Chef Jonathon Sawyer of Cleveland’s Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat restaurants has been spending time in Aspen cooking at the new St. Regis Chefs Club (above). The Chefs Club invites between four to eight Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chefs to curate a special menu of seasonally inspired dishes for the restaurant each year. Chef Sawyer helped create the winter 2012/2013 menu. Here, he explains why he thinks the Chefs Club is serving the most legit food in Aspen, as well as where to go for the best sandwiches, popcorns, and gifts to take home to the kids.
The Butcher’s Block
“These guys are the shit. They make great sandwiches, like a turkey off the rack that’s whole roasted and topped with a tangy whipped sauce. Turkey can be so mechanical and awful so I really appreciate a good turkey sandwich. They also sometimes have a sandwich of smoked local bass that is pretty tasty. This shop is great for sourcing proteins too. I ran out of butcher twine my second day working in Aspen and I ran over here and without blinking an eye these guys gave me six yards of twine. It’s pretty cool to have camaraderie like that even though I definitely don’t speak or dress like an Aspenite.” 424 South Spring St. Aspen, (970) 925-7554
“I traveled 150 days last year and I’m always looking for toys to take home to my kids—something I know they can’t get at home. If I’m in Tokyo I’m not going to buy them Legos, I want to find something different. This store had a lot of really cool, well thought out, quirky gifts for kids. I found a boa necklace for my daughter and for my son I found a funny, interactive book about what farts sound like in nature—elephant farts, monkey farts, fish farts.” 400 E. Hopkins Ave., (970) 925-6217
The Popcorn Wagon
“Back in Aspen’s Fear and Loathing days if you asked for raspberry-flavored popcorn here you’d allegedly get a little baggy in the bottom of your bag if you know what I mean. The place is really badass with music blasting. I like their butter popcorn. It’s real butter popcorn. I really appreciate a well-done buttered popcorn.” 305 S. Mill St., (970) 925-1103
The Chefs Club
“I think this is the most legit food in Aspen. You can get a great meal at Nobu in Aspen, but with all due respect, Nobu is on five continents. This is such a special experience to eat the food of four different chefs all in one meal. And the chefs are usually here in the kitchen. I went to experience the menu of the first group of chefs: James Lewis of Bettola in Birmingham, George Mendes of Aldea in New York City, Alex Seidel of Fruition in Denver, and Susan Zemanick of Gautreau’s in New Orleans. When you walk into the doors of the St. Regis it can be a bit intimidating. The first thing I saw was this 50-foot fireplace and I thought ‘oh shit I’m not wearing the right shoes.’ But you get into the Chefs Club and it’s a very relaxed, comfortable environment and the guests can have some really fun interactions with the chefs. I’m cooking this season with Matt Lightner of Atera in New York City, Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus in Saint Louis, Missouri, and Jenn Louis of Lincoln Restaurant and Sunshine Tavern in Portland, Oregon. It’s interesting to see our styles all come together. Lightner’s food is super naturalist and then Jenn and I cook heavy handed, traditional Italian—hopelessly romantic Italian food. We each create a side, an entrée, a starter and the menu all works together. We had one couple come back three nights in a row they enjoyed it so much.” 315 East Dean St., (970) 920-3300, chefsclubaspen.com