DishAspen

We're just back from a much-needed vacation in Aspen, Colorado. My uber-experienced skier husband Steve spent the week in Telemark gear, skinning up 12,000 foot peaks and skiing backcountry bowls with his friend and our host, Jim. Meanwhile, I took four straight days of beginner downhill ski lessons, miraculously living tell the tale. Though I got my first pair of cross-country skis for my thirteenth birthday, I'd only been downhill skiing once before, in college. I was trying to impress a boyfriend (well, actually, an already-ex-boyfriend—long story) who had dragged me to the Sierras over Christmas break and thrown me to the downhill wolves. It was more like semi-controlled falling than skiing: Arghhh! – CRASH – Arghhh! – CRASH… repeat until lifts close.

Last week was different. They know how to teach skiing out there in Aspen, Colorado. The Aspen Ski and Snowboard School's "straight to parallel" technique, in the hands of expert instructor and all-around awesome human Heather Kent, had me skiing down the Green trails of Buttermilk in two days flat, carving perfect (well, I thought so) parallel turns like a pro.

So I was on my way to becoming a downhill goddess, and working up an appetite. Fortunately, Aspen obliges. With over eighty-five restaurants to choose from, you're pretty sure to find something wonderful. We did. Last Thursday, we took our friends to dinner at DishAspen  (caution: their website has sound), a newish joint from foodies Matthew Zubrod and Mitchell Sher. The hosts are Slow Food aficionados, buying locally and supporting small, artisanal producers whenever possible. The atmosphere is upscale tavern, homey and unpretentious. The food is earthy and well-balanced, and the wine list offers enough variety to complement the range of offerings.

I started with the spinach and warm bacon salad, then had wild salmon with sweet potatoes in maple syrup butter, garnished with scallions. Steve had macadamia-crusted Ahi tuna, and our friends had the pasta special and more salmon.

It was all pretty wonderful. The tuna was meltingly tender, fresh and bright and lovingly complemented by crunchy fennel and greens. The salmon was flawless, sweet and savory, the sweet potatoes adding a base note in both flavor and texture, while fresh scallions hit the high notes, rounding it all out. My only quibble was with the spinach salad, which, while brilliantly marrying the bright and dark elements of greens and bacon, was garnished with fried scallions that had gone cold and sodden since the mise.

For dessert, we shared a single serving—in my book actually three separate helpings—of their gelato: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry. All were noble representatives of their class, but the chocolate carried something extra in its pocket, a deep fudgy secret.

If you're lucky enough to find yourself in Aspen, try Dish. It's terrific.

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