This is the 25th anniversary of the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen and, no doubt, of the 5,000 or so attendees, many of you have visited us in the past. There have been some changes in the past year since you’ve been gone.On a sad note, don’t expect to see Eric Calderon at The Little Nell or Tony DiLucia at the Hotel Jerome. For the first time in more than a decade, Classic attendees will have to do without two of this town’s most gracious hosts and tastemakers greeting them at the doors of their hotels. Eric has gone to Auberge Resorts in California, while Tony has left the Jerome following an ownership change.Today is the first official day for The Nell’s new general manager, John Speers, so if you see him around, congratulations will be in order. Speers comes to town from the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole, Wyo., with a food-and-beverage background. In 1998, he helped Danny Meyer’s Union Square Group open up Tabla on Madison Square Park.As for the Jerome, the hotel was sold this spring and is now being operated by Vail Associates RockResorts subsidiary. While the planned renovation, including an Adam Tihany-designed restaurant helmed by George Mahaffey (who’s gone as well), has been shelved, the good news is the J-Bar is open.For those of you who loved the cuisine at the old Mogador (which is now Dish and doing very well under the hand of chef-owner Matt Zubrod), chef C. Barclay Dodge has returned to town to run the kitchen at R/Cuisine – formerly known as Range. His new menu is Mediterranean-inspired and definitely worth a stop while you’re in town.If you are planning on attending the Best New Chefs extravaganza Saturday evening, you will be wowed by the Aspen Institute’s newest addition. The Doerr-Hosier Center will host the event as its coming-out party. The Center, designed by architect Jeffrey Berkus, is dedicated to the discussion of issues affecting the mind, body and spirit – the core components of “The Aspen Idea.” It hovers over the Roaring Fork River and features a running “Stone River” red-rock installation designed and installed by British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.But the really good news is that the mountains don’t ever seem to change. We had a good soaking rain on Tuesday, so all the wildflowers are standing up tall, and the sagebrush and scrub oak are in their greenest glory. Take a hike while you’re here: Smuggler Mountain or the Ute Trail, if you want some heavy breathing, or just a stroll down the Rio Grande Trail is always nice.With so many things to see and do at the Classic, sometimes it is hard just to get out and see, smell and, yes, taste the best that Aspen has to offer – its natural beauty.Have a great time and “santé.”
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