The 36th-annual Food & Wine Classic kicks off on June 15, which means that big-name chefs, sommeliers, and industry celebrities from around the world will soon be touching down in the Centennial State and heading to Aspen. But the exceptional three-day extravaganza will also feature plenty of familiar Colorado faces. From book signings to wine seminars to invite-only bashes, here’s how local talent will represent at this year’s Aspen fête.
Who: Eric Bowen and Jason Rogers of Oskar Blues Grill & Brew; Angel Barnett of HotBox Roasters Cafe
What: Wine at the Mine
When: Saturday, June 16 from 7 p.m. to midnight
Where: New Smuggler Mine Corporation
If you’re lucky enough to score an invite to this exclusive yearly bash, you’ll be treated to a double-fix of local food and wine. Denver’s own Infinite Monkey Theorem will provide the celebratory vino, while the culinary team from Oskar Blues Fooderies will helm the kitchen. Head Chef Jason Rogers will team up with Eric Bowen (chef de cuisine at Oskar Blues Grill & Brew Colorado Springs) to serve an al pastor-inspired whole-roasted pig alongside blue corn sopes, pineapple tepache (a fermented salsa employing Oskar Blues G’Knight Imperial IPA), avocado-chipotle cream, and añejo tequila apple crisp. HotBox Roasters Café Pastry Chef Angel Barnett has something extra special in the works for sweet lovers: Baked Ajax, (a play on Aspen Mountain’s old-school moniker) featuring s’mores donuts, baked Alaska–style!
Who: Alon Shaya of the soon-to-open Safta
What: Alon Shaya Cookbook Signing
When: Friday, June 15 from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m.
Where: Grand Tasting Pavilion
James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya is busy these days. Not only did he just open Saba in New Orleans, but he’s also hard at work readying Safta (located at the Source Hotel in Denver) for its summer debut. Somehow he also found time to head to Aspen to sign copies of his new cookbook, Shaya: An Odyssey of Food: My Journey Back To Israel. Although Shaya won’t be plating any goods from Safta, it’s still a great chance to chat him up and try and learn some of the secrets behind his to-die-for hummus.
Who: Daniel Imdieke, Manager of Beer Education at MillerCoors
What: Blue Moon Presents: Beer’s Place at the Table seminar
When: Friday, June 15 from 2 to 2:45 p.m.
Where: St. Regis Courtyard
Denver-based Master Cicerone Daniel Imdieke will dive into the complex nuances of pairing beer and food at this sudsy seminar. He’ll walk attendees through the art of pairing brews with both simple and more intricate dishes using sips from Blue Moon Brewing Co. After you absorb Imdieke’s easy pairing principles, you can recreate a pint-and-pairing party of your very own someday.
Who: Carlin Karr of Tavernetta
What: Trade-Only Kickoff Party
When: Thursday, June 14 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Where: Ajax Tavern, The Little Nell
The 250 members of the American Express Restaurant Trade Program will be treated to more than just informative industry panels. Tavernetta’s own wine director Carlin Karr, named one of Food & Wine’s best sommeliers of 2018, will curate a list of top vinos for the tasting alongside fellow somm Jordan Salcito (a Denver native who is now the beverage director at Momofuku). Karr and Salcito’s picks will be paired with dishes such as Carolina Reaper Hot Manchester Quail Sliders and Poole’s Macaroni au Gratin) from acclaimed chef Ashley Christensen.
Who: McLain Hedges and Mary Allison Wright of RiNo Yacht Club, the Proper Pour, and Morin
What: Trade-only Afternoon Social
When: Friday, June 15 from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m.
Where: Hotel Jerome Garden Terrace
Husband-and-wife spirit pros McLain Hedges and Mary Allison Wright (of the RiNo Yacht Club and the Proper Pour, both located at the Source) are shaking things up in the fancy Hotel Jerome for this sustainable seafood soirée. The pair will create innovative cocktails to complement Puerto Rican and Pacific Northwestern flavors from chefs Jose Enrique (of his own namesake eatery) and Renee Erickson (Sea Creatures restaurant group), respectively. Attendees will be treated to sips like the El Yunque Cooler (Don Q Cristal, Blanc Vermouth, Golden Moon Genepy, Mountain Luau Cordial, coconut water and Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic) and Surfin’ Bird (Patron Silver, Citronage Pineapple, manzilla Sherry, Campari, salted citrus and Fever Tree Tonic). Bonus: Look out for the duo around Aspen all weekend; we hear they’ll be crafting cocktails at another off-the-radar Aspen affair.
Who: Bobby Stuckey of Frasca Food and Wine and Tavernetta
What: Various Wine Seminars
When: Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 17
Where: Seminar Tents
Known to pack the seminar houses at the Classic, decorated master sommelier Bobby Stuckey of Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine and Denver’s Tavernetta has big plans for this year’s talks. The vino pro has three seminars slated: Chianti Classico Reborn (Friday at 2 p.m.), A Love Letter to Napa & Sonoma Cheese & Wine, alongside Laura Werlin (Friday at 3:45 p.m.), and Great Grower Champagnes (Sunday at 10:30 a.m.). Between his charismatic, engaging speaking style and hilarious anecdotes (and, uh, the wine), learning has never been so much fun.