ASPEN – I’m not sure John and Jan Stenmark traveled from Jackson,, Miss., to the 2014 Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen to get a Riesling tattoo, but that’s how their second day at the Classic began.
Sitting quietly, waiting for Paul Grieco of Hearth and Terroir restaurants in New York to begin his seminar on Rieslings, and before they could react, there was Grieco with a devilish grin, wet towel and handful of stick-on tattoos.
“We sure don’t have anything like this back home,” said John, a self-described “retired but not retiring” fan of Riesling and the F&W Classic. But a listener wasn’t sure if his remark referred to Grieco’s unexpected offer or just the F&W Classic in general.
Jan looked at the bold black letters running up her right forearm and smiled. a bit weak, perhaps, but still a smile.
“Do you think it will come off?” she asked quietly, and mentioned something about grandchildren seeing her come home with a tattoo.
Such was Day 2 of this year’s Aspen Classic, a day in which Bobby Stuckey of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder assured his audience that in the world of winemaking, “Nature always bats last”; wine writer Ray Isle offered his audience the chance to blind-taste wines of different prices and ponder, “Why do we pay what we pay for wine?” and Mark Oldman helped answer Isle’s question by hosting a seminar titled “Wines for IPO Millionaires,” which featured a 2004 Dom Perignon Champagne and an 1872 Madeira.
And that was just part of the wine segment; there was an whole ‘nother world of food seminars and cooking demos.
In one of the cooking tents, chefs John Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal restaurant in Los Angeles defended the use of foie gras in their seminar “You want me to Eat What? Nose-to-Tail Meets Uncharted Waters.”
“We believe in foie gras,” said Shook of the controversial dish made from the liver of specially fattened ducks or geese.
And nearby, cheese expert Lauren Werlin was pairing her favorite cheese with sparkling wines while in the cooking tent cookbook author and Chef Micheal Chiarello was sharing his “Meatball Master Class.”
It was another busy day at the Classic, which winds up Sunday with the ever-popular Classic Cook-off, more seminars and the always entertaining Grand Cochon finals, the culmination of a 10-city tour where local chefs are tasked with using as much as possible from an entire Heritage Hog.
No day at the Food & Wine Classic is a typical day, for there always are new wines, new foods and even new tattoos to keep you entertained and exhausted.
It’s Day One of the 2014 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the start of the annual Summer Camp for Foodies.
Just like the summer camp you remember, this weekend is the time you greet friends from years past and make new friends for the future years. You won’t spend much time at this camp doing arts and crafts, unless trying new wines and sampling the best of the F&W’s Best New Chefs will count.
Everyone rolled into town yesterday (Thursday), and it seemed as if all 5,000 of the expected attendees spent the evening at Casa Jose Andres,where the renowned Spanish chef holds his annual barbecue and wine tasting.
But to call it a ‘barbecue’ isn’t quite enough, since there are whole pigs roasting over open fires, wines red and white from every region of Spain and seemingly every chef in Andres’ international chain of restaurants serving such delights as Tacos Jose, a deceptive name for tapas which are nothing less than thin-sliced Fermin jamon wrapped around Beluga caviar.
The setting alone, an immense, stone-and-wood private home just off Brush Creek near Snowmass Ski Resort, was enough to wow the guests, and by the time the limousines were lined up for the ride home, there was a giddiness in the air even the finest Spanish wines couldn’t match.
The seminars, Grand Tastings and cooking demos begin today, with another round of invite-only events tonight and well into the morning.
It’s a hilarious, invigorating and body- and soul-inspiring weekend. All that and the chance of hangover or two.
Let’s get started.