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The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is many things: a fantasyland for fans of celebrity chefs, a playground for wine aficionados, a nonstop party for hungry food-lovers. But there’s also a ton to learn and ample opportunities to connect with and support the Colorado chefs and producers we love. Here’s a brief (well, not that brief) glimpse at what went down in Aspen last weekend:
Carb Loading: Jeff Cleary and Kathy Mullen of Grateful Bread Company donated more than 550 loaves (baguettes, seasoned and plain Pain d’Epis) to supply the five Grand Tasting events, more than 80 seminars, and the star-stuffed (I mean, studded!) Thursday evening welcome reception. “The fresh-baked bread is brought up every day [from Golden],” Mullen says, “with a different driver [who waits] for the bread to come out of the oven before loading up the van and coming up [to Aspen].”
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Haute Hotel: The team behind the Source turned the top floor of the Aspen Art Museum into party central to announce new details about the Source Hotel and market hall, slated to open late in the year. There, Steven Redzikowski (Acorn, Oak, Brider) served one of our favorite bites of the weekend—ponzu-laced shrimp-and-dashi panna cotta.
Tony Tots & Tequila: Patrón tequila threw an all-out bash at the base of Aspen Mountain, and none other than Biju Thomas of Biju’s Little Curry Shop was there, handing out trays of crunchy-creamy tater tots drizzled with spicy curry ketchup. They were addictive alongside the strawberry tequila mules that Brittany Wangsness of B&CG was shaking for guests during their dance breaks.
The Tents: Grand Tastings at the Classic are legendary—and overwhelming. There are thousands of bottles of wine to try, hundreds of vendors with delicious samples, and star chefs like Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat, Chicago) and Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC) signing books and doling out treats. The 2017 class of F&W Best New Chefs brought their A games too, dishing up delightful bites under the tent: Angie Mar (The Beatrice Inn, NYC) gave us pitch-perfect beef tartare on toasted brioche with mushroom purée and razor clams, while Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson (Kismet, LA) wowed with tender spring potatoes on a bed of labneh, dusted with briny cured scallop shavings and macadamias.
Mining for Grub: Infinite Monkey Theorem throws a killer, invite-only party at Smuggler’s Mine every year, and lots of local restaurants and producers lug their wares up the mountain. Our favs this year were paper-thin slices of Elevation Meats‘ salumi and rich salted butterscotch mousse from the Inventing Room.
Bottle Notes: Our very own Laws Whiskey House took over Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar, adding their marvelous spirits to a Classic-only cocktail menu. Even better, Laws had brand experts on hand to walk drinkers through tasting flights. One featured three “bottled in bond” whiskeys (100-proof, 4-year-aged spirits made and bottled by one American distiller, based on rules laid out in 1897) that was as eye-opening as it was delicious.
Bubbly For Days: Champagne ruled the weekend, with beautiful vintages flowing like the nearby Roaring Fork river. At the Amex Trade lunch, which featured incredible picnic fare from Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm, the 2005 Lelarge-Pugeot Quintessence Premier Cru was guzzled like water. Open Table’s late night party at Matsuhisa offered seemingly endless bottles of Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne paired with impeccable fish and custom hand rolls.
Three days of fascinating consumer seminars and American Express Restaurant Trade Program professional panels left us with new ideas about the food system and gems for our home kitchens, too.
On restaurant hospitality: “When we are not generous to one another or a guest, it roils my insides. I want it to say on my tombstone, ‘I told you. Be generous!'” —Danny Meyer, New York City restaurateur, owner of Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Shake Shack, and more; author
On what makes a great food city: “Resources… talent… and the clientele.” —Mike Lata, chef/owner of Fig and the Ordinary in Charleston, SC
On the cost of meat: “The reality is that good quality product is just a heck of a lot more expensive… a thing I think we should be aware of as consumers is that [good meat] is going to cost more, unfortunately. There is no easy solution.” —Anya Fernald, sustainable food expert and co-founder and CEO of Belcampo, Inc.
On what we’ll be eating next: “Insects are the future.” —Ludo Lefebvre, French chef, restaurateur, author
On food trends: “I love that the roasted carrot dish is becoming the Caesar salad of our time. I hope gas stations start selling it.” —Andrew Zimmern, tv personality, chef, food writer
On wine: “Champagne is such good food wine. Don’t save it for special occasions.” —Bobby Stuckey, master sommelier, co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine and Pizzeria Locale
On cooking: “In all cooking, you want the crispy bits. Never, ever waste the crispy bits!” —Gail Simmons, Top Chef judge, author