ASPEN, CO – I’ve been going to Aspen annually for the last decade. At first, it was to sit on a panel, talking about dealing with the media. But over the past several years, its been to serve as Moderator for the entire American Express Trade Program, handling the duties for four distinctive panels. This year, however, things were a little bit different, as Food & Wine Magazine (owned by AmEx) celebrated 30 years of the Aspen Classic.
There were more parties and special tastings than there are colors in a Seurat painting. From events hosted by the riesling folks and the Western Australia black truffle exporters, to “official” events held by the magazine, including a Publisher’s Party at the top of Aspen Mountain (elev. 11,200) featuring a New Orleans-themed walk-around tasting, with dishes by John Besh and Emeril, and cocktails courtesy the Brennan dynasty’s Lu Brow, of the Swizzle Stick. The other big part of the weekend is the unveiling (and celebration) of this year’s crop of “Best New Chefs” in America. There was one Chicagoan, Danny Grant, of RIA at the Waldorf Hotel. But due to the fact that they held a special outdoor dining event followed by an Elvis Costello concert on Saturday night, this year’s crop of “Best New Chefs” had to be relegated to a corner of the main tasting tent during the day, dishing out small samples to the masses.
I spent most of my time at the Hotel Jerome, where the Trade Program is based, but I did manage to get out to a few events beyond the grounds. I also had a chance to check out this year’s Grand Cochon 555, which brought together 10 chefs from 10 cities, each trying to outdo one another with their porcine skill set. Chicago’s very own (by way of Cleveland) Jason Vincent, of Nightwood, took home top honors; I’ll have the video highlights back here tomorrow.