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Aspen Food and Wine Classic back for 31st year

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Bob Ward/Special to The Aspen Times.

One of Aspen’s signature summer events — the annual Food & Wine Classic weekend — is back for its 31st consecutive year.

Christina Grdovic, senior vice president and publisher of Food & Wine magazine, said she couldn’t be more excited. The Aspen fete is considered the pinnacle of the magazine’s annual 18 events.

“As always, I couldn’t be happier being back in Aspen,” Grdovic said. “From the second I land, I feel like a local. I know the chefs do, too. Just this morning, I hiked Smuggler and ran into Jose Andres and his family. They just finished a 10-mile bike ride. Where else would this happen but here in Aspen?”

This year’s event sold out in late March, the earliest it has sold out since 2008. The price for a pass was $1,150 before March 15 and $1,250 after March 15. The vast majority of the passes sold before March 15, organizers said.

Each year, there is a cap of 5,000 passes for ticket-buyers, sponsors, exhibitors and volunteers. The passes will get their holders into most events — Thursday’s kickoff party at the Chef’s Club in the St. Regis Aspen Resort, for instance, and three days of seminars, demonstrations and grand tastings today through Sunday — but not all of them.

For example:

Participation in today’s Celebrity Chef 5K Charity Race, which starts at 7 a.m. at Rio Grande Park, costs $40. Registration begins at 6 a.m. Proceeds will go toward Food & Wine’s Grow for Good initiative, which has selected the Wholesome Wave Foundation as this year’s beneficiary. Wholesome Wave is a nonprofit that creates partnership-based programs to give underserved communities access to and affordability of fresh, locally grown food.

• Tickets also are available, for a price, to several reserve wine tastings and food-and-beverage pairings. Call 877-900-WINE for more information.

• The Last Bite Dessert Bash, hosted by Canadian culinary expert and “Top Chef” judge Gail Simmons, will be held today at 10 p.m. at the Hotel Jerome. Desserts by Johnny Iuzzini, Duff Goldman, Jacques Torres, Carla Hall and Dory Greenspan will be featured. Tickets are $125. Call 877-900-WINE to register.

• The Best New Chefs party Saturday night at the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain — celebrating the 25th anniversary of the magazine’s Best New Chef Awards — has sold out at a $250-per-person price.

Those who carry the highly coveted regular passes will have access to more than 80 cooking demonstrations and wine seminars as well as five grand tastings. Some 300 wines and luxury libations will be featured. In all, more than 50,000 bottles of wine will be poured this weekend in association with the Food & Wine Classic.

Other highlights include a “Conversations” series hosted by Dana Cowan, editor-in-chief of the magazine, with various guests today and Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at the Theatre Aspen tent near Rio Grande Park.

The daily grand tastings — a favorite among local residents who are wealthy or lucky enough to score a pass — will be held at their usual spot in Wagner Park. They are scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. today and Saturday and at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. The magazine’s best new chefs of 2013 will be on hand at the grand tastings, offering various delicacies.

Every year, the event closes with a featured cookoff between two celebrity chefs. This year’s culinary competition Sunday at 2 p.m. pits Andrew Zimmern, a contributor to Food & Wine magazine and other publications, against Geoffrey Zakarian, one of TV’s Iron Chefs.

“I’m sure these chefs will have some tricks up their sleeves,” Grdovic said.

While the city appears to be filling up because of Food & Wine, there are still many hotel rooms available in Aspen, according to Bill Tomcich, president of local reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass.

Tomcich said there was a significant shift in Food & Wine-related bookings to Snowmass Village hotel properties this year.

“This has not been the case in recent years,” he said.

Still, Aspen lodging-occupancy rates this weekend will exceed 80 percent, Tomcich said.

Grdovic said the Aspen community is an extension of the Food & Wine family and an essential part of this festival’s continued success.

“Something that gets me at every Classic is how warm and welcoming the people of Aspen are,” she said.

Food & Wine has ramped up its social-media presence this year, with regular postings on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram and Tumblr.

“Thirty-one years, and we’re always keeping it fresh,” said Jill Davison, a spokeswoman for the event.

Sponsors of this year’s Food & Wine Classic include the American Express Restaurant Trade Program, Fiji Water, Godiva, Kettle Brand, Lexus and Stella Artois.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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