hit. At the same time, the space next door became available, and she decided to put everything she had on the line to expand and renovate the new space into the Mawa’s that stands today with the French-inspired wallpaper and dark-green bar. She also launched a high-end granola product line, GrainFreeNola, intended to diversify her business.

“COVID was a tough time for restaurants in general and especially on our business,” she said. “I was catering, cleaning, and babysitting, and my husband was delivering newspapers. We did everything we could to stay afloat.”

After two years, Mawa and her husband were exhausted and ready to call it quits, planning how to wind down the business and considering what their future might look like. And then, in February, just as she’d given up hope, an unexpected announcement changed everything.

She was named a semifinalist for the 2022 James Beard Awards Best Chef honor in the Mountain Region. The so-called “Oscars of the culinary world” was so far removed from her reality she didn’t even realize she was nominated at first.

“The day the James Beard nominations came out, I was out shopping, totally clueless. First, a colleague texted me, and, a few minutes later, a friend of mine called and said, ‘Don’t scream, but you are nominated.’ Of course, I screamed right there in the aisle of the grocery store, and I thought, ‘Well this is it. We can’t close now,'” she said.

African Pastel, Mawa’s Kitchen, Aspen.
Alexis Ahrling/Courtesy photo

Soon after, Forbes magazine profiled her, pointing out that Mawa’s Kitchen is the only black-owned restaurant in Aspen and highlighting her globally-inspired cuisine and optimistic spirit. In a turn of events, Mawa’s has since been visited by high-profile diners, like the famously vegan Democratic senator from New Jersey, Corey Booker, upping her profile as a place to visit while in town.

She also started venturing away from the European-style food she focused on for decades and began introducing her customers to food from Africa and the Middle East, which she is especially passionate about.

“George Floyd happened, and that changed me. I realized I was living up here with all this privilege and decided I wanted to make changes. I had to think about what I was passionate about, and I realized I love African and Middle Eastern food and wanted to go in that direction and found a new love for cooking and food,” she said.

Getting back to her roots and cooking food she is connected to is paying off. Next up, she is releasing her first self-published cookbook “Mawa’s Way” on Dec.12. It will be available at all her restaurants, websites, and on Amazon. She also will expand her restaurant empire with the opening of Mawita in the former Mix6 space in Snowmass Base Village.

“Mawa’s Way.”
Alexis Ahrling/Courtesy photo

Mawita will highlight Latin flavors with an African twist. She explained that she chose Latin-inspired food because she realized that Latin American ingredients are the same as African ingredients.

“Why no one has realized this before is beyond me. We share so many similarities — rice, beans, plantains, corn; we have fufu, they have tortillas — so, it was a no-brainer for me,” she said.

The menu will focus on tapas, tacos, mole (three types: red, black, and green), brunch, and Latin-inspired mezcal-forward cocktails. She’s said she’s excited to share her food inspirations and the flavors she’s discovered from her global travels.

“There is no glory in being a chef,” she said. “It’s hard to get wealthy by being a chef. There is difference between the celebrity chefs on TV and those of us who cook every day. I used to cook for others, and now I cook for myself and am doing what I love. Resilience is necessary. I’ve learned there is always a way — even if you don’t know what you are doing, there is always a way.”

Asher on Aspen: Schnapps and Schnitzel at Almresi Aspen

They say when you travel, even the doorknobs look different. Everything is foreign, interesting, and unfamiliar. It’s about this time of year when I find myself searching aimlessly for reasonable, last-minute flights to Europe. I have this overwhelming urge to leave town and travel to an unknown city.

However, I also love finding local places that offer the same sense of escapism and make you feel like you’ve been transported to a different place and time. Recently, I was lucky enough to sample a small taste of Europe at Almresi Aspen.

The charming, family-run restaurant located inside of the Dancing Bear’s mountainside building immediately transported me to a rustic chalet buried deep in the Swiss Alps. With locations in Vail and Stuttgart, Aspen is Almresi’s third location owned by the German-based Thoma family. The eatery offers a tightly edited menu of authentic German cuisine that also includes dishes from Austria and Switzerland.

The smell of fondue and schnitzel wafted through the air as we meandered through the restaurant and found our way to the table. Looking around, we couldn’t stop staring at the decor that so perfectly tied the room together. Upon taking our seats, our attentive server, Tom, presented us with festive cocktails as he introduced us to the space and the concept. He embodied the spirit of Bavarian hospitality wholeheartedly, and it was evident that he was someone who loved his job with every ounce of his being. We appreciated his passion for the authentic German cuisine characterized by the specialties of the Alps. His demeanor was cheery and uplifting as he offered prompt service and extremely helpful advice on what to order.

The international staff dressed in pink-accented dirndls and lederhosen made by an official Oktoberfest supplier. Centuries-old wood from barns and huts imported from the mountains of Austria and Switzerland decorated the interior. Moreover, all decor — including the rustic wood tables, recycled barn wood paneling, red-checked curtains, cozy candles on pedestals, and even the dishes — were all imported from Germany or Austria. I spotted a series of colorful cuckoo clocks that hung near the bar, and it made me smile as I looked around to appreciate the intimate and sprightly establishment.

Our meal kicked off with starters that included the Swiss cheese fondue prepared with cherry brandy and the Almresi Seppi Flammkuchen, a classic tarte flambee served with bacon, onions, and sour cream. Next, we indulged in one of their most popular entrees — the pork shank with mashed potatoes and tasty sauerkraut. For a sweet finish, we opted for the classic German apple strudel with vanilla sauce. The desert effortlessly melted in my mouth as I sipped leisurely on a dry red wine. To round out our alpine experience and wash down the hearty food, we were served a shot of herbal schnapps — the most traditional way to finish a German meal.

Almresi restaurant as seen on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Even though Almresi is now closed for the off-season, the restaurant plans to re-open in mid-December, just in time for the holidays. Given the boisterous Christmas markets that take place in Germany, I can only imagine how the restaurant will decorate and celebrate for the holiday season. Reservations will fill up fast during the winter months, so be sure to book out in advance and call ahead to secure your spot.

Though I might not get the chance to make it to Europe this off-season, I am thankful for places like Almresi that bring a taste of German culture and charm to our quaint mountain town. This dinner was truly an authentic alpine experience, and I can hardly wait to make a return appearance in the wintertime. www.almresi-aspen.com

Aspen Times Weekly Bar Talk: Corpse Revivers

On Sunday I went searching for a cocktail. What I found was a classic gin drink with a name more apt for October that inspired a dive into history at a Roaring Fork Valley institution.

When I wandered into the venerable Woody Creek Tavern, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to cocktails.

More known as a place to sidle up to the bar for a beer and a shot or to enjoy a well-made margarita on the patio, the Woody Creek Tavern hasn’t always stocked all the ingredients needed to craft pre-Prohibition cocktails, until the new owners and general manager took over this favorite of locals and tourists alike.

Now, with a fully stocked bar, although still a barebones cocktail list, you can be served up cocktail classics such as the Corpse Reviver #2. Since it’s not on the menu, the bartender recommended it to me, after I said I like gin and was looking for a fun Sunday cocktail that wasn’t a typical pick.

Made with equal parts gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and served in an Absinthe-washed coupe glass and garnished with an orange peel, the Corpse Reviver #2 is, of course, well balanced, smooth up front, mildly tart on the finish and all around an extremely pleasant drink experience. I would happily imbibe in one or two if I’m looking for a brunch cocktail and I don’t want to go with a typical mimosa, bloody or Bellini. I’d also turn to this gin drink while enjoying a warm day on the patio, as it’s not sticky sweet or heavy but rather refreshing and light.

As the number in the name implies, the cocktail is just one variation of the Corpse Reviver.

According to the digging I did on the Internet, the original Corpse Reviver recipe can be found in the 1871 “Gentleman’s Table Guide” and is made with brandy, maraschino and bitters. It was advertised as a good drink when you needed a little “hair of the dog” to get you by.

The recipe for Corpse Reviver #2, the most popular variety, was published in Harry Craddock’s 1930 “Savoy Cocktail Book,” again touting the cocktail as one to serve if someone is looking to be brought back to life. 

Corpse Reviver #2
Rose Laudicina

Corpse Reviver #3 and #4 soon followed, and now there are a bevy of these revivers on bar menus across the globe.

More often than not, a reviver is considered a brunch drink or something to be consumed by those who are feeling the effects of last night’s choices.

Corpse Revivers are a refreshing, stiff drink that are palatable by most and followed by claims that they can make you feel better or bring you back from the dead. 

While you won’t find the Corpse Reviver #2 on the Woody Creek Tavern printed menu, the bar staff is knowledgeable, and the bar is loaded with everything needed to make this drink and other cocktail classics, so go ahead and chat with your bartender about the possibilities.

Aspen Times Weekly: Restaurants without borders and the home experience

With just about everything the world offers at the touch of our fingertips these days, in the not-so-far-future, you can “order up” a top chef from, say, Chicago or San Francisco, to come to your home and prepare a meal. And we’re not talking a virtual chef. Tivity is connecting high-quality chefs with people looking for a restaurant-level meal in the comfort of their own home.

Currently, the company serves the Aspen, Denver, Austin, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Antonio and San Francisco markets, connecting their network of chefs to homeowners. In some ways, the company acts as an external private events manager for restaurants, as well.

Whatever clients want, Tivity delivers: They say every dinner is unique, and every experience is different. Planning begins with the type of food and atmosphere clients envision. Then, it’s sort of like a dating app, in terms of pairing the best chef to the request. Sushi chefs create artistic, Japanese-inspired cuisine, French chefs transport guests to their favorite bistros abroad and custom tapas reflect social dining in Spain.

“We want every customer and guest to walk away thinking they have never had anything like that and a chef to be excited he or she has stretched his or her creative culinary chops,” Tivity co-founder Emmie Nostitz said.

The idea is like INTUEAT, in that it brings chefs into your home.

“What we love about INTUEAT is that we are doing the same thing and working to give chefs more opportunities,” co-founder Zach Knight said. “We know that particularly, in Aspen, there are a ton of private chefs already working, and we want to help all of them book more dinners, streamline their process and manage client relations for them. We believe that chefs should be chefs, and we can take care of the rest — everything from managing payment, printing menus, obtaining images of any kitchen a chef will walk into, to knowing allergy information for all guests attending.”

Ultimately, the company aims to create more opportunities for chefs.

“We want to amplify them and give them the tools to succeed,” he said. “We believe if the chef has the tools to execute, they can deliver an experience that is better than inside a restaurant. Ultimately, Tivity is a way for chefs to do more of what they love: cook and be creative.”

Zach Knight and Emmie Nostitz, founders of Tivity in Austin, Texas, October 2021.
Christina Fallara

So far, the company has hosted over 100 experiences for homeowners, businesses and private parties, including a recent dinner for the Aspen Art Museum.

But the question remains: How is Tivity or INTUEAT different than a high-quality catering company? The answer seems to lie in its access to a variety of top-notch chefs. Like catering companies, they plan, execute and serve customized meals, but their range of chefs makes the difference.

Knight and Nostitz launched the business in Austin but have local ties: Born and raised in Denver, Knight lived in Aspen and worked at Matsuhisa in 2009 and 2010 before moving to San Antonio for an MBA program. Nostitz attended University of Colorado and splits her time between Aspen and Austin.

“We both consider Aspen a very special place, and, in many ways, home,” Nostitz said.

Prices of the meals range, but according to Tivity, “a standard, seated and plated course dinner is comparable to the price of a meal at the top restaurants in Aspen. … Every chef, menu and event is different, therefore the final price of each experience will vary.” Alcohol and services like flower arrangements are additional.

With restaurant reservations becoming harder to book, Tivity wants “to become a true alternative to going out to dinner” as it brings restaurants to you. Its goal: “to become synonymous with the other amazing restaurants in town,” Nostitz said. “We pride ourselves on saying, ‘We turn your dining room into the hottest table in town.’”

And, as for that renowned, out-of-state chef coming to your home: Well, one of Tivity’s founding principles is: a restaurant without borders.

“We have a vision of one day allowing any chef to move through the Tivity network and be booked for any dinner or meal in any part of the country. This allows chefs that want to take a trip or do a residency in another city the flexibility and ability to do so,” Knight said. “We have had some clients in Aspen already consider some of our Austin chefs to come to Aspen for a dinner party.”