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Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Elevates Taste and Health

Aspen Heights of Food & Wine

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They come for the food, the wine and the wisdom.

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“A young chef adds and adds and adds to the plate. As you get older, you start to take away,” said French born chef Jacques Pepin, author of over twenty cookbooks and celebrated host of over 300 television cooking shows. The audience of loyal foodie fans for Pepin’s cooking class with daughter Claudine filled a ballroom at the St. Regis Hotel, just one of many culinary seminars featured at the 34th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Assisting her father in demonstrating how to make vinaigrette salad dressings Claudine Pepin advised, “Use a really good olive oil. You know the one you’re saving because it’s too good to use everyday? Well, throw that away because it’s rancid by now and go buy a new one.”

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Over five thousand food lovers and wine aficionados attend the festival to meet top named chefs and wine makers from around the world. Spirits have taken a more central role with the rise of interest in craft cocktails.

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Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem created food pairings including honey glazed salmon and pork ribs with ginger and peach to match sips of Glenmorangie single malt scotch and a citrus infused whiskey cocktail.

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“Summer time is barbecue time and the spiciness goes with the sweetness and smokiness of the scotch whiskey,” said Samuelsson.

 

Fresh New Heights of Cuisine

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Aspen’s chefs know to put on a show when their rocky mountain town fills up with world-class foodies. “They literally eat it up,” said Matt Zubrod, executive chef of The Little Nell Hotel. “It’s a cool crowd who ask really good questions about food such as ‘where did you get the meat for this tartar?’”

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Executive Chef Matt Zubrod, Element 47 restaurant, The Little Nell Hotel, Aspen

Zubrod’s menu at the Relais and Chateau hotel’s Element 47 restaurant features plates as pretty as the Aspen scenery garnished with edible flowers and fresh herbs such as pineapple sage and chocolate mint and grown steps away from the tables. And just as the mountain air requires adding a layer of clothing with changing temperatures, Zubrod layers flavors in dishes, “Its evolved where I like to do a layer of pureed, then cooked and then raw of the same ingredient such as peas, corn or artichoke.”

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Halibut cheeks are served on a layer of pureed ratatouille with fresh corn and fava beans.

 

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Nilou Motamed, Editor in Chief, Food & Wine Magazine enjoys the tasting tents and saying hello!

Health and wellness was in focus on a panel led by Food & Wine Magazine’s editor in chief Nilou Motamed who noted, “I think in the last ten years the conversation have moved from a message of moderation to where our food is coming from.”

 

 

 

Octogenarian Jacques Pepin replied,

“It can go to far if we wonder where every carrot is from. I’m not a doctor, I’m a chef, but my best advice is finish your food.”

Thank you Jacques, that’s the best view in Aspen.

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Summer Grills & Thrills in Aspen

Don’t you just love sweet and juicy July watermelons? 
I do, especially with Patron Tequila and a little jalapeño.


Welcome to the 2013 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
Did I mention wine?
And in fact wines from all over the world ready to be discovered.
Let’s start with a party celebrating Wines of Spain.
Now let’s start eating…..

I know it’s out of focus. I was getting kind of excited.
……..and eat some more.



What I learned from the pros in Aspen.
Fire up the grill and prep the fresh produce – it’s summer time!!!

Summer meals with a bounty of salads, just picked vegetables, fruit based desserts, seafood and lean meats serve up the delicious and nutritious win-win of taste and health.  Many recipes are as easy as sliced tomatoes topped with basil, a swirl of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. 

But, food fans gathered to acquire savvy secrets from celebrity chefs at the 2013 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen learned that what can look like a no-brainer actually takes some thought.

Rub, Season or Marinade?

A steak recipe or menu description may include the word ‘rub’ to describe the coating of herbs and spices added to meats but, Texas chef Tim Love warned the crowd at his cooking class, “Don’t rub it in!”  
Love, executive chef and owner of the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, explained that rubbing a mixture of spices, salt and often sugar into the meat can create an undesirable crust, “They tell us rub it so we rub it. But we want to leave the pores open. Rubbing will close the pores of the meat. Then the meat won’t taste like the crusted seasonings because it stays on the outside.”  So, a rub isn’t really a rub, it’s a seasoning to spread on lightly.  

Chef Tim Love with fans at the 2013 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

 

For leaner cuts of beef, such as a flank steak, Love recommends a soy sauce based marinade to help tenderize, “It breaks down the connective tissue.” But, he advised against using it on expensive cuts of beef, “They’re already tender and the soy sauce will actually take away the velvetiness of high dollar steaks.”


Food and Wine Classic in Aspen goes from dawn to dusk and into the night.

Veggie Master

There’s something mesmerizing about watching a skilled athlete or musician perform with ease. 
Claudine and Jacques Pepin share secrets and sips with their foodie fans
The same thing can be said of witnessing cookbook author and TV food personality Jacques Pepin slice an onion or peel as asparagus spear. “We’re in awe,” I overheard a fan exclaim while attending Jacques Pepin’s cooking class with daughter Claudine called Techniques to Create a Great Meal.  “He makes it look so easy, “ says daughter Claudine who adds, “He is the food whisperer.”  In less that forty five minutes the elder Pepin slices, dices, chops, stirs, whips, and whirs his way through a dozen different techniques and ends up with a roasted chicken, quick cured herbed salmon, a mayonnaise, a grapefruit segment salad and a tomato rose.  All while drinking Champagne.  (Well actually Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico.) 

Watch the hands of the maestro, Jacques Pepin season raw salmon for a fast cure. 
“It’s a question of practice,” says Pepin who’s been a headliner for the Food & Wine Classic for many of its 31 years in Aspen. “A sharp knife is important of course but did you know that when you slice an onion with a sharp knife there are less fumes?” Another veggie prep tip- lay asparagus flat on a cutting board and use a vegetable peeler to trim off the tough exterior flesh at the end of the spears. And don’t toss vegetable trimmings. Pepin keeps an empty milk carton in the freezer and adds bits and pieces, “Keep pressing it down, adding more, pressing it down and when it’s full you can make a wonderful vegetable stock.” Cooking class in your own kitchen: Jacques Pepin’s cookbook, “Essential Pepin” includes a DVD demonstration of culinary techniques.

Lexus dressed for Aspen chic
Basil on the Grill?

 Tim Love’s meat centric cooking class on best ways to season for the grill, did allow for a little dinner time diversity when he tossed in a shrimp recipe, “Eating seafood in Texas is like being a vegetarian! But, shrimp of all seafood does love a rub.” He even grilled some fresh basil to finish the dish. “Charred basil is fantastic. So is asparagus. Yes, I’m going to talk about vegetables. I don’t want to shock people.”
Another kitchen tip from Love, think of onions as another way to add heat to a dish.

And use your grill pan to create a mélange of vegetables. Slice potatoes so they grill as quickly as other veggies on the fire.  Love’s cooking demo drink of choice? Tequila shots at 10am. And all that after he ran the Food & Wine Classic 5K run, “Check with me at 5pm today and I’ll either be a hero or a zero!”

We say hero, Tim. And in your cute words, “Damn Skippy!”

OK Foodie Fan Time!
Guess which celebrity chef these gals are excited to see?

And my friend Liz McDermott, wanted to show her son Ford just how cool she is by posing with Ford’s favorite chef Andrew Zimmern.
And look a Thomas Keller sighting! He is as gracious as he is talented.

Ok the camera was shaking a bit. I think he’s actually taking photos of his dish, a creation of raw seafood.
No not Rocky Mountain Oysters in Aspen, this time.

As long as we’re having some fun. How about a musician in the tasting tents? 
Guitarist from Train

Woody Creek potato vodka is new this year, distilled just outside of Aspen near, you guessed it,
Woody Creek.  How about a sample? Gondola ride sized. 

New eatery in Aspen, Above the Salt.
New foods, new flavors, new wine adventures and new friends at the 31st Food & WIne Classic in Aspen.
Lindsay Feitlinger, Liz Moore McDermott, Carolyn O’Neil, Bridget Daley McDermott and
I don’t know who that guy is.

Congratulations Food & Wine Magazine for another great June weekend in Aspen.
Publisher of Food & Wine, Chris Grdovic Baltz salutes Devin Padgett, special events producer
for the annual party for 5000 food and wine lovers. 

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Veggies Culinary Stars in Aspen

What happened to the foie gras and caviar?

It seems top chefs are excited about vegetables. Three days of cooking seminars and wine tastings at the 29th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen – one of the world’s most exclusive and star chef studded culinary events in the world – enthusiastically embraced the beauty and benefits of Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini and kale.

Jose Andres, chef, cookbook author and owner of celebrated restaurants in Washington, DC’s including Jaleo and Zaytinya put his passion for cooking produce right up front with a seminar titled, “Sexy Vegetables.” Andres, known for his love of Spanish cuisine, zealously addressed a packed ballroom of enthusiastic foodie fans at Aspen’s St. Regis Hotel and expertly prepared eight vegetable dishes in under an hour including a radish and grapefruit salad with shrimp, watermelon and tomato skewers with a sherry vinaigrette, cucumber and tomato gazpacho with Spanish sherry and Brussels sprouts tapas with green apples and grapes. “Most people cook Brussels sprouts too long for 20 to 30 minutes,” Andres admonished, “Are we nuts? It should be two to three to four minutes! Don’t over cook them; it releases the sulfur smell and that is not sexy!”

Risotto for All Seasons
Sustainability expert and Connecticut chef Michel Nischan who is a culinary consultant to Atlanta’s Terrace Restaurant in the Ellis Hotel presented four risotto recipes –one for each season’s harvest of vegetables- featuring ancient grains called faro and spelt. Nischan, whose restaurant Dressing Room is known for local and organic menu items, centered on the health and taste advantages of eating with the seasons. He shared his definition of sustainability, “It means you give as much back to the earth as you take. For instance, composting leftover vegetable peelings creates more soil to plant more vegetables.”

Drink Your Salad


Andres, who was named 2011 James Beard Award Outstanding Chef, certainly knows about quality but he credits his recent 25 pound weight loss to focusing on quantity, “It’s really about the calories. Learning how much you personally should be eating.” Filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit is the latest diet advice from nutrition experts as illustrated by the USDA’s new My Plate icon. Filling your glass works too as Andres said about his gazpacho recipe, “You don’t eat the salad, you drink the salad!”

Aspen’s summer time vibe is lively with folks headed out hiking, biking, river rafting and fly fishing. The beauty of the wild flowers and Aspen trees spills over into the city’s cuisine. At The Little Nell Hotel, an epicenter for those devoted to dining, Montagna’s menu features great steaks and fabulous fresh fish but vegetables seem to rank just as high in the kitchen. A salad of greens, sliced radishes, fava beans and thin asparagus was so fresh it nearly leapt off the plate.

Wine with Vegetables


“Times they are a changing,” remarked registered dietitian Ashley Koff who noted that one of the Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs Joshua Skenes of Saison in San Francisco chose to feature a vegetarian dish of cauliflower and sea lettuce, “It was clear that the days of all animal all day are a thing of the past. As for what wines go best with your veggies, wine writer Mark Oldman helped me choose a delicious Spanish Rueda – the new “it” wine he said.” More than five thousand food and wine lovers converge to sample the best vintages and victuals each June in Aspen.

Isn’t That Jacques Pepin?

It’s a weekend where the majestic scenery of the Colorado Rockies is closely matched by culinary icon sightings. Jacques Pepin having lunch at Ajax Tavern with Atlanta chef and recent Bravo Top Chef winner Richard Blais. (Try the truffle fries!)

The French Laundry’s chef Thomas Keller having dinner at Aspen’s chic Cache Cache restaurant with chef Daniel Boulud of New York. My favorite food memory of the weekend- enjoying a grilled vegetable salad of marinated artichokes, butternut squash, Portobello mushrooms with arugula and chards of parmesan cheese at Campo de Fiori with Atlanta friends including winemaker Rob Mondavi and his wife Lydia of 29 Cosmetics. Taste, health, beauty and good fun. All that and plenty of vegetables being celebrated in Aspen this summer.
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