Have I told you lately how much I love my job? It’s traveling, without dealing with airline hell. Don’t get me wrong, it is my dream to take this gig outside of this cozy home bread life and explore the world but I’m working on that and for now, this is workin’ for me.
A few weeks ago I had a really yummy day with Marni Haber, Founder of Foodie Food Tours. Marni is another one of those clever Aspen entrepreneurs who decided to start food tours around town. A former waitress and adventure tours sales agent for Blazing Adventures led her down this path, “I love food and personally enjoy food experiences/tours when I go on vacation. I thought I would combine my experience in the tour industry with my love of Aspen and food to create an Aspen food tour. Also, just before I started the business there were many small restaurants that were going out of business in Aspen. I felt that if I could take visitors to some great restaurants and shops off the beaten path, the shop owners could benefit from the customers and the customers could benefit from learning about these great places they wouldn’t otherwise find on their own,” Marni explained. What a concept, going on food tours while on vacation!
Back in the day I lived the Aspen life with five roommates in a freezing A Frame building built in the 1800’s. I rode my bike to work, met my friends for a lunch bike ride or a run up the steep Ute Trail and after work a visit our favorite watering holes for happy hour to drink back the calories that we had sweated out on the trails. Not to date myself or anything but that was over fifteen years ago and I welcomed the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the local hot spots and find Aspen’s hidden jewels.
Burrowed deep at my desk I glanced down at my phone and noticed, with great horror, a text message from Marni. I had gotten the meeting time mixed up and I was missing Michele Kiley’s cheese plate at Specialty Foods of Aspen. I was also missing hot scones fresh out of the oven from Boden’s Butter, an organic bakery located in the same building. Kelly Hart is the owner and the bakery is named after her son who is allergic to dairy and egg. The menu includes gluten, dairy, vegan and egg free baked goods amongst the other delicious items.
Stressed out that I was such a big, fat dummy for missing the melted brie and gourmet cheese plate, I raced up the Killer 82 Highway and for the grace of G-d made it to Aspen in one piece, just in time for the next stop on the tour, Sabra’s Deli. I parked the car, ran up to the first group of people I found and began to snap photos, “Hi, it’s me, Jillian, from Aspen Real Life,” I said introducing myself as I snapped away.
I have always loved to chat with “foodies,” people greatly connected to nature and culture through the art of food, where conversation never strays far from the details of a gourmet meal. At a table for ten, we sat in the small café style deli, located by the Clark’s Market courtyard, and talked of food from Singapore, Bali, Vietnam and the Middle East. We were lucky to have Shawn Kaplan along on the tour for Shawn, who came to Aspen from Napa, had played an integral part in putting together the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean menu at Sabra’s Deli and as he spoke about all of the ingredients my mouth began to water.
The Owner of the deli, Daniel Ferguson, is an Israeli and an Architect who decided to step into the food industry and get back to his roots through food. Daniel told us where the name, “Sabra” derived from, “A Native to Israel is called a Sabra and we’re called that because we are just like the prickly pear plant, rough on the outside and smooth on the inside.” Just like me, I thought.
When Daniel set the platter down on the table, the “Foodies”, already satiated from their delectable cheese platters, were not as eager to dive in as I, “easy, Jillian, easy,” I coaxed myself. I dipped the freshly baked Lavash and pita bread into the Baba Ganoush and hummus and remembered a time long ago when I traveled to Israel and Greece with my sister Michele and we ate Falafels and Jiros late night after a night of mingling with beautifully exotic men.
Our next stop on Marni’s tour was The Aspen Brewing Company, located just down the street from the deli. I figured that these young men, Duncan Clauss, Rory Douthit and Brad Veltman were no doubt the idols of the twenty something crowd in Aspen, offering up, “Fresh, local, small batch microbrews at 7822 ft.” How cool is that? Following the inspiration of George Stranahan and Flying Dog brew-pub, three boys who love beer decide to brew their own in Aspen and make money off it!
At the risk of losing my audience, I have something to admit…I’m not much of a beer drinker. It’s just that beer and I never mixed very well, unless I was playing quarters. But who am I to refuse an iced cold beer on tap smack dab in the middle of the day? “Gimme This Season’s Blonde,” I said, trying to sound like a pro.
As Rory, head brewer, took us on the tour my admiration grew for these men who started their career of craft beer by home brewing while attending the University of Colorado. I left there thinking how impressed Wade would be that his wife had found the coolest hot spot for him, just a skip away from his job but then I worried that it might become his new spot. Growler for lunch anyone?
Follow the Aspen Brewery on Facebook to get information on their tastings and fun events, like the Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl. What I wish I had been privy to was their Farm to Table Dinner in Hotchkiss. Oh well, not to mess up another phrase but, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” comes to mind.
Next on the tour was the infamous Hotel Jerome where Wade and I stayed on our wedding night. It was my fantasy to sit at the hundred year old bar in my beautiful wedding dress and kick back a shot of tequila. Even after Wade carried me over the threshold and we romantically drank the complimentary champagne and ate the chocolate covered strawberries I was still on my mission to get down to the bar. What really stopped us from getting there were the thousands of buttons on my dress that Wade was ready to challenge now, not later.
We walked around the hotel and Marni was full of interesting facts that I surprisingly did not already know about the history of Aspen and Jerome B. Wheeler. Then Marni took us into the the “J bar” and ordered an Aspen Crud for all. Marni informed us that during prohibition those in dire need of a drink would filter into the bar and disguise their order by saying, “Make it a Cruddy.” Finally, I had my “spiked” shake with bourbon, and it was heavenly.
Sitting at the bar listening to all of the stories of the other “foodies” I reflected on the wonderful afternoon I had and made a note to contact the tourism board wherever I vacationed to find more tours like this one, and then it was time to go and pick up the boys from the school bus. Opening the door to the bright sunshine I tripped over the ledge and literally stumbled into Stewart Oksenhorn. “Haven’t done that in a long time,” I said to Stewart and walked off smiling at my new little secret that I was excited to share with all of you!