Inspirato Members with a taste for fine dining and rare wines know they can count on trips to Tuscany, Provence, and Sonoma to deliver what they want in spades. But few destinations on earth can offer foodies what Aspen, Colorado offers in mid-June.
That’s when the Food & Wine Classic comes to town, bringing with it the world’s best chefs and sommeliers for three days of lively seminars and demonstrations, industry parties, and more lavish tastings in a single day than an entire season of Top Chef.
And while there is no substitute for enjoying handmade pasta al fresco at Villa Medici in Chianti, “the Classic” cannot be beat when it comes to seeing what culinary trends will revolutionize restaurants tomorrow.
Whether you have one of this year’s golden tickets or plan to attend in future years (see below), we’ve got the inside scoop on what to expect.
You Will Nosh All Day
From the moment you wake up to the moment you crash into bed, you can nosh, nosh, and nosh some more. The Food & Wine Classic offers ample opportunity to indulge, explore, and discover new flavors. But that goes well beyond the Grand Tasting tent and event seminars. The festival is big business for culinary travel destinations, wine and spirits labels, and up-and-coming food brands looking to make a name for themselves. All around town you’ll find samples. For instance, a couple of years ago the consortium of prosciutto producers in Italy’s Parma sponsored a Berkel meat-slicer on wheels that was pushed around town, dispensing heavenly slices of the real deal — Prosciutto di Parma — to happy pedestrians.
You Will Have One “A-ha!” Moment After Another at the Grand Tasting
The star of the show is the Grand Tasting, held twice daily in Wagner Park across from the Limelight Hotel. Under the massive white tents you can sample fare from Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs,” taste artisanal spirits, sip rare wines, and go around the world in 80 plates.
Tickets to the three-day event, which cost more than $1,000, include admission to all of the Grand Tastings as well as any of the event’s seminars and demonstrations. While that sum may sound like a lot, you will quickly discover that you get your money’s worth at a single Grand Tasting.
You Will See Celebrities in Every Direction
If the culinary world had the equivalent to the Cannes Film Festival (at least in terms of celebrity attendance), it would be the Aspen Food & Wine Classic.
On the one hand, you will see celebrity chefs everywhere: conducting demonstrations, dining at the table next to you at Ajax Tavern, or even going for a run along the Roaring Fork River at dawn. The event is such a big deal that attendance is nearly mandatory for the likes of Marcus Samuelsson, Tom Colicchio, Thomas Keller, and Bobby Flay. This being Aspen, you can also expect to see Hollywood A-listers, although they’re a little more incognito.
You Will Learn So Much
Beyond the Grand Tasting, you’ll find dozens of fascinating seminars and cooking demonstrations at tents and venues set up all around town. The hardest part is choosing which to attend when they overlap.
This year’s seminars include mastering backyard barbecue with Chef Tim Love, learning about the new style of surf and turf with Chef Chris Cosentino, or “Culinary Literacy: China” conducted by the always-enlightening Andrew Zimmern. There is also the annual showcase of the winner of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, which is part of the show’s prize package.
As for wine enthusiasts, the Classic’s classes are vino heaven. This year you can taste through five decades of Mondavi wine with Ray Isle, or dive into Grenache with Richard Betts. Whatever you do, find a way to join one of Anthony Giglio’s seminars on French wine. You won’t regret it.
You Will Appreciate Wine Like Never Before
Speaking of wine, be prepared to see rare wines opened like bottled water at a marathon. That’s not to say reverence isn’t held for these gems — quite the contrary. But to conduct a seminar on Côte-Rotie and Hermitage for an audience of 200, you need quite a few bottles of seriously choice wine to please all of those palates. Few events in the country will bring you up to speed on a particular wine faster than the Classic.
Note that the seminars are not just tailored to enthusiasts. Many are approachable and framed with a sense of mutual discovery, which creates a wonderful atmosphere for learning.
Let Inspirato Help You
The Food & Wine Classic is sold out this year and it is the kind of event that requires quite a bit of pre-planning (which we will gladly handle for you).
Truthfully, it is never too early to make arrangements for next year’s event. Contact your Member Services team to learn more about residence and hotel/room availability for June 2017.