The 36th annual Food & Wine Classic (June 15 to 17) will commence in Aspen, Colorado, 8,000 feet above sea level and right under (and sometimes on) the famed ski mountain. A yearly celebration of all things culinary, the event is a place where famous chefs rub elbows with festivalgoers, the world’s top sommeliers pour amazing wines and copious amounts of outstanding food is served at special dinners, in tasting tents and restaurants around town.
Even with the sublime standbys on offer, this year’s fete promises even more new and notable things to look forward to.
Visit the Grand Tasting Pavilion
While this feature of the festival remains a constant, what you will find under those white peaks always changes.
This year, nearly 200 purveyors will pour wine and booze, serve savory bites and sweeten your day with dessert. Among the culinary geniuses you’ll want to keep an eye on are Nashville-based chef Julia Sullivan (Henrietta Red) and her Tennessee paddlefish caviar with scallion vinaigrette, sour cream and housemade crackers; L.A. talent Liz Johnson’s half-sour salad with sour pickles, green goddess dressing, shaved fennel, avocado and furikake; Detroit’s Kate Williams will whip up lamb tartare; and chef Michael Gallina, of Vicia Restaurant in St. Louis, will present watermelon bites with sofrito, whipped goat cheese, pickled green tomato and fresh herbs.
You will also want to check out Food & Wine’s Best New Chef section, where the publication’s notable toques will take turns showcasing the dishes that got them to the top in the first place. Meet the professionals, snap a picture and sample some tasty bites.
Preview and Party
Every Friday during the festival, American Express hosts Last Call, an exclusive late-night party filled with sips, savories and a few surprises. This year’s edition (June 15) doubles as a restaurant sampling, as Texas chefs Tyson Cole of Uchi and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue introduce dishes from their new Austin eatery, Loro.
Opened in April, the buzzed-about restaurant features an Asian smokehouse concept, the perfect marriage of the two chefs’ specialties. Come and be merry while also sampling dishes that few outside of Aspen have yet to try. As the title implies, this is an after-hours affair, so get there at 10 p.m. with a big appetite.
Get Out and Run
You don’t have to pre-plan to join the annual 5K on June 15. As long as you’ve packed some sneakers and register as soon as you arrive, you’ll be in great shape. The prize for getting up early and hitting the trails for this charity jaunt is that you get to stride alongside notable chefs like Rick Bayless and Marcus Samuelsson while raising money for chef Michel Nischan’s nonprofit, Wholesome Wave. Of course, you can always use the race as a means to work off some of those rich bites and appreciate the natural beauty of Aspen.
Learn Something New
Aside from the seemingly endless food and wine, a prime perk of attending the festival is the seminars, which cover everything from cooking to wine pairing to using spice in surprising ways.
Among this year’s highlights is celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s workshop, Sesame and Pink Peppercorns: Fun with Spices, where you’ll learn from the famed restaurateur how to make a pink peppercorn pineapple cake.
Other standout sessions include a chicken cooking class with Food & Wine editor-in-chief Hunter Lewis and his mentor chef Jonathan Waxman. You’ll also have the chance to participate in vino-centric lessons with sommelier Mark Oldman (Wines for Gazillionaires) and wine maven Jordan Salcito (Rosé Without Rules).
On June 17, get yourself out of bed for one last foodie feast. This closing-ceremony tasting event features dishes from all of Food & Wine‘s 2018 restaurants of the year, including Grand Café in Minneapolis, Houston’s Better Luck Tomorrow and Maydan in Washington, D.C.
Held at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Hotel Jerome, this gourmet gathering is a great opportunity to sample some of the dishes that helped put these venues on the map. Think of it as a passport to some of the tastiest places to eat in the states. And the best part is that you don’t have to buy a pass to the festival to attend; you only need a ticket to the brunch.
Where to Stay
Complete your food-focused getaway with a stay at an Aspen favorite, The Little Nell. At this well-situated Five-Star beauty, Holly Hunt-designed guest rooms, mountainside views and a 20,000-bottle wine collection come standard.
While you’re here, don’t forget to make a reservation at the property’s Five-Star Element 47 to nosh on sensational seasonal cuisine and taste from a James Beard-nominated wine program.
You could also escape just down the road to Four-Star The St. Regis Aspen Resort, where you’ll be pampered with signature butler service, poolside dining and a sensational Four-Star spa cooking up serious helpings of Rocky Mountain-inspired relaxation.
Wherever you do decide to call home for a few days, don’t expect to lounge in your room long — the Food & Wine Classic has so much on its plate that you won’t want to miss a thing.