Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate | AspenTimes.com

Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

You know you’re not in Aspen anymore when …

You go to the best Mediterranean Italian joint in town (yes, I’m talking about you, Tempernillo), and the place is empty by 10 o’clock. I love this place. I love the old yellow Victorian and the generous patio space and cozy atmosphere. I love that we spent more than two hours enjoying grilled watermelon caprese with time before our pasta to drink more and chat with all the people we ran into whom we know (yay!). I love that the prices are reasonable enough that an indulgent meal like that might still tap three figures but not by much.

It’s not like staying out late is important to me or I need to hit 47 bars in one night like I used to. I get that we’re married now and what we want most nights is to flip back and forth between Food Network and Travel Channel and eat dinner on our laps.

But still. The party is over at 10 o’clock? Really?

You know you’re not in Aspen when …

You go to the bar and everyone is wearing cowboy hats. Don’t get me wrong – I love cowboy hats as much as the next Colorado chick, and I have a couple of them, including one from Kemo Sabe that has my initials branded into it. But unless you’re in the rodeo, cowboy hats are to be worn with cute dresses at outdoor concerts as an accessory, not an outfit. Every princess knows you do not overdo it on the Western wear – one accessory at a time is the rule of thumb.

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So a few weekends ago we went to the Brick Pony because it actually has people in it past the hour when they roll up the sidewalks and turn out the lights. I love the Brick Pony – the food is amazing, and they obviously get it that simplicity and quality can go a long way. I’ll go there three nights a week and get the grilled chicken sandwich with tomatillo relish on the brioche bun because they get how to do simple, quality food without overdoing it. Plus, they serve their beers in 20-ounce goblets that are bigger than my head. As much as I wish I could be that cool wine drinker who swirls the glass and sniffs it, most of the time the only note I pick up on in a glass of red is how much I wish it was as simple as a beer.

But when we walked in that night, everyone had on cowboy hats and cowboy boots, and they were swing dancing, and the country music was so loud that we had to yell just to hear ourselves think. For just a second, I thought I was in Pinedale, Wyo., at that restaurant that has a drive-through liquor store in the back.

You know you’re not in Aspen when …

Going to the grocery store isn’t a social event. I’m sure that will change when Whole Foods finally opens its pearly, organic, locally produced gates. Until that glorious day arrives, the only entertainment I get at City Market in El Jebel is seeing the same person I don’t know aisle after aisle because we’re all walking around in circles looking for something we can’t find. At some point, there might be a glimpse of acknowledgment, a smirk or a “what’s up” head nod. But it’s not the same as spending an hour talking to your 15 best friends between the produce section and the pasta aisle. Ryan says it takes time, but I feel like a little kid looking for my mom. I’m a little lost.

You know you’re not in Aspen when …

It takes less than a half hour to do the flit-around-downtown-with-your-dog thing. I could waste hours on end walking the streets of Aspen and popping into stores to drool over things I couldn’t afford while the sales girl would treat me like her best friend just because she was grateful for a distraction. A quick coffee at Peaches could easily turn into an all-day affair when I ran into so-and-so who talked me into spending a few hours at the Sky. Three drinks later, I’d go back to shopping again, and usually end up buying something fabulous I couldn’t afford but felt was worth it nonetheless.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. Michelle from Corky Woods is a spunky, smart gal and she’ll talk to you all the livelong day about interior design and Heirlooms is hands-down the best consignment store in the valley (if not the world), and that’s coming from a devoted fan of Suzy’s. Riverside Grill is probably the best patio like, ever, and my top choice for an apres bike ride cocktail or boozy lunch. It’s a fact that the girls at Saxy’s make coffee that blows Peaches away and have been pretty tolerant of me spending entire afternoons using their wireless Internet while we were waiting the six weeks it took to get our satellite cluster dialed in.

As much as I love that some of the best fashion around is at Basalt Bike and Sport (have you seen those adorable biking skorts?), I just can’t seem to waste time and money like I could in Aspen. I mean, you don’t even have to pay for parking, hello! They know it’s not going to take that long, so they just give it to you for free.

You know you’re not in Aspen when …

You change your clothes three times before noon, and it’s not because you’re trying to find the perfect outfit. It’s because you’re filthy dirty on account of working in the garden, then going for a run or a bike ride, then taking a yoga class, then jumping in the river. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You know you’re not in Aspen when you’re not in Aspen, because there really is no other place like it.