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Current Events

The Grand Tasting drew thousands of people to the early session on Saturday. Aspen Times/Mark Fox

Attendees have come to know what to expect from the Food & Wine Magazine Classic: the grandest gathering of chefs and winemakers to be found anywhere. To celebrate the Classic’s 25th anniversary (Friday through Sunday, June 15-17), organizers are serving up more of the same with Mario Batali, Giada De Laurentiis and the French Laundry’s Thomas Keller among the culinary stars. But giving the silver anniversary Classic extra zest are a menu of new offerings. Colorado beekeeper Mark Beran will pour mead, a wine made of honey; Greece, Puerto Rico and Colorado will stake out their own spaces in the Grand Tasting Tent; and there will be presentations on coffee and Rémy Martin champagne cognacs. Not all of the new components are about feasting; Classic participants will have numerous opportunities to donate to Grow For Good, a Food & Wine campaign to support small farms. Kicking off the Classic on Thursday, June 14, is a fireworks display over Aspen Mountain, a gift from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

The laidback demeanor of the waiter at Smoke, the new barbecue restaurant in Basalt’s Willits neighborhood, could well have been taken for laxity. A long wait for the drinks heightened this concern. But by meal’s end the vibe smelled more like a quiet confidence than remoteness. Smoke, opened by former Maroon Creek Club chef Jamie Theriot, only started firing up its smokers earlier this spring, but it has earned its self-assurance. The meat – barbecue standards, but prepared in a roundup of regional styles ranging from Texas to the Carolinas – were succulent, plentiful and nicely priced (smoked beef brisket dinner, with two sides: $13.95). Smoke bills itself as “modern barbecue,” a tag that comes through in the semi-sleek décor – no wooden benches here – and the side dishes. The creamed spinach had parmesan cheese added; for a potato we went with the uncommon but excellent choice of hashed browns. The menu also offers salads, a gumbo du jour – and a marinated, dry-rubbed, smoked tofu, which general manager Damon Clifford swore has actually been ordered by diners. Open for lunch and dinner.

Betts & Scholl is not based in Napa, the Barossa Valley, or on “the Rock” of France’s Rhone River known as Hermitage. The two principals in the label live far from the world’s wine hot spots: winemaker Richard Betts is in Aspen (where he is master sommelier at the Little Nell), while partner Dennis Scholl splits his time between Aspen and Miami. Both, however, keep their eyes and palates fixed on what is being grown and produced in France, Australia and California. After narrowing down their favorite regions and makers, the two go to the source to work with local producers. The results have been worth the effort; a 2004 California syrah is full and delicious, and their Chronique (later renamed “the O.G.”) is helping put Australian grenache on the map. In partnership with Boulder’s Frasca restaurant, Betts & Scholl rolls out its latest – the Scarpetta, using little-known tocai friuliano grapes from northeastern Italy – at the 2007 Food & Wine Classic. Also, look for Betts leading a series of reserve tasting seminars at the Classic.

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