On this final day of the Classic, it is appropriate to send kudos out to Food & Wine magazine Editor Dana Cowin, who, this year, celebrated her 20th year at the helm of the magazine. As those who labor at the keyboard know, there is no one in life more important, and no one more appreciated, than an editor. (Yes, that means you, Jeanne!)
Once the Cook-Off is complete and the final Grand Tasting takes place, there is still one more event to attend, Grand Cochon, this afternoon at the Hotel Jerome. This has become many folks’ favorite event of the Classic, and this year, for the first time, it is sanctioned as official by Food & Wine magazine.
If you have not attended Cochon in the past, you have missed one of the great culinary experiences not just of the Classic, not just of Aspen, but also of the entire country. Ten chefs, 10 pigs, a whole bunch of stellar wines, great cocktails and a major party — all for $200. Tickets, if they are still available, can be bought at the door at the Hotel Jerome.
It is interesting to note that the Classic now opens with a great “non-event,” as in an event that is not on the schedule, with Jose Andres’ Wines of Spain event, which kicks off each Classic on Thursday night at a luxury home in the valley. Now it ends with a “non-event” at the Jerome on Sunday.
The Cochon event is a culmination of a 10-city tour in which local chefs are given Heritage Hogs to utilize from snout to tail. The winners are then brought up to Aspen, where they compete to be the king or queen of Porc. Longtime industry professional and food purveyor Jim Galle, who attends the Classic each year, says that the Cochon event is “the epitome of cooking competitions. To reach the finals is an amazing accomplishment, and the chefs that take part have to excel at the highest level.”
Another part of the beauty of the Food & Wine Classic is that it provides an opportunity to taste wines from all over the world. Here is Australia, over there is Italy, and right next door is Argentina. I spent a good chunk of my day tasting Malbec from Argentina following a great presentation by the Zuccardi team. That was followed by a Garnacha tasting from Spain led by Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey, of Frasca in Boulder. It was a great example of how the world of wine comes to Aspen.
Of everything I heard and learned this week at the Classic, it was a quote from Stuckey that resonated most. In reference to the role that nature plays in creating great wines, he shared, “Mother Nature bats last every year.” Touche.