I’ve been away from Aspen for a while; somewhere between the death of Planet Hollywood and the demise of the Crystal Palace. Toppers, according to the daily rag, is next, after a 10-year run, to go the way of the dinosaur. So I tried to hook up with a few old friends to discuss the changing culinary landscape, and, of course, to grab a good meal.
As I groped for familiar fare, some rather historic -- recall Milan’s and the Mother Lode -- or the more nascent Blue Maize and Zele, I was informed that the latter have morphed into La Palapa and Peaches, respectively. And the former, well, who the hell knows. If that’s the case, I countered, then Ute City must certainly have vanished as well. Yes, came the retort, but you’ve been away so long that now it’s back. Like that fringed suede jacket your wife wouldn’t let you throw out after Bobby Kennedy was gunned down.
Some eateries emulate your bent and wrinkled parents in Boca by remaining stubbornly extant. It’s just that they’ve relocated. Su Casa, Taka Sushi, the Cheese Shop and Syzygy come to mind. Unfortunately, this will prove, in the end, nothing more than a shuffling of deck chairs on some victual Titanic; with rents so high even the popcorn wagon (as of this writing the only street cart allowed to ply its wares within city limits) has resorted to serving a $12 Panini with wilted arugula. Our perverse economic climate -- rising rents confounding debased consumers -- has seen Eastern Winds blow away and Texas Reds BBQ go up in smoke. Kenichi’s Noodles has yielded to Il Mulino’s hand-hewn pasta (reportedly sculpted by disciples of Georges Braque) as Aspen-affordable retailers like Chepita and Eddie Bauer became dust under the patent leather boot heels of Fendi, Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Ermenegildo Zenga. And because the only thing the town council hates more than the idea of actually using BOTH lanes of Highway 82 is the notion of real estate offices pimping million-dollar timeshares (and, hence, generating five and six-figure commissions) in the commercial corridor, shop owners have no choice but to hustle $17,000 handbags and $400 pocket squares.
But even this strategy of recasting Rodeo Drive hasn’t inured every purveyor; Tod’s, Bvlgari, HWR Jewelers and Chanel Boutique have all fallen away and I would hazard that Hurricane Bernie will take down a few more upper-crust franchises before the coda is written.
But it is not, opined my Idea Fest groupie friend, a mere matter of shoveling dirt over Dish and D19 or giving your Flying Dog Ale a homie-pour down the gutter of Shooter’s and the Tippler; there are political ramifications, too. Perhaps, he suggested, finding Sabra’s (think hummus and tabouleh) in the Bagel Bite’s stead might, in some small way, attenuate the 1,600 settlements being constructed in East Jerusalem. I wouldn’t go as far as that, but I will say without the prospect of the kosher chicken from Grill on the Park, I might just have to fritter away my afternoon skiing.