The Food & Wine Classic is known for its demos, parties, and Best New Chefs dinner. But perhaps most of all, it's famous for the Grand Tasting, a food and wine free-for-all that takes place twice a day under an expansive tent in downtown Aspen. It's in the midst of this bacchanal that one discovers new restaurants, food trends, and wine labels, both good and bad. Here are a few of my favorite selections from this year's event.
During her cooking demo in Aspen, Food Network star and fan favorite Giada De Laurentiis opened up the floor to questions. One woman in the back raised her hand and asked the question that the whole world was dying to know.
"How do you manage to cook all this food and still look so great?" she asked. The mother of Jade Marie, now 2 — who looked casual chic in a boatneck tee and cuffed jeans — took some time to talk about how she stays so slim and trim. Find out her secrets after the jump.
The first party we went to on Thursday night at the Food & Wine Classic was a cocktail party hosted by Grand Marnier. While there were top mixologists from around the country pouring cocktails, there was also a bar devoted to simply shots. Since it was the start of the event and I believe there is a time and place for everything, we treated ourselves to a few shots. How about you? Do you celebrate with shots?
Like last year, Top Chef judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons joined forces to host a seminar at the 28th annual Food & Wine Classic. Since I'm a huge fan of the show and enjoyed their lively banter in the previous demo, I was excited to see what the dynamic duo would cook up. This time, they were inspired by one of the magazine's regular features, Chef Recipes Made Easy.
They chose three ingredients: merguez sausage, garbanzo beans, and harissa, and each made a distinctly different dish. Tom's was the chef's way: an elaborate preparation that involved homemade sausage, stuffed leg of lamb, and fresh garbanzo beans. Gail created something more accessible to the home cook with store-bought sausage and canned garbanzos. As they cooked, they chatted; to see some tips I picked up from Tom and Gail, read more
We weren't the only ones to descend upon the hills of Aspen over the weekend. Here's the best of the rest from the Food & Wine Classic:
- Food & Wine's editor-in-chief, Dana Cowin, reveals her top five Aspen memories. — Eatocracy
- An inside look at the opening event that featured Jen Carroll, Eli Kirshtein, and the Voltaggios. — Huffington Post Food
- Q&A with some of the festival's most prestigious chefs. — Metromix New York
- Tom Colicchio and restaurateur Joe Bastianich perform a Paul Simon song. — Eater NY
- A tour of the best parties. — Plum TV
- One hundred photos that highlight the event. — Skollie Magazine
Nothing at the Classic induces more excitement than Saturday night's big ticket, the Best New Chefs Dinner. It was my favorite event last year for a multitude of reasons: superb flavor combinations, a jaw-dropping view of the mountains at sunset, fantastic energy, and the best people-watching in the world. The annual by-invitation-only event was opened up to the public this year, which meant lots of crowds, but the opportunity to meet and eat with trendsetters still made it all worthwhile. Here, you'll get to know this year's Best New Chefs and their signature dishes.
At the daily Grand Tasting in Aspen, there are literally hundreds of bites and sips to choose from, so a true standout is one that you can't resist making repeat visits to.
One of those booths came from Mercadito, a group of restaurants in New York, Chicago, and Miami serving Southern Mexican taqueria-style specialties. Not only did they offer tacos filled with layers of flavor, but they also served them accompanied with a refreshing pepino el pyu cocktail, their update on a margarita.
Talk about a perfect pairing: the cooling essence of cucumber mixed with a punch of lemon was a welcome contrast to the ultraspicy pork taco topped with chile de arbol coleslaw. Since I can't wait to re-create it at home, I'm sharing the recipe with you, too. Don't skimp on the cumin salt rim, which adds a smoky, crunchy finish to every sip. For the recipe, read on.
For me, one of the highlights of the Food & Wine Classic was a special lunch created by Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio and his brother Bryan. The luncheon was hosted by Williams-Sonoma in the sleek Aspen eatery N9NE Steakhouse. While it was sunny and hot outside, the cool interior of the underground restaurant was the perfect backdrop to the Voltaggio brothers' modern menu. Using products from a new line that's to be released by Williams-Sonoma this Fall, the brothers demonstrated molecular gastronomy techniques that involved sous vide machines, smoking guns, and liquid nitrogen.
Before the interested eyes of a group of select journalists, Michael turned frozen cubes of cream cheese into a melt-in-your-mouth snow and Bryan cut slices of perfectly cooked harissa lamb, fresh out of vacuum-packed plastic baggies.
To take a closer look at the amazing three-course meal, check out all of my photos after the break.
"I don't get to come here often," Thomas Keller said to a morning audience at this past weekend's Aspen Food & Wine Classic. There's no question the godfather of all restaurant chefs has been busy, between his nine restaurants, six Michelin stars, cookbooks, and Bocuse d'Or leadership, so it was a rare treat to watch him demonstrate how to prepare homemade preserves out of his award-winning cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home.
While Keller demonstrated the versatility of sweet onion tapenade, cured lemons, and mushroom conserva, he revealed his sense of humor when he spoke about being in the first group of Best New Chefs 22 years ago, preparing a lobster dish that was served in a resident's home. "After 600 lobsters, I'm sure that home was never the same again," he joked. The chef also offered plenty of useful advice. To check it out, keep reading.
Could this weekend get any better? It doesn't just mark the celebration of Juneteenth and Father's Day, but also the biggest food festival of the year, Food & Wine's Classic in Aspen. Get excited, because we're going to be there, reporting from the front lines! We can't wait to see what's in store, from Morimoto's beautiful sushi to Tim Love's lamb tacos.
Before we head out to the sunny Rockies, we'll be checking out San Francisco's hottest young chefs at the StarChefs Rising Stars Revue. Where will you be this week? Let us know in the comments below!
- San Francisco, CA: StarChefs Rising Stars Revue — June 16
- Fort Wayne, IN: BBQ Ribfest — June 17-20
- National Harbor, MD: Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival — June 18-19
- Aspen, CO: Food & Wine Classic in Aspen — June 18-20
- Glenwood Springs, CO: Strawberry Days — June 18-20
- Salem, OR: Wine, Chocolate & More — June 18-20
- Kenmore, WA: Washington Brewers Festival — June 18-20
- Clayton, NY: The Great New York State Food & Wine Festival — June 18-20
- Ventura, CA: Salute! Beer Festival — June 19
- Philadelphia, PA: Taste of the Nation Philadelphia — June 21