At forty, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is the pinnacle of foodie heaven.
Picture the origin story of the world’s pre-eminent culinary celebration—It’s June, 1983, in a parking lot in Snowmass, Colorado (you can imagine the music blaring from the tape deck and an abundance of perms). These are the humble beginnings for the first-annual Aspen Snowmass International Wine Classic—50 wineries, 100 volunteers and 300 guests.
Four years later, in 1987, Food & Wine Magazine purchased and subsequently nourished this gathering into the status symbol that it is today. 40 years on, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen features 200 wineries, 500 volunteers, 5,000 guests—you’ve come a long way, kid. Those 5,000 tickets sold out in just three minutes in January, so you might want to circle January on your calendar.
With legendary alumni such as Julia Child, Thomas Keller, Martha Stewart and Marcus Samuelson, just to name a few, The Classic—as the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is affectionately called—is the food world version of “Go” in Monopoly, everyone passes through.
The Patron Saint of The Classic is none other than famed French chef, Jacques Pepin. At 87, he is still its leader, ICON and resident bon vivant. His pièce de résistance is the sabering of Champagne at 11,212 feet and then baptizing the newly anointed ‘Best of Chef’ into the family by way of the sacred Dom Perignon. Yes, these people know how to live well.
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Yet, this is not a hedonistic journey through epicurean delights—this is where lives, businesses and culture can change overnight. This is where the common vernacular is supple, glycerine, extract and trucker pour. As some of us would be Googling the definitions, most are giving knowing nods. The global food and beverages market grew from 6.7 billion in 2022 to 7.2 billion in 2023 so this is not a quaint gathering of the curious. A chef’s restaurant may suddenly be booked out for the next year, a winery can have all inventory sold overnight and multi-million dollar deals can be sealed with a “Cin Cin” at the renowned JBar at the Hotel Jerome at 2 AM.
The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen offers panels to educate and entertain the most sophisticated of oenophiles and gastronomes, such as what to buy (Japanese whiskey is a smart option), how recipes were created (Bobby Flay suggested sugar to the tomato sauce) and where is the next hot spot to go (Haiti for the holiday). The newest trends of today, such as the addition of NFTs to a wine collection’s digital provenance are explained by the leading figures of the industry. It was with baited breath that the audience listened to Top Chef’s Gail Simmons explaining the allure and fascination about the acclaimed series’ purpose, “It threw open the kitchen door and allowed us to see just how difficult it is.”
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Guests arrive from Los Angeles, Paris, Atlanta and Beijing with hunger and thirst. The Classic leaves them satiated and buying a return ticket for next year, start fasting now.
WHERE TO STAY
The Aspen Meadows Resort is not a resort, it is an island of tranquility. The newly remodeled rooms by Michael Suomi give you a strong reason to believe in the power of Bauhaus design as the most fascinating and luxurious. You are enveloped in an orchestrated marriage of art and nature with Aspen trees shading your walks around Andy Goldsworthy sculptures and the snow-capped Rockies as your backdrop. Don’t hesitate to make it over to the pool,It is the perfect antidote to last night’s revelry plus you’ll feel like the imperial Logan Roy with its majestic views.
WHERE TO EAT
For the insatiable gourmand of food and wine it is highly recommended to visit the newly opened outpost of beloved New York City café Sant Ambroeus. Family owned and operated by the vibrant Federica Pauli you may find yourself as i did ordering another apricot croissant and cappuccino just to enjoy the people watching and conviviality.
WHAT TO DO
When you have indulged as much as Nero you do have to walk it off so take a stroll from the private entrance of Meadows Resort down to Hunter Creek trail and enjoy the unparalleled beauty of White River National Forest (you may even see a bear snacking on a canape in the trees.)