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High Country: From TV pitchman to hemp farmer, Anthony Sullivan changes the channel to CBD

One of TV’s most recognizable voices of late-night infomercial fame (you might remember him as “the OxiClean guy”) has traded hyping household products for his own: CBD.

Anthony “Sully” Sullivan, the British-born, wildly energetic pitchman pushed pause on his 30- year career when his daughter Devon was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder and needed an alternative to prescription medication. Her mother, who holds a PhD in early childhood development, together with Sullivan, started a CBD regimen for Devon at age 8, replacing pills, which they denounce in “robbing Devon of her personality.”

After discovering CBD was effectively managing Devon’s seizures, Sullivan made it his mission to help others. In 2019, with friend and business partner Dave Christian, they purchased a 116-acre farm in Plainfield, Vermont, for the sole purpose of growing hemp to process cannabidiol (CBD) for its medicinal benefits.

Named in honor of its home state and the genetics they grow, Montkush was born, bringing his “Pitchmen” producer Thom Beers (other credits include “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers”) along for the ride to capture their blind foray into cannabis cultivation. Montkush has since received organic certification from both the USDA and Vermont Organic Farmers for its operation.

“Kings of Kush,” a 10-episode Vice TV series, debuted on March 9 and airs on Thursdays.

Tune In

“Kings of Kush” airs on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. MST on Vice TV with this week’s episode featuring Ethan Zohn’s visit to the farm.

To shop Montkush in support of First Descents on Thursday, April 22, visit montkush.com (@montkush).

“(The series) shares our journey and showcases the hard times that we ran through, but also our wins along the way,” said Sullivan, Montkush CEO. “It is as much entertaining as it is educational — there’s a lot of misinformation and confusion about CBD in general, so we try and cover a little bit in each episode to help people understand the simplicity of this product and that it is truly plant-based wellness.”

The latest episode, which premieres on Thursday, April 22 (11:30pm EST / 9:30pm MST), welcomes special guest and 2002 “Survivor” winner Ethan Zohn to the farm. Last year, Sullivan and Christian enlisted Zohn — also a two-time cancer survivor — as a partner and appointed him as Montkush’s chief purpose officer, where he will lead company efforts to educate and support industry initiatives.

Caption: ’Survivor’ winner and Montkush chief purpose officer Ethan Zohn. Photo copyright John Chapple / www.JohnChapple.com

“After battling cancer twice, CBD has been part of my daily ritual to feel healthy,” explained Zohn. “For most of my adult life, I’ve been laser-focused on serving others through my foundations (Grassroot Soccer and SafeRoots Foundation) and creating partnerships with health and wellness organizations that help heal the world.”

In celebration of Zohn’s involvement and appearance on “Kings of Kush,” Montkush has teamed up with the Denver-based nonprofit First Descents to donate 100% of the proceeds from online purchases made the same day his episode airs. Founded by professional kayaker Brad Ludden in 2001, First Descents provides outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer and other serious health conditions in Colorado.

“Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in young adults. At First Descents, we rely on partners and organizations like Montkush who champion our efforts to help our survivors lead healthy lives,” said First Descents CEO Ryan O’Donoghue. “Our alumni community — now numbering over 10,000 participants — is fortunate to have access to CBD to support ongoing healing.”

Both Sullivan and Zohn have worked with the organization over the years and hope that one day, Devon can experience one of its adventure camps.

“We have continued to defy her odds and do things for Devon that help her move through life and feel like a normal kid. She is now 10 years old, seeing such incredible benefits from CBD and continuing to thrive,” added Sullivan. “I am a huge outdoor athlete having spent most of my adult life participating in cycling, running and swimming — also competing in marathons and triathlons to stay healthy. Nothing makes me happier than being able to swim with my daughter, hold her on the wakeboard or take her horseback riding — it’s amazing how therapeutic it is for her.”

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.


Aspen History: ’60s Ski Fashion

“Ski fashions take spotlight Sun,” stated The Aspen Times on Dec. 2, 1965. “Ski clothing for every occasion will be featured Sunday, Dec. 5, at The Red Onion as the Aspen Ski Club presents its annual fashion preview. John Waldorf, manager of the Ski Club, stressed that the public as well as members can attend the show. The Phil Raphael Trio will provide music for the party until about 8 PM. Admission is $1 per person and door prizes are being donated by Arthur’s Restaurant and Stromberg’s Restaurant. June Dore’s annual strip auction which has been increasing in popularity and decreasing in coverage each year will again be featured. Ralph Jackson may also flaunt his bod. Fashions from 22 local businesses will be displayed on local models. Participating merchants include Aspen Sports, Bullocks of Aspen, Albus, Elli’s, the Driftwood, Shop at the Centre, Sportswear by Lindner, House of Ireland, Montrose’s, Knitski, Scandinavian Design, Stein Eriksen Sport, Aspen Country Store, Mountain Shop, Dora of Aspen, Valley Kilns, the Emporium, Arthur’s, and Liso’s at Home Clothes.” This image shows Herb Powers, Dr. Harold Whitcomb, and Ruth Whyte at the 1964 Ski Club fashion show at The Red Onion.

WineInk: Gifting Wines for the Holidays

It’s that time of the season for holiday shopping. If you, and those you love, love wine, then the answer to the “what to buy” question is relatively simple. Figure out a budget, go to your local wine shop, peruse the shelves and buy a bottle. There is no one who doesn’t appreciate the gift of wine. And most wine merchants will wrap it for you.

The only caveat is that you should spend the time to pick a bottle that is a bit personal, or has meaning. Perhaps one that you have enjoyed in the past with the person you are gifting. Or if you know they have traveled to a wine region or have a favorite grape, try to select something from that milieu. It can be fun and it shows you care enough to give something that they can relate to.

But of course there are other ways to gift wine than just a simple bottle. So we thought we would offer a few options, for various budgets.

How about giving La Dolce Vita? If you are so endowed, consider gifting your wine-loving friend a wine estate in Gaiole in Chianti. For $16,609,325, you can buy a 43,000-square-foot stone castle with its own DOCG and IGT certified wine production facility. Sixteen suites and six apartments and a winery that can produce up to 70,000 bottles of sangiovese awaits. Contact Sergio Greco at Sotheby’s International at +39 055 075 1888. I’m sure he would welcome your call. Or stop by the Sotheby’s office in Aspen, where they would be happy to put you in touch.

If you follow this column you likely know about the destruction of The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley’s Glass Fire this fall. Long before the fire, the Meadowood team had planned a winter residency at the Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn and Spa. From Jan. 6 through the end of February, the team from the three-Michelin-starred TRM will be creating six-course meals for $495 per person, plus, plus, plus. And the opportunity to pair these with some of the best wines from the Santa Barbara wine region will be unparalleled. This will be a hot ticket so you best jump on line at ojaivalleyinn.com. Oh, be sure to say hello to former Aspenite Connie Thornburg, who has just become managing director at Ojai Valley Inn.

Speaking of fires and such, buying wines direct from Napa producers is a fine way to send wines to far-flung friends and help those who were in harm’s way. A great, appropriate offering would be a Mi Sueno “Red Lovers Gift Set” ($140). You may know the wines as a “by the glass” option at the White House Tavern here in Aspen. This two-bottle boxed set is an elegant gift that includes the 2017 Mi Sueño El Llano Red Blend (the wine poured at the WHT) and the 2016 Mi Sueño Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a personalized note card and ground shipping. store.misuenowinery.com/shop

Duckhorn was at ground zero of the Glass Fire, but fortunately survived. Some say miraculously. To celebrate, how about an etched “Merry Christmas” bottle of the 2017 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot? A classic that can be ordered directly from the winery ($89) and shipped to your merry merlot lovers. duckhornwineshop.com.

The best way to keep a bottle fresh through the Twelve Days of Christmas is with a Coravin wine system. A Coravin fits over the top of your cork and inserts a needle that injects an inert gas that preserves the wine, allowing you to pour a single glass of wine without spoiling the contents of the bottle. Perfect for trying out your best bottles without opening them. Four Dogs Wines in Basalt has the Coravin Model One in stock in the shop for $199.97.

If you are looking for a gift that will keep on giving, how about a subscription to Jimbo’s Liquors in Basalt’s newly established wine club? In the new year, members will receive a curated selection of three or six wines per month, 10% off in-store purchases of club releases, tasting and winemaking notes, and food & wine pairing suggestions. And once the world returns to normal, there will be in-store wine tastings as well. Call Jimbo’s at 970-927-3360 for info.

Finally, if you are looking for a stocking stuffer, you can’t go wrong with a silver-plated Ah-So. The simplest and most effective wine opener there is, for just $9.95. Using a two-pronged approach, these babies can be found in local shops and you can get free shipping at Belmint.com.

Whether your budget is in the millions or the single digits, a gift of wine is always well received.

The Art of Giving: Tips and picks for local art shoppers this holiday season

Shopping local is more impactful than ever this holiday season, as nearly every sector of the economy was smothered by the pandemic and public health closures. So any way you can support locals this giving season is a good way.

One of my favorites is to buy and give local art, which gives me a chance to dig into the work of Aspen-area artists I might not know yet, and often allows me to support both an artist and a gallery or shop. Below I’ve made some suggestions based on what I’ve found so far this 2020 giving season.

The game-changer on the gift-hunting front will be the Aspen Art Museum’s new shop concept, set to debut in early December, curated and designed by artist Jonathan Berger, as well as its Winterfest craft show opening Dec. 17. I’m expecting some new discoveries there.

And I’d be remiss if I left out Carl’s Pharmacy, Aspen’s one-stop shop for everything, where the upstairs includes Aspen-centric crafts, clothes and tchotchkes from local makers.

Pick up The Aspen Times Art in Aspen magazine, on newsstands Dec. 21, for a comprehensive guide to the best of local galleries and what’s on the walls this winter.


Carpenter makes gorgeous hand-printed wood cuts on Japanese paper, depicting local scenes of rivers, mountains, wildlife and snow. A selection of 6-by-6 inch pieces is included in the Aspen Chapel Gallery’s annual “Small Wonders” exhibition, itself a treasure trove of potential gifts by local artists. Aspenchapelgallery.org


Were you among the crowd swept up by David Byrne at Aspen Film’s drive-in screening of “David Byrne’s American Utopia?” You can join the proverbial band by buying merch to support Byrne’s solutions-based magazine “Reasons to Be Cheerful” and its “We Are Not Divided” project. His art is on T-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, water bottles and such. wearenotdivided.reasonstobecheerful.world


The photographer turned to painting during the spring quarantine and has since set up shop as a Red Brick Center resident artist, creating vivid and stylized oil-on-canvas pieces depicting autumn in Aspen among other scenes. Her work is up at the Red Brick’s ongoing Resident Artist Exhibition and online at redbrickaspen.com.

GRAY MALIN IN ASPEN, $300 and up

Running from relatively affordable to fine art pricing for limited-edition prints, the famed photographer’s throwback Aspen series is an instant classic. Stocking stuffers and more affordable items, like the Gray Malin ski candle, are available under $50. Available at the Aspen Shop and the Boutique at the Little Nell. graymalin.com


It’s a popular idea because it’s a great idea: Harmony Scott’s beloved aspen leaf designs, ranging from stocking stuffer-ready pendants to more elaborate necklaces and earrings. Browse at Harmony Scott Jewelry Design in Carbondale and at the Golden Bough in Aspen. harmonyscott.com

LILY B CARDS, $30/set

My go-to gift for the hard-to-shop-for person on my list, Lily B notecards are hyperlocal, original and useful. Lily makes artful depictions of the Silver Queen Gondola and Aspen scenes in all seasons. Available at the Aspen Emporium and Flying Circus and lilybart.com, where you can also learn more about this talented young artist and her journey living with cystic fibrosis.

VALLEY FINE ART, prices vary

The downtown gallery has a trove of classic images by the groundbreaking western photographer Edward S. Curtis, as well as antique Aspen maps and mining claims. I’ve found some of the most meaningful gifts here, discovering historic photos with personal connections. valleyfineart.com


Straightline Studio in Snowmass Base Village has built a virtual showroom for its stable of cutting edge local artists like Chris Erickson and Teal Wilson at www.straightlinestudiollc.com. In Basalt, Ann Korologos Gallery this week unveiled a behind-the-scenes video of Paula Schuette Kraemer making the gallery’s latest print “Hell” ($2,300) at korologosgallery.com.

A Gift to Remember: Watch and learn how doctors and scientists eat to mind their matter at the Brain-Healthy Cooking Series

Dr. Drew Ramsey leans toward the camera in his home kitchen in rural Indiana, where just-cooked salmon burgers rest on a counter behind him. Food, he narrates, is a powerful first step toward combatting mood disorders and anxiety and fending off cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as our brains age.

In the case of depression, he explains, “I can go to therapy … it’s personal hard work, tough, expensive. Or medications: really helpful (but) they take a month. Whereas you’re eating today — three meals, hopefully, and some snacks. Food is a huge piece of (how we feel).”

Ramsey, a nutritional psychiatrist, Columbia University professor, and author of three books including “Eat to Beat Depression,” also prepared a dish he calls Gnocchi à la Glenda. In a small, cast-iron skillet he combined garlic-steeped olive oil with lemon zest, pine nuts, tinned sardines and tomato sauce to coat cooked potato gnocchi, a quick pantry-staple dish rich in omega fatty acids and lycopene.

This surprise bonus recipe is a virtual shout-out to Glenda Greenwald, president and founder of the Aspen Brain Institute, which produces the Brain-Healthy Cooking Series. Greenwald serves as an on-camera moderator for the series. Hosted by Dr. Annie Fenn from her own kitchen in Jackson, Wyoming, the collection is a culinary spinoff of ABI’s video “Expert Series,” launched in September to engage viewers with the latest science on brain health.

“Canned fish is a great source of protein and (nutrients) we know our brains need,” Ramsey continues. “And there’s not a big fish smell in my kitchen right now.”

Like Ramsey’s “Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety: Mood-Boosting Holiday Cooking,” which originally aired on Nov. 10, each segment in ABI’s Brain-Healthy Cooking Series features an expert discussing their focus on brain health during an in-home cooking session. New videos premiere Tuesdays at 3 p.m. MST through Dec. 15; past episodes are available on ABI’s website and YouTube channel for viewing anytime. All are free — “a five-part holiday gift to our global brain health network.”

“People are cooking at home more than they ever have,” notes Fenn, herself spending this pandemic writing a cookbook, tentatively titled “The Brain Health Kitchen,” due out from Artisan Books in 2022. “And people are starting to connect the dots between what they eat and how they feel — their mental and physical health.” And, crucially, “What you eat has been proven to have an impact on how quickly your brain ages.”

Fenn cites 10 brain-healthy food groups (see factbox), based largely on a Mediterranean diet, studied for their positive impact on the brain. On Nov. 17, for example, world-renowned neuroscientist and Alzheimer’s prevention specialist Dr. Lisa Mosconi, PhD, beamed in from her New York City kitchen to prepare Sweet Greens Soup, an anti-inflammatory recipe from her new bestselling book, “The XX Brain.” Meanwhile, Fenn made a flourless chocolate cake with blood orange marmalade — a low-sugar treat rich in cacao flavanols and phytonutrients. Citrus peel, we learn, may enhance nutrient absorption.

Fenn founded the Brain Health Kitchen, a research-based website and newsletter in 2015, after having a post-retirement epiphany. As an obstetrician-gynecologist for 20 years in Jackson, Fenn saw primarily menopausal patients near the end of her practice. “I spent all day most days talking to women about their symptoms, revolving around memory loss and brain fog. I was convinced there was a lifestyle link,” she recalls. “I noticed that people who had a healthier diet and included exercise had (fewer) symptoms. They did better after surgeries and when pregnant and postpartum.”

She retired and attended culinary school, seeking to learn how to teach people to prepare food that could improve their quality of life. Around this time, in 2015, data on nutrition as preventing Alzheimer’s “exploded.” Then her mother was diagnosed with dementia. In 2017, Fenn launched the Brain Health Kitchen Cooking School, to share “a proactive approach to brain aging and building cognitive reserve.”

Upcoming in the series, Eric Adams discusses how adopting a plant-based lifestyle helped to reverse his diabetes, a preventable disease known to slow mental functioning and increase risk of Alzheimer’s. “All his symptoms went away — including he was having blindness in one eye!” Fenn says. “It’s remarkable.”

Adams is the rare Brain-Healthy Cooking guest who is not a doctor or scientist — he’s Brooklyn’s borough president (formerly a four-term U.S. senator and NYPD cop for 22 years before that) who announced his bid for New York City mayor in November. Amid this intense commitment to public service, Adams drastically changed his habits. Then he wrote “Healthy At Last,” a memoir-lifestyle guide that features 50 whole-food, plant-based recipes. Two on his upcoming show: Thai millet “meatballs” with orange-chile dipping sauce and a pumpkin-black bean quesadilla with sweet pepper salsa, plus Dr. Fenn’s cashew lime crema. “All of our guests are all out in their communities, modeling that lifestyle,” Fenn. says “It’s attainable.”

Harvard Nutritional Psychiatrist, chef, nutrition expert and author of “This Is Your Brain On Food,” Dr. Uma Naidoo and neurologist husband-wife team Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, co-directors of the Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University Health in Southern California, all present plant-based creations such as tikka masala cauliflower “steaks” (Dec. 15) and vegan portobello mushroom cap “pizza” (Nov. 24), respectively. The latter introduces cashew “ricotta” and “mozzarella,” since eating less dairy is part of the brain-healthy approach.

Still, “You don’t have to give up cheese, meat, bread, or things you love, like desserts,” Fenn maintains of the Brain-Healthy Diet. “But there are guidelines to how often you should enjoy (those foods). Dr. Ramsey and I, we like grass-fed beef. I like eggs, I eat whole grain bread. It’s a progression. I keep plugging away and finding plant-based foods I like to cook.”

Fenn credits the Aspen Brain Institute’s mission via video series — making scientific data accessible in a fun, digestible format — as potentially having the power to change grim statistics. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death, affecting roughly 6 million Americans currently; that number is estimated to soar to 14 million by 2050, even though research shows the disease in preventable through diet and exercise.

“Five years ago it would just be scientists and doctors who had access to the medical journals,” Fenn says. “By giving doctors like me and our guests a platform to talk about brain health directly to everyone who has an internet connection — that’s a really powerful thing.”


Asher on Aspen: Skiing on the Mind

The night before opening day always feels a bit like the night before Christmas.

Aspen was bustling and lively as locals and tourists scurried around town to get their passes, tune up their skis and shop for last-minute gear upgrades. For many locals, the first snowfall of winter indicates that it’s officially time to swap out the paddle board and hiking shoes for goggles and ski boots. The arrival of snow also, of course, triggers one of the season’s greatest joys and the reason why so many of us live here: skiing. Ever since our season was unexpectedly cut short last March 14, I have been dreaming of carving turns and flying down the mountain with my friends.

My alarm went off early on Thanksgiving Eve and I promptly sat up to peak out the window for an old-fashioned weather report. The snow that rolled in the day before was still looking lush and untouched. I caught myself smiling like a giddy kid on Christmas morning as I changed into my base layers that I had laid out the night before. I sat in my new, white North Face snow pants at the kitchen table while drinking a hot cup of coffee and wondering how long the pants would actually stay white. I grabbed my buff, the piece of clothing that doubled as my mask for the day and was out the door by 9 a.m.

With new COVID-19 restrictions in place by the Aspen Skiing Co., I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on the first day. Luckily, they seemed to have the systems dialed in by the time we walked up to Gondola Plaza at the base of Aspen Mountain. As expected, there was a decent-sized line to board the gondola. However, the line appeared to be much longer than it actually was as people were spaced out and socially distanced. After about a 20-minute wait, we were able to load on with myself and the four girls who I was skiing with that day.

We eagerly discussed what runs were open as we gazed out the gondola admiring the fluffy, untouched powder. I clipped in, lowered my goggles and turned up my headphones. “Baba O’Riley” by The Who was the first stoke song of choice. My poles trailed gently behind me as I took off in the direction of my friends. I heard the girls yelping and screaming with excitement as I glided my way down Silver Bell. The powder was fresh, the sun was brightly beaming down, and, for a moment, the world felt normal again.

I caught an edge as I slowed down to get in line at Ajax Express. Out of breath, I pulled down my mask briefly while looking back to ensure my friends were still following. Almost immediately, a Skico employee spotted me. I was asked to reapply the mask and keep it on at all times while on the mountain. Despite my annoyance of how fast he caught me, I appreciated how diligent employees were about monitoring the mask ordinance. If not for the constant friendly reminders that I witnessed throughout the day, I’m afraid the rules would get too lax and eventually lead to the mountain closing down early (obviously the worst-case scenario).

As the calendar turns to December, many of us are left to reflect on this particularly strange year. Nothing about 2020 has been normal. The pandemic has forced institutions across the globe to rethink every aspect of their operation. The sport of skiing was not immune to the world being put on pause. Thankfully, the masterminds at Skico figured out a way for people to still enjoy the sport of skiing while also following federal, state and local regulations to keep us all safe.

Among many other things this year, the holiday season is going to look a lot different in terms of parties and family gatherings. This Christmas, I am taking a moment to reflect on the gifts that I am giving. Oftentimes, I feel the gift of an experience can be much more rewarding than a physical object. If you’re looking to give an incredible experience this year, I highly recommend giving the gift of skiing. For me, skiing is the reason why I live in Aspen. There are few things in this world that bring me more joy than cruising down a mountain with skis strapped to my feet alongside some of my best friends. I think many Aspen locals would agree.

Giving Thanks: Time for a toast

Of all the holidays, none is as conducive to the concept of a toast as Thanksgiving. It is a day that we are humbled by the recognition and contemplation of all that we have in our lives and all those who we love.

The origin of the toast harkens back to communal drinking gatherings among the ancient Greeks, who would raise their glasses of cheer in drunken revelry to honor “the gods.” Of course, gods loved them. It was the British who would take the act of combining a wish for good health and fortune with good drink to the level of art form. By the time Shakespearian England came ‘round, the act of toasting had a name. At the time, wine was often augmented with a piece of toasted spiced bread, added to the glass to improve the taste.

In the bard’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” John Falstaff orders up a quart of spiced wine and suggests, “Put a toast in it.” The Brits became so enamored with the art of the toast that an actual profession, that of toastmaster, arose, giving those who were blessed with both the gift of gab and the “Fare Thee Well” spirit a platform to perfect the act. A toast to people, places and things that we love makes not only those toasted, but the toastee, feel warm and fuzzy.

That said, as it is the time of year for expressing appreciation, I would like to give a nod of the noggin, an appreciative wink, a tip of the hat, a raising of the goblet and, of course, a clink of the glass in recognition to all those in the wine world who have allowed this column to exist for well over a decade now.

Let’s start in the vineyards and those who make the wines that soothe our souls and satiate our thirsts. It has been a trying time for winemakers, to say the least. Global warming has made farming more difficult and unpredictable. Fires have ravaged parts of wine country for five years and counting in California and the Aussies are still trying to recover from some of the worst fires in their history.

But still, I find that the virtual interactions that I have had this year in interviews for stories have revealed both hardy and happy souls. One of the great joys of writing about wine is meeting and getting to know people who recognize the value of the lands they work and who strive to make the best wines from them. Winemakers are a unique combination of farmer, chemist, marketer and tastemaker. In an evolving society they are a breed apart.

Then there is the local Aspen wine community. From the wine reps to the retailers to the sommeliers, we, as a town, are blessed to have a cadre of professionals who are passionate about the wines they both drink and sell. The camaraderie that exists here in the valley, a result of a combination of our relatively small size and our broader exposure to the greater wine world, is special. I learn from these people every week and their generosity of both wine and spirit is appreciated.

Of course, the entire point of being a columnist, something that I identify myself as proudly, is to write something on a weekly basis that will both entertain and inform readers. Not as easy a task as it may sound. But each week I work to “have a take” that has value. And whenever I hear, in voice or digitally in email or text, that something written has resonated it gives me such great joy. The readers are the reason to do this and I give thanks to all of you who have taken the time to scroll through even a paragraph of the close to 700 WineInk columns that have run in The Aspen Times over these past weeks and years.

And finally, the biggest and spiciest piece of toast must go to the people who are responsible for publishing this column each week. It has been a devastating decade for the print news business, exacerbated by the current turmoil. But somehow The Aspen Times, published in some form since 1881, has found a way to survive, serve and prosper. It is a community gem.

And the Times has recognized the value of wine to this particular community and provided a place in the Aspen Times Weekly to celebrate it. I have been honored to occupy that space. Kudos and thanks to Samantha Johnston, publisher of the Times, WineInk’s art director Jordan Lugibihl and especially to my editor, Andrew Travers, who patiently provides corrections, questions my intention and most of all offers encouragement.

On this, the day for giving thanks, a hale and hearty toast to you all.

Food Matters: Anatomy of a $16 sweet potato (and other vegetable masterpieces by Meat & Cheese executive chef Bryan Garneau)

Yes, you read that right. Meat & Cheese Restaurant’s winter takeout-only menu features a sweet potato side dish for 16 bucks. Yet like most of the food conceived by executive chef Bryan Garneau, this is not just a sweet potato.

When I open the brown box at home, my reaction is instinctive. “Wow,” I say out loud. Though I’ve already spoken with Garneau at length about his winter vegetable creations—the layers of garnish on each dish, the step-by-step detail of each process—I’m genuinely surprised at the meal-for-one within. Nestled on a pool of creamy, vibrant green froth is the star: a “three-hour-roasted” sweet potato, butterflied open and almost totally obscured by “herb salad.”

“Parsley, tarragon, and chive batons tossed with white balsamic, a simple vinaigrette,” Garneau noted. “The bright flavors of the herbs pop, with toasted, crushed pepitas on top. We finish it with crispy, shaved speck chips.”

I peel away a gooey, blackened edge of skin, oozing natural sugar from the slow, low bake. Here is another sauce: savory-sweet apple cider gastrique, infused with the spice flavor of peppercorns and bay leaves and thickened with caramelized onion purée. The gastrique lacquers the potato “meat”—which melts instantly on the tongue as if it was actually puréed and poured back into the shell before serving—and pools into the lemony, blanched-kale crème-fraîche on the bottom of the box. Clearly this humble sweet potato represents a lot of work and care.

“We’re taking time to make it super pretty, as if it was on a plate,” Garneau explains. “That helps us stay creative in the kitchen, even though it’s to-go (food). We want to give the customers back an experience.”

When COVID first hit this past spring, the Meat & Cheese team streamlined operations by combining lunch and dinner menus into one all-day menu. “As time went on, I started to get really bored of what we were able to serve, and I felt for our customers,” Garneau admits. “We were offering sandwiches at dinner, not many entrées.”

Now, after a busy summer of takeout as well as dine-in and patio service, Meat & Cheese is offering separate, robust menus for lunch and dinner on a takeout-only basis. (Garneau and the culinary team are serving diners indoors this winter in a promising new venture downstairs at the bar Hooch, more on that below.)

“Everything on our winter menu, we really considered how it was gonna carry out and sit for 40 minutes before it’s eaten and still be good,” Garneau says. “We had that intention. Everything travels really well. I live between Carbondale and Redstone, and I brought the (mushroom) risotto home. It was still pretty warm and tasted phenomenal.”

Garneau’s current favorite is the tempura Japanese eggplant. “That will stay crispy,” he assured me. And it did, though I arrived home in under 10 minutes. The portion was smaller than I expected, but the flavors were bold: A schmear of harissa cashew butter with preserved lemon on the bottom, topped with the vegan, gluten-free fried eggplant disks and a Mediterranean sauté of Swiss chard, garbanzo beans, charred cherry tomatoes, toasted crushed almonds, and preserved lemon bits for bursts of bold flavor.

Meanwhile, the bestselling winter squash gnocchi are made from “super-sweet, dense, and the coolest-color orange” bounty harvested at Wild Mountain Seeds on Sunfire Ranch in Carbondale. Sauteed in browned butter, the pasta pillows are enrobed with more apple cider vinegar gastrique, shards of melty Manchego cheese, and garlicky “chile crunch,” which leaves a warm, lingering heat on the lips. (That last touch has been a favorite garnish on other dishes at Meat & Cheese for a while.)

In truth, my vegetable adventure began a week ago at Hooch. I joined two friends for a celebratory outing; Hooch’s new prix-fixe tasting dinner was just the ticket. Here Garneau’s three-course menu ($85) combines French technique (rabbit roulade and rillettes; mushroom risotto; halibut poached in yuzu ponzu broth; tomahawk steak for two) with seasonal produce via Farm Runners. After tearing slices of crusty sourdough from a massive loaf, we tucked into Garneau’s winter salad.

It was a pile of green, red, pink and white: frisée, arugula and shredded radicchio mixed with matchsticks of Hakurei baby turnip, pear and watermelon radish, shaved Parmesan cheese, crunchy candied walnuts, and pomegranate seeds, all enrobed in a mouthcoating, tongue-smacking sherry-mustard vinaigrette. Our table spent the entire salad course making exclamations between bites. “It’s almost ‘meaty,’” was one memorable comment. (The salad is on Meat & Cheese’s takeout menu as well.)

The dressing was inspired by a sherry-mustard-butter sauce from a summer scallop special. “It tasted really good over the garnish salad we had on the scallops, so I turned it into a vinaigrette,” Garneau says. Here he uses a dash of melted butter “to take the bite out of the mustard and the edge off of the frisée.”

Made with Colorado honey and butter, the candied walnuts are a throwback to a popular spinach salad at the acclaimed Scotty’s Table in Missoula, Montana.

“I learned to cook in Montana in a fine-dining atmosphere—and even in Denver at Root Down, the dinners were a little more plated,” Garneau explains, ticking off his kitchen experience. “One reason I chose to work at Meat & Cheese is their business model—they source ethically, they care about local food and farmers. That’s what I’m about as a chef. I love lunches (and) the fast-paced atmosphere. But there’s a little part of me that misses more plated, fine-dining for dinner.”

Not anymore. When owner Wendy Mitchell eliminated dine-in service at Meat & Cheese for the season, a door opened at Hooch downstairs. Originally a craft cocktail bar—and where expertly mixed quaffs and wine pairing are a big part of the prix-fixe experience now—Hooch as a pop-up restaurant of sorts was a blank slate.

“As a chef that was exciting, to use a new space,” Garneau says. French food fit with the sultry vibe of the subterranean spot. “And that’s what I learned to cook first.”

Even though Garneau is overseeing a third operation — Meat & Cheese’s commissary kitchen in the AABC, where cooks prepare family-style meal kits for contactless pickup — Hooch is his creative outlet. It’s a place for Garneau to flex his skills in classical French technique and plate food that is, quite literally, out of the box.


Aspen History: An 1890s Thanksgiving

“Thanksgiving Day a regular holiday in Aspen,” noted the Aspen Tribune on Nov. 27, 1897. “Almost everyone in Aspen observed Thanksgiving Day. A number of outside people, friends of Aspen residents, spent the day in the city, partaking of Thanksgiving dinner with those whom they were visiting. The weather, while not all that could be desired, was not so unpleasant as to keep people indoor all day and a number of strangers were noticed looking over the city. Most of the business places closed at 12 o’clock, allowing the employees an opportunity to enjoy the remainder of the day in a manner suitable to themselves. The national Thanksgiving bird was very much in evidence on the ‘groaning tables’ of Aspenites, the discussion of which was of course, the feature of the day. In the evening a grand ball was given at the Armory by J.D. Hooper Hook and Ladder company, it being their thirteenth annual event. The affair was conducted in the usual happy manner, characteristic of the fire laddies, the several committees leaving nothing undone that would contribute to the comfort and enjoyment of their guests. The happy young people who attended were unanimous in voting the fireman’s ball a fitting finale for Thanksgiving, 1897.” This image shows Aspen and Aspen Mountain, circa 1895.

Thanksgiving Wines, sans chardonnay and pinot noir

Truth be told, my favorite thing about Thanksgiving is … pie.

There. I said it. In print. Sure, who doesn’t love drinking great wines opened for a special occasion? But give me a sliver of pumpkin and/or pecan pie, topped with a spoonful of hand-whipped cream, and I am a satisfied man. Especially if said pie is accompanied by a thimbleful of port.

That confessed, law dictates every American wine scribbler is legally obligated to pen a “Wines with Thanksgiving Dinner” column. Each November, this space adheres to the mandate and recommends assorted American pinot noirs and chardonnays for the holiday repast. Because Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday.

But this year, to shake it up a bit, I thought it would be fun to get takes from professionals who sell wine in the Roaring Fork Valley. I asked a few to suggest bottles that were something other than pinot noir or chardonnay and left the country of origin up to them.

It is only right to start with the wine shop inside Carl’s Pharmacy, which is marking the 54th year of its annual Thanksgiving wine sale with over 130 deeply discounted vintages. Think of how many wonderful Aspen Thanksgiving dinners, and opening days of ski seasons, have been celebrated with sale wines bought in Carl’s over that last half-century? Salud.

Maurice Eaton at Carl’s offered up a red wine on the sale list that is available through Thanksgiving, the Annick Bachelet Les Charmes Morgon 2018. “This Cru Beaujolais features ripe fruits with herbal undertones, a touch of white pepper and just a hint of gameyness.” Maurice advised. “Serve it slightly chilled to fully experience the complexity of the underappreciated, and undervalued, gamay grape.” On sale for $15.79.

Local Spirits’ Tom Ressel also went to France for his selection, a gem of a white wine made from sauvignon blanc and discounted for the holiday. “This organic, soft wine has ripe apple and citrus flavors,” he enthused about a Domaine Fouassier 2018 Sancerre. “A creamy, rich, mouth-feel contrasts well with the crisp finish!” It was $36.99. Now $29.99.

Not all great wines come from France. The Grog Shop’s Roger Carlsen proposed a tempranillo with a little more heft from a classic Spanish house, the Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserve. “Old world, earthy, savory, leather, with oaky flavors that complement roasted veggies and stuffing,” Roger counseled. “This wine’s medium body and softer tannins will pair well with the bird and also drinks well with ham. A little Jamón Ibérico for apps?” $24.99

Jason at …of Grape and Grain went whimsical, recommending a natural wine, the Martha Stouman, Post Flirtation Red Blend 2019. “It’s 50% carignan and 50% zin,” he said of the eclectic red wine that sells for $29. “It’s natural, bright and fresh!” Manna from heaven, or at least California.

Aspen is not the only mountain opening on Thanksgiving Day. So too is Snowmass, and you can serve your post-ski vino cravings well at Sundance Liquor and Gifts in the Snowmass Center. There, Andrew Wickes will suggest an Italian wine for the American holiday. “Slightly lighter than the well-known Barbera D’Alba offerings, the La Spinetta Ca’Di Pian Barbera D’Asti 2017 boasts an astonishing elegance with beautiful fruit and structure to boot,” Andrew explains. “This is a red wine that will have the entire dinner table asking for more. Guaranteed winner winner turkey dinner.” $29.95

Downvalley in El Jebel, the flavor of the day is Beaujolais: the wines made in the southern part of Burgundy not from pinot noir, but from the fruity, food friendly gamay grape. Both Chris Cook at Eljebeverage and Curtis Fiore of Four Dogs Wines and Spirits appreciate the wines of the region.

“The Jean-Marc Les Vignes De Lantignie Beaujolais Villages 2019 at $15.99 is medium to full-bodied, bright, smooth and easy drinking, with lively acids, velvety tannins and a long, mouthwatering finish,” Chris raved. “The best affordable Beaujolais I’ve tasted in a long time.”

Curtis went with a Beaujolais as well, this one from the Kermit Lynch Selections. “Gamay” is the dominant grape varietal in the Kermit Lynch DOMAINE DUPEUBLE Beaujolais 2019. The elegance, freshness and bright fruit of this beautiful wine will immediately blow you away. Drink before, during or after your meal. You will not be disappointed! $17.97

Interestingly, no one had mentioned bubbles. Until now. Gonzo Mirich at Jimbo’s initially suggested a riesling from Dr. Loosen in the Mosel region of Germany, a fine choice. But when I stopped in Jimbo’s last week, he pulled me aside and showed me a bottle I had never seen. “The Loosen is great,” he said. “But this Sparklet Effervescent Rosé NV made in Palisade, Colorado, by Sauvage Spectrum wines is delicious. Let’s go with that.” $18.55

The bottle of pink liquid under a crown cap, with stars embedded in the glass, was beautiful. But so was the sentiment suggested by Gonzo to shed some light on a locally produced wine. It just fit the spirit of the holiday.

Give thanks everyone. And enjoy the pie.