Stop and smell the smoke.Aspen used to be a raw-fish kind of town. But lately there has been a new smell in the air. The unmistakable aroma of oak, applewood and mesquite wafting from downtown kitchens, backyard grills and, yes, even downvalley smokers.Move over yellowtail. Much to the chagrin of the Aspen Center for Integral Health and the weekly naysayers at the Given Institute, the hot new food trend in Aspen is good old American barbecue. That’s right, pork bellies are in and new-style sashimi is, well, not exactly out, but decidedly old school.For years we have had the Hickory House at the top of Main Street and they do great baby-backs. The ribs and eggs breakfast at the bar with crispy hash-brown potatoes and a Bloody Mary is one of the staples in this town.There is a good reason why Oprah Winfrey declared the Hick House’s ribs “America’s Best” back in the day when she was into the finger lickin’ good lifestyle. That declaration, and the subsequent appearance of said Hick House Ribs on her show in Chicago, forever cemented Oprah in the “she’s good people” category for this rib man.But the best new Q in town can be found at Texas Red’s B-B-Q located downstairs between Boogie’s and Pitkin County Dry Goods on Cooper Street. Owner David Edgar is proud of Texas, Ricky Williams and Elgin sausage, not necessarily in that order. Texas Red’s boasts a big-time smoker that is the focal point of the room and is the reason why the aroma around Cooper Street has improved so much recently. Try some ribs, a pulled-pork sandwich or the aforementioned sausages with a side of fried okra and sweet Texas tea, and you’ll feel like putting your boots up on the table and tipping your hat over your eyes, Hud-style, right there in the restaurant.Moving west, chef Mathew Richardson of Sage in the Snowmass Club has been putting on some great barbecue at the Black Saddle restaurant down in the golf course clubhouse. While they are open for lunch only, the Black Saddle will prep a full-on barbecue dinner to go that will feed your entire posse if you call in advance (923-9190). It is a great option for the Thursday concerts. Recently, Richardson took delivery of his new smoker from down Texas way, and the smell of fruitwood as they slow-cook the wings, ribs and pulled pork makes the turn on the links a joy.And this fall the midvalley will be getting its share of barbecue as well, when a local chef with Louisiana roots, Jamie Theriot, opens Smoke in the new Willits neighborhood.There is change in the air. It is time for pickin’ pig, gnawing ribs and chomping on a chipped beef sandwich. It’s time for barbecue.
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