Aspen’s restaurant scene gets a small shake-up for the summer season. Gisella is in the same spot as Gusto, has the same owners and the same Italian theme. But the room has been lovingly redone, the menu takes a new approach to Italian, and now it’s for dinner only. The former Explore Bistro has been drastically remodeled as Escape, and while it’s no longer vegetarian – there are daily fish dishes – the emphasis remains on healthful food. Well-known caterer Randy Placeras has opened a take-out service, N-Trition, to his offerings; the spot, at the ABC, gives a filling, fresh spin to the idea of a salad bar.
Richard Betts has mastered wine. The master sommelier, now based in Boulder, brought Aspen’s wine culture to a new level in his years at the Little Nell, and with his Betts & Scholl label, a partnership with part-time Aspenite Dennis Scholl. Betts – again with Scholl, as well as winemaker and former ski racer Charles Bieler – have moved into mezcal. Their artisanal mezcal Sombra is made from organically grown agave that comes from a single village in Oaxaca, Mexico. The drink, released late in 2008, doesn’t have an official presence at the Food & Wine Classic, but if you find Betts, or Bieler’s Three Thieves table in the Grand Tasting Tent, you’ve probably found a taste of Sombra. It’s also available at Jimmy’s, Matsuhisa and the Belly Up.
As a place to meet friends, it’s summer’s answer to the Gondola. But the Aspen Saturday Market, which begins Saturday, June 20, has an even great raison d’tre in these “locavoracious” times. The market features fresh Colorado produce, most of it from nearby Delta and Mesa counties; start looking for cherries and greens in this early part of the season. Along with the fruits and veggies, the market offers the opportunity to chat with the people doing the growing, creating a key link between consumers and the source of their food. For Farmers Market junkies, Paonia distributor and organic advocate Jack Reed has started a green market of his own, most Wednesdays and Thursdays outside of Victoria’s Espresso & Wine Bar.
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It’s that time of year — hikers and mountain bikers must be aware that seasonal closures are taking effect on multiple trails in the area today for the winter for the benefit of wildlife.