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13 Things We Learned at the 2017 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

Takeaway tidbits from the year’s grandest food festival.

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Fret not: If you didn’t have a spare $1,550 (or access to a media pass) to attend this year’s Food & Wine Classic, we’re here to give you the rundown. Read on for more of our tasty takeaways.

Wine at the Mine
Infinite Monkey Theorem wine plus the Regional’s PEI oysters at the Wine at the Mine party.

1.Infinite Monkey Theorems portable canned wines should ideally be consumed atop Smuggler Mine watching the sun set over Aspen—especially when paired with bottomless PEI oysters shucked by the Regional’s Kevin Grossi and team.

Photo by Dan Wilby

2. While we’re on the topic: everyone’s canning wine now. Along with IMT, we sipped our share of canned vino in the grand tasting tent, as well as the standout canned Frico Frizzante from Scarpetta Wine (owned by Frasca Food and Wine’s Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson).

Chef Gregory Gourdet’s dungeness crab with watermelon nahm jim, salmon floss, and herbs. Photo courtesy of Departure

3. Salmon floss is a thing, and it’s delicious. Muse on Departure chef (and Top Chef finalist) Gregory Gourdet’s stunning dish from the welcome reception at the St. Regis Aspen Resort: Dungeness crab with watermelon nahm jim (which translates as “dipping sauce,” but in this case was more of a chilled soup), fresh herbs, and chewy, savory salmon floss (under the herbs). Swoon.

macarons
Pastry chef Samm Sherman’s PB & J macarons.

4. “Millennial Pink,” the “it” color of the moment, has hit desserts. Local pastry chef Samm Sherman (and Denver Five honoree) dished up almost-too-pretty-to-eat pb & j macarons at the Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits party. Side note: We’re happy to report that they were freakin’ delightful.

RiNo Yacht Club
RiNo Yacht Club’s pouch cocktail.

5. Never heard of pouch cocktails? You’re about to. RiNo Yacht Club served these adult Capri Suns at the Source Hotel Launch Party. Our favorite was the Dark Magic, with Brugal Especial extra dry rum, Junmai Ginjo sake, coconut water, turmeric, lime juice, rose, and “Eastern Medicine.”

Eleven Madison Park
Eleven Madison Park’s fried chicken.

6. We didn’t think we’d ever say this, but…we’ve hit peak fried chicken. The festival was awash with fried bird, including a bite-size iteration by Eleven Madison Park (NYC), a sweet tea-brined Southern take by Blackberry Farm (Tennessee), a classic version by Long Meadow Ranch (California), and an addictive bird from current Acorn chef de cuisine and future chef at the Source Hotel’s Smök, Bill Espiricueta.

Heritage Fire
The scene at Heritage Fire. Photo by Cochon555

7. Forget the age-old gas vs. charcoal debate. Cochon555’s Heritage Fire proved once and for all that the best sort of barbecue is wood-fired. It was a Games of Thrones-esque scene at the Snowmass event, with a whole sturgeon (wrapped with its spinal cord), whole pigs, chickens, and more sizzling in the sun (including Rosenberg’s Bagels Josh Pollack’s macabre two-headed lamb shawarma spinning on its spit).

Basta
Basta chef Kelly Whitaker’s octopus, scallop, and pork belly spiedino.

8. Food on sticks is cool again. For proof, just look to Monteverde (Chicago) chef Sarah Grueneberg’s honey-drizzled, black truffle-topped Mangalitsa pork loin skewers served at a caviar-fueled pool party or at Basta chef Kelly Whitaker’s scallop, octopus, and pork belly spiedino with black garlic from Heritage Fire. (Fun fact: Whitaker’s forthcoming Denver restaurant will focus on spiedini.)

9. Sure, the Classic is known for indulgence, but the celeb chefs and restaurateurs who traveled to Aspen took advantage of Colorado’s wonderful outdoor recreational opportunities, too. Alon Shaya (of Pizza Domenica and Shaya in New Orleans) and his team opted for a white water rafting adventure, while Danny Meyer and the Union Square Hospitality Group (New York City) team found time to hike the Ute Trail.

Four Seasons Vail
Four Seasons Vail’s elk tartare cones with fried quail eggs.

10. Tartare is still trending. Two of our favorites from the weekend: Four Seasons Vails savory elk tartare cone with quail egg and Jason Nauerts hand-chopped version at Heritage Fire.

American Express Trade Panel
Eleven Madison Park’s Will Guidara (left) at an American Express Restaurant Trade panel. Photo by Steve Mundinger

11. Hospitality is the restaurant buzzword of the moment—and it means different things to different people. Frasca’s Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson defines it as an “almost unreasonable amount of generosity to the guest.” For Eleven Madison Park’s Will Guidara, it’s important that hospitality translates to staff relations, too: “We take great care of guests everyday, and we may never even see them again. But when you take care of staff, you’ll see them again the next day. It gets addictive, taking care of people.”

Bin 707 Food Bar
Bin 707 Food Bar’s heirloom tomatoes with eggplant-miso custard.

12. Vegetables may be gaining street cred, but the fest was still overwhelmingly dominated by meat. We practically jumped for joy at the sight of veg-forward dishes such as baby Tokyo turnips with pistachio butter and chicory “dirt” from Golden’s Abejas and an heirloom tomato salad with eggplant-miso custard from Grand Junction’s Bin 707 Food Bar.

13. We already knew this, but Colorado truly is home to an amazing trove of culinary talent. Chefs, brewers, winemakers, restaurateurs, sommeliers, artisans, and more did the Centennial State proud at this year’s Classic. We can’t wait to see what everyone brings to the tents and tables next year.

Read More: Highlights from the 2017 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

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