Aspen, Colorado is the richest locale in the United States. In 2009, the average home sold for over $4 million. A large contingent of Aspen's residents—or, more accurately, transient homeowners who fly in to their vacation abodes on private jets that line the airport—come from the Bay Area and Chicago. They are, or should be, used to eating great food. With Alinea, Avec, Charlie Trotter's, Gary Danko, The Slanted Door, Blue Plate, and many others, those two cities are renowned for their fantastic restaurants, and are arguably the best foodie cities in the United States. (Sorry, New York.) Why are these people with sophisticated palates and no monetary barriers willing to put up with mediocrity? Why doesn't Aspen have a truly great restaurant?
To be sure that I wasn't overly prejudiced, I recently went to some of the highly recommended places in Aspen, always accompanied by another diner with food credentials superior to mine. (To protect the innocent, I will not name my accomplices.)
First stop: a basement establishment called Syzygy. We did have a fantastic half bottle of wine, a wonderful 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape. But the food was completely forgettable. I had to ask for a menu to be faxed to recall what I ate. The "Beginnings" were a trio of salads—romaine, red oak leaf, and lollo rossa—with different dressings. All fresh but unremarkable. The marinated artichokes were also unremarkable, although the accompanying roasted red pepper was superb. For main courses we had lamb and elk tenderloin. I love game and wish I could be more positive, but...