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Hardly roughing it at the Beaver Creek Master Chef Classic


Gayle Hendrix

This year I was lucky enough to attend The Master Chef Classic at Beaver Creek, Colorado for the fifth time. So, I can definitely say from experience that it only gets better every year. This was the second year that the Grand Tasting was held at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch and it is certainly a step up from the previous years. This year the Classic was revamped. The fat was trimmed, in more ways than one. There were only 9 celebrity chefs this year and a plethora of Beaver Creek’s finest. This year I was able to move comfortably with several plates, one wine glass, a camera and many napkins in my hands. It was the perfect amount of chefs and vineyards this year. I was able to go back and enjoy seconds and thirds of my favorite dishes without ballooning to the size of a sea lion. Lighter fare overall this year.

I began with Bison. I didn’t know I was such a fan until I sampled a lovely rare, tender strip over a goat cheese tartlette from Mirabelle. With a sign proclaiming that 2010 was going to be the year of the bison, I couldn’t be more excited. I hope to see more of it in the future now that I know I crave it. I helped myself to more than one serving seeing as it was so lean of course.   Anthos’ Michael Psilakis was serving up Hiramasa sashimi with garlic, olive and tomato. It was simple yet genius, exploding with vibrant flavors. Feeling that it was on the ‘healthier’ side, I passed by several times helping myself. Continuing with the lighter fare, I see that again Spago is offering its sesame miso cones, but this time they are filled with lump crab and scallions. Once again they are delicious. Joey Campanaro was back this year. He had sliced duck breast with endive, pear, foie gras and walnut pesto. The richness of the duck and foie gras was perfectly paired with the freshness of the pear and the bitterness of the endive.

I must have stood there looking lost for a minute, not knowing where to go next, when I looked to my left to see Laurent Tourondel offering me a freshly sliced strip of bacon dusted hanger steak directly off the tip of his knife. I accepted. In fact he kept it coming. I was moving on into my more gluttonous, red meat stage at this point. With that I went over to Splendido’s table. I was saving room just for this: Red wine braised oxtail with truffle-marrow custard and potato mouseline. Gasp. Oh my. It was every bit as fabulous as it sounds. I am a meat and potatoes girl at heart and with 3 or so servings of this you can stick a fork in me, because I am done.

I must make an exit. I have to at least try not to act like a total piggy. Ming Tsai is blocking my exit taking pictures with overjoyed foodies. Cat Cora is being congratulated on the great job she did hosting last night’s Iron Chef Battle. Alain Allegretti is being crowded by single women admiring his good looks, his cooking skills a side note. It has been another fantastic year at the Master Chef Classic and it has come to an end. I am fully satisfied and beyond satiated this year. I was impressed to say the least.


Social Aspen – Aspen, Colorado


By Gayle Hendrix

Have you ever had one of those days, or weeks in my case, where you feel as though you are surrounded by incompetence, poor service and bad product? I had one of those weeks recently and I am pleased to announce that it came to a screeching halt at Social. I was finally engulfed by warm, friendly service and enthusiasm for the very exciting food that I was encountering. Located on Aspen’s “Restaurant Row”, it has been open for just over a year but has recently undergone a complete overhaul from the back of the house on up to the front. They consider themselves to be a tapas restaurant, but not in the traditional sense. They are not influenced by Spanish food so much as the concept of small dishes being shared by many people. They consider themselves to be globally inspired, but mostly by the flavors and techniques of Asia.
Once you step inside the inconspicuous entrance, you feel as though you have stepped through the looking glass. It is playful and very stylish. It is trendy but not overdone and uncomfortable. Mellow lounge music is set at the perfect volume and you cannot help but feel relaxed and excited at the same time. The cocktail menu is as intriguing as the menu itself. The menu is full of little nuances and plays on words. It even has its own glossary, done ever so humorously. Upon looking over the menu, it seems that there is no end to what I want to try. There are serious sashimi style dishes and there are lighthearted, homemade tater tots! This menu is so diverse and creative; you can tell it was created by someone with great passion and great taste to match. Fortunately for me, the chef will be sending out some dishes and I can enjoy without thinking! But first I have to start with a margarita made from jalapeno infused tequila and mixed with blood oranges….. I think I am in love.
The first dish to arrive is kampachi with garlic crisps, sliced jalapeno and shiso. You must get the whole thing in your mouth to understand this simply, complex dish. It is so delicate yet full of flavor. I want more, but I know there are more good things to come. Next is the hamachi. It is so fresh and tasty with just the right amount of cilantro micro greens and jalapeno paste. The goodness continues with blue fin sashimi and sweet mustard. As good as the tuna is the actual star is the small salad it is served with. The frisee is tossed in truffle vinaigrette with toasted sesame seeds. Don’t skip it! Here comes the ahi pizza. This is one of their best sellers and I know why. A thin slice of ahi is spread over flatbread and sprinkled with jalapeno, cilantro, sesame seeds, cherry tomatoes and a garlic mayonette. It is lightly dressed with eel sauce to finish. By this time I have moved onto a pear and lemongrass infused martini. I have to say that this is probably the best martini I have ever had. It is so delicate and subtle. It goes down very easily! And so we move onto American-style bites of comfort. The Tater tot. This is no ordinary tater tot. No. This is mashed potato rolled into a log, cut into pieces and covered in crumbled up Lays potato chips. It gets better. You then dip it in a Point Reyes blue cheese fondue. This will be something I crave for a long time to come. The tastiest brussel sprouts ever are next. Roasted in sake and toasted garlic, it is finished with shaved parmesan and truffle oil. For dessert we were served chocolate fondue with fresh berries and homemade crackerjacks, which were so good they didn’t even need the chocolate! This is why I love to eat this way. I have just enjoyed so many flavors and textures and I am not grotesquely full. I have had just enough of each dish and I leave completely content and satisfied. I must go back and try everything that I missed.

Social Aspen
304 E Hopkins Ave
Aspen, CO 81611