If you watch Top Chef, Food Network, Bizzare Foods, Iron Chef, The Chew, or read Food and Wine magazine then you know that the Aspen Food and Wine Classic is the place to be!
Brian and I have wanted to go for some time now. Since we didn't really get to go on our 10-year anniversary due to some unforseen circumstances, we decided we'd go for it in 2013, for our 11th anniversary. We only live a 4-hour drive from Aspen so our main expense is lodging and the actual conference fee. So many people have to pay to fly to go, that we knew we had to checkmark this one off our Bucket List since it's practically held in our backyard, right??
I had never been to Aspen before. We took the scenic byway to the top of the Continental Divide. There were a few moments I was grateful for the guard rail because it is WAY up there. It's a beautiful drive though. There is a definite reason that Aspen is called Aspen. I am certain it is probably the most beautiful place in Colorado come fall.
First stop was picking up our registration packets. Aspen Food and Wine Classic here we come!
The Classic didn't start until the next day so we made reservations for a nice dinner. Happy 11 years together honey!
Brian was very contemplative about the past 11 years, remembering the best dinner we ever had on our honeymoon in Kauai at the St. Regis in Princeville. Here it is--the most beautiful dinner spot we've ever been to. I'll never forget the sunsets of Kauai. We were such kids then. Aspen sure comes in close beautywise!
After eating dinner, we explored the downtown a bit. The downtown area reminds me a lot of Santa Fe. Though it is beautiful, nothing is affordable...or by our standards anyway. I dropped into a kid's clothing store and there were cute outfits for $200 (and that was 50% off!). It was fun to window shop though. These monkeys reminded me of MiniB. He loves monkeys.
The next day, our first session was Best Superstar Value Wines with Mark Oldman. This session was to try some different wines that were all under $20. Although low cost, these wines were selected because they don't taste like a low-cost wine and can compare with the expensive ones. Mark Oldman guided us through each wine and its region and what each wine could be paired with. This is me bright and ready to start drinking wine at 10am.
And Brian is also ready to go!
Mark Oldman was a hilarious speaker. He not only has a gift for wine but for speaking.
My favorite wine of this session: 2009 Bodegas Volver Tarima Hill Monastrell from Jumilla Spain--a super bargain at $16 a bottle!
After the first session, we headed over to the Grand Tasting, a huge tented pavillion where you can try a lot of different foods and drinks. We had alligator, caribou, lobster, multiple cheeses, chocolate, foie gras, gumbo, and so much more. Needless to say I was too busy eating than to take pictures. And trust me, you need both hands to hold everything you get. My mouth was loving all the flavor but my stomach was telling me to take it easy.
The Grand Tasting was a great place to people watch though. We saw Josh Altman and his girlfriend Heather from Million Dollar Listing LA. We are faithful MDL-LA (and NY) watchers so we spotted them right off. They were super nice and were happy to take a picture.
After the Grand Tasting, our next session was the Top Chef Leftover Challenge with Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio. Because of all the lighting on stage, my pictures didn't turn out that great but Tom made a quick meal while Gail made him a cocktail. Then she took the leftovers from that meal to make a great "hangover" breakfast. It was fun to watch them in person since we watch them judge real chefs all the time on Top Chef.
Our session after that one was a Sushi Rolling Party with Ming Tsai, chef of Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon in the Boston area. He showed us how to make easy rolls at home and provided tips on how to roll and pair different flavor combinations. He was not only funny but he took a lot of questions from the crowd.
After this session there was another Grand Tasting. The Grand Tasting is where you'd spot a lot of chefs. I bought a book by Laura Werlin callled Grilled Cheese Please. She also has a yummy book called Mac and Cheese Please but I need to eat less pasta, not more. My favorite grilled cheese sandwich ever is from San Francisco Bar and Grill in Santa Fe--pesto, sun dried tomatoes, and a mixture of yummy cheeses. I was excited to find a book with so many variations of my favorite sandwich. Here is Laura signing my book.
Brian spotted Chef Hugh Acheson and said hi. It's a funny thing to say hi to someone who is on tv. I feel dorky trying to figure something to say. Brian doesn't care, he's a natural.
We stopped by the Grand Tasting one more time and then headed back to our hotel for some rest because at 10pm that night we had another event, The Last Bite Dessert party hosted by Gail Simmons.
I wish I had pictures of my own from the party. I have a few. It was really dark so hard to get good photos as you'll see. Basically it was a party that once you step in you pass a "candy shop" with lots of old fashioned candy in large glass containers and bags for you to grab what you want. Then you head into the main room where there is you pick of desserts from lemon jello shots, everything chocolate, an old-fashioned soda bar where Johnny Iuzzini and Gail Simmons were stiring up concoctions.
They also had a cute photo booth where you could take pictures with props. Here's Bri and I.
Brian, being his natural outgoing self, got some pics with Andrew Zimmern and Top Chef winner Kristen Kish. That guy!
He even managed to get his picture in People Magazine here. I was on the site reading about the Classic and then I see my husband's little face in the corner of a pic. If you scroll down to the Marcus Samuelsson picture and click on it, you can see us dancing in the quick 10 second Vine Video. They really did have an awesome DJ.... and free wine. It was a late night.
The next day, our first session was a Dim Sum showing by Andrew Zimmern. I have to say that my favorite chef spotting was Andrew Zimmern. I just love that guy. We watch Bizarre Foods as a family all the time. It wasn't surprising that this was also my favorite food session. He showed us how to make a yummy Hand Pulled Noodle recipe. I'm so glad the recipe is in our session book. He also shared his Sweet Aromatic Soy Sauce recipe given to him by one of the best Asian food chefs.
Because our kids love Andrew Zimmern so much, we bought his Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild and Wonderful Foods for him to sign for our kids. He remembered us from the dessert party. He made the book out to our kids and found a section on "farts" that he told us our kids would love. Of course they did. I talked with him about the episode where he went to Santa Fe and ate at Bobcat Bite. I shared how I grew up in Santa Fe and my dad loves The Bobcat Bite and took me there often. He went on to tell me that is the best burger he's had and Marcus Samuelsson was sitting next to him and took down the name of the restaurant to try for the next time he's in Santa Fe. He talked to us about the Rocky Mountain Oysters he had in Severance, just down the road from us. I remember that episode. I have no desire to try bull testies. He was my favorite chef spotting.
I am reading Gail Simmons book right now for my blog book club. I'm halfway through. I love books that tell you how a person came to the point they are at and doing what they love. It inspires me that you can do what you love and make money. One can hope anyway. And had to buy Tom's Craft book since my girlfriends and I had just been to Craft in NY for our Turning 40 girls' trip.
Brian's favorite chef is Richard Blaise. Who doesn't love this guy?
Our last two sessions were awesome: America's Best Wine & Cheese Pairings and Wines from Rioja (Spain). They served us two glasses of $150/bottle wines in the Rioja session. The host was Leslie Sbrocco who has a PBS Wine show called Check Please. We made sure to drink both of those glasses since we probably won't be purchasing $150/bottle wines too often. We were dumbfounded at how many people didn't drink those glasses! Seriously!? Do they get that kind of wine often?
We went to one final Grand Tasting where Chef Michael Voltaggio was cooking something up. Brian loved it. I seriously couldn't eat another bite.
Goodbye Aspen! We had a blast!