Paul E. Anna: High Points |

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

It is, of course, award season.

And while I thought Mick Jagger and Arcade Fire both rocked at the Grammy’s, and I am looking forward to catching James Franco (aka Hollywood Aaron) hosting the Academy Awards, my fave awards are those given annually by the James Beard Foundation honoring the best in the world of food and drink.

On Thursday, the semifinalists were announced, and if you are a foodie or just someone who, like me, eats and drinks a lot, the list of nominees is a terrific road map to the best chefs and restaurants in the country. Download the list, refer to it when you travel and you can be sure that you will be not have a bad meal all year.

One of the things that is exciting about the list of semifinalists is the number of great food people from the state of Colorado who are represented and, even more especially, the Roaring Fork Valley names on the list.

Locally, the buzz is all about Chef Ryan Hardy from Montagna at The Little Nell and Chef Mark Fischer of Restaurant Six89 in Carbondale, both of whom were nominated in the “Best Chef Southwest” category. Both chefs have become legendary in the Roaring Fork Valley for turning out great food and being early adapters of the farm-to-table movement.

Fischer, who was well profiled by Stewart Oksenhorn a couple of weeks back in the Aspen Times Weekly (I surely hope the chicken Fischer clutched in the cover photo is not a future guest of honor on “Fried Chicken Wednesdays”), may well be a candidate for the Outstanding Restaurateur one day as he has recently added The Pullman in Glenwood Springs as the third arrow in his restaurant quiver to complement Phat Thai and Restaurant Six89.

Kudos also go to one of our more recent additions, Richard Sandoval, who opened Venga Venga in Snowmass Village. If you haven’t been, Venga Venga is in the old Cirque restaurant space and is serving up great Mexican dishes. Today, by the way, is the final day of Snowmass Restaurant Week, so if you have a chance, bop on over for a margarita and a taco at a bargain price.

Sandoval, who has restaurants around the world, was nominated in the category of Outstanding Restaurateur for his collection of 12 U.S. restaurants, which include both Tamayo and Zengo in Denver.

In the same category, Chef Frank Bonanno and Bonanno Concepts of Denver received recognition. Bonanno has been a frequent visitor to the Aspen area and his restaurant empire now includes seven different establishments in Denver. It is fair to say that he is the Denver restaurateur of the moment and people are raving about Lou’s Food Bar, his latest hotspot.

And we would be remiss if we didn’t congratulate Chef Kelly Liken from her eponymous restaurant in Vail, Jennifer Jasinski who owns Denver’s Rioja, and Alex Seidel of Fruition Restaurant in Denver on their nominations. All spend time here on occasion and all are putting out great cuisine with purpose at their fine establishments.

Finally, a shout-out to Bobby Stuckey, a former Aspenite who it seems is annually lauded for his great wine program in Boulder at Frasca.

Things are looking up for Colorado dining and the Beards are taking notice.

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