Mountain Mayhem: Australia Day

On Jan. 26, 1788, 11 ships traveling from Britain to Australia, known as the First Fleet, arrived in New South Wales. There they raised the Union Jack flag at Sydney Cove and marked the date as the national holiday, though it wasn’t called Australia Day for another century-plus. Jan. 26 is widely celebrated throughout Australia and by Aussie ex-pats around the world with concerts, festivals, sporting events, fireworks displays and more. In Aspen, which sees more Australian visitors than any other international guest, the month of January is the most popular time to visit, coinciding with their summer break from school.

To welcome Aussies to Aspen this month and celebrate during their stay, many a special event and festivity has been staged around town, including cocktail parties and an annual Australian Celebrity Chef Cooking Contest, an invitational event presented by the Aspen Skiing Co.

This year’s competition featured Australian Celebrity Chef Matt Moran as the judge. With restaurateur, television show host, author and more to his name, Matt is one of Australia’s most recognized chefs, with air-time judging or hosting prime-time shows such as Masterchef, Heat in the Kitchen and The Chopping Block.

A total of six chefs from acclaimed Aspen restaurants competed in the contest this year, each vying to create the most savory grilled prawn dish of all for the Shrimp on the Barbie challenge. Staged at the festively decorated Chair 9 après-ski bar at The Little Nell on Jan. 10 with a DJ spinning top Aussie tracks, guests enjoyed wine, beer and “Aussie-tinis,” a signature champagne punch in the colors of the Australian flag, as they sampled the shrimp dishes. After a blind taste test, Chef Matt Moran cast his vote for each dish, deeming Nate King of Cache Cache for his Charred Wild Ecuadorian Shrimp with Mango Lime Miso Sauce and Ginger/Scallion. King was pleased with his first place win, noting he now “needs to visit Australia,” having never been. Chris “Gerber” Mathie of Ajax Tavern came in second with his appetite-whetting Green Curry Grilled Shrimp, and Oscar Carrasco of host venue The Little Nell came in third with his dish, Shrimp and Citrus. Chef Christopher Randall of The Limelight captured the Audience Favorite Award for his dish, Chimichurri-Marinated Carolina White Shrimp.

On Jan. 26, “Australia Day proper,” a series of celebrations by Aspen Skiing Co. are set to take place across all four Aspen Snowmass ski areas. At 8 a.m., the Silver Queen Gondola opens early on Aspen Mountain. From 8 to 9 a.m., complimentary Vegemite Toast will be served at the Gondola Plaza in Aspen and at Base Camp in Snowmass. At 9 a.m., you’ll find Tim Tams, stickers, flags and more Aussie items at Guest Services on all four mountains (while supplies last). All day, look for Aussie road signs, flags and other decor around the four mountains and Aussie snag (sausage) and burger specials offered at participating on-mountain restaurants. From 3 to 4 p.m., Lamingtons (a traditional sponge cake) will be served at the Gondola Plaza in Aspen and at Base Camp in Snowmass. And closing out the celebration, from 4 to 7 p.m., is an Aussie Day apres-ski party at Chair 9, open to one and all.

Contact May with insights, invites or info:

Aspen Times Weekly

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