This past weekend stars of the restaurant world descended on the town of Aspen, Colorado for the 33rd annual Food & Wine Classic. There were seminars, panels, special meals, parties, and other shenanigans were chefs dished deep and honest thoughts. Here are some final observations on the weekend and an inside look into five amazing parties.
Chef Katie Button of Curate in Asheville, NC, one of Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chefs, hosted the Wines of Spain party on Thursday night. Her sidekicks were non-other than her parents who are highly involved in running this family business.
The AMEX Restaurant Trade Program put on a Shake Shack happy hour on Friday afternoon. Restaurateur Danny Meyer not only shared some of his famous burgers with those in attendance, but also had a camera crew follow him around the entire time, allegedly for what will soon be a 60 Minutes special. There were Shake Shack t-shirts given away and lines for food that wrapped around the block.
The Publisher's Party on Friday evening honored chef Jacques Pepin's 80th birthday, which is not until December 15. But the year is right, and the occasion perfect for Pepin who is a staple of the festival. At least two foxes got really close to the gondola at the top of Aspen mountain as party revelers were taking off from the Pepin-centric festivities.
Speaking of Pepin, he kind of made chef Justin Brunson's day (or maybe month!) when he came to the Pork & Co. trade party hosted on Saturday. Pepin tasted just about everything the chef from Old Major has prepared.
Popular New York City restaurant Charlie Bird hosted a pop up at Jimmy's Bodega on Friday and Saturday. Chef Ryan Hardy and restaurateur Robert Bohr brought their staff, food, and hospitality to Aspen and allowed their guests to book the experience through Resy alone. The highlight: an amazing burrata with salsa verde.
The AMEX Restaurant Trade Program Lunch, dubbed Family Meal on the Roaring Fork, featured chef Andrew Zimmern, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Ashley Christensen in a magical and star-studded setting at Herron Park. Whole lambs were cooked, salted onion toasts with trout roe served, and mini blueberry pies devoured.
Denver doughnut sensation Glazed & Confuzed not only served its creations to the hundreds of festival pass holders, but had two famous guests try the doughnuts: Pink and Drew Barrymore. This was not the only festival appearance by Barrymore who launched her wine label in Aspen last weekend.
What about Pink? She actually put an apron on, participated in the Sunday Cook Off in Andrew Zimmern's team, and rolled with the punches at this packed closing event of the festival.
The best bite of the whole weekend has to go to Food & Wine Best New Chef Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria in Los Angeles. Served in the tasting tents, Salgado's dish was a scallop aguachile with cucumbers, Serrano chiles, squid ink and hoja santa.
Here are the five best parties that were not on the regular program at the festival.
PDT Pop-up at (Little) Jimmy's
Magic happens when you put a world class bartender like Jeffrey Bell of PDT (NYC) in what is basically a coat closet that can accommodate four guests, mostly standing. Ok, there is a little couch on the back wall. Bell prepared four cocktails, which any respectable group of four should have ordered to taste and swap.
Red Room Party the Little Nell
The Little Nell has earned recognition at a AAA 5 Diamond and Forbes 5 star hotel and restaurant, but the most famous thing about the iconic Aspen institution is its wine cellar, home to one of the best wine collections in the world. On Saturday late night, a small party was held in the red-lit basement cellar. Master sommeliers Carlton McCoy (Little Nell), Brett Zimmerman (Boulder Wine Merchant), Dustin Wilson (Eleven Madison Park), and Raj Parr (Sanhi Wines) were spotted in the cellar. Eater editor Andra Zeppelin volunteered to cut Iberico ham at the party at one point.
Wine at the Mine
The Infinite Monkey Theorem outdid itself for this fourth annual Wine at the Mine party. Held at Smuggler's Mine, the invite-only event featured food from Acorn, Cart Driver, and Rosenberg Deli, among others, actual mine tours, silent disco (oops, no actual music was allowed without headphones), and even a tattoo artist ready to ink the guests. Bonus: A visit from actress Drew Barrymore who attempted to take a tour of the mine but backed out soon into the journey, blaming claustrophobia.
Casa Dragones Tequila Late Night Party
Famed bartender Jim Meehan headlined the Casa Dragones 5th annual party on Saturday night at the Baldwin Gallery. The PDT mixologist served signature Casa Dragones Blanco cocktails like the Pink Panther (grapefruit juice, dried hibiscus flowers, agave, lime), and the Dragon Baller with sake. Fresh oysters and other bites like bison sliders were served by the Caribou Club, a DJ was spinning music, and guests included Gail Simmons, Kate Krader, Eric Ripert, and Drew Nieporent.
OpenTable Champagne and Caviar at Matsuhisa
The premise for this party hosted by OpenTable was fantastic. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa kicked off the festivities with magnums of champagne that he poured to renowned fellow chefs like Eric Ripert (Le Bernadin, NYC) and Michael White (Marea, NYC). There was sushi served all night, a variety of bubbles being poured, and even a photo booth to capture fun moments.