Food & Wine Classic: Through the lens of a millennial
Special to The Aspen Times
We all know of the glamour of Food & Wine. We admire the luminaries, the pricey admission passes and the limitless amounts of food and booze that rest at our fingertips at every event for the three-plus days that are known to kick off summer in Aspen.
We relish the perfectly seared foie gras, the buttery roe smeared over a thin slice of Serrano ham and the decadent, unpasteurized cheeses that often accumulate so much mold they can barely be categorized in the dairy food group any longer.
All of the offerings at the Food & Wine Classic are luxurious, to say the least. But many of us who fall into the “millennial” age group haven’t been living long enough to really grasp just how special some of the events, chefs, drinks and dishes at the Classic are in the foodie world. And, additionally, how lucky we are to have these opportunities in a small town that is home to only about 6,000 people in the shoulder season.
I had very little knowledge about culinary delicacies when I first moved to Aspen 3 1/2 years ago. I knew the Food & Wine Classic was the party of the year, a time for limitless booze and rich tastings of food. The Grand Tasting Tent felt like the major leagues I’d been training for in my college years. I first gained access to it by volunteering. I cleaned up food scraps, napkins and cups for two days straight in the Grand Tasting Tent. As my reward, I got to spend the third day as a guest. My strategy was the traditional “down the hatch” approach. Anything and everything I could get my hands on I consumed. Details fell by the wayside in a conscious attempt at pure gluttony. I don’t want to speak for my fellow millennials, but I would guess many of them had a similar first experience at the Classic. It’s like being a kid in a candy store.
The next year I worked with 7X Beef. The company had a large booth in the Grand Tasting Tent. This gave me a chance to understand the work that went into the event. It also gave me the opportunity to talk with serious foodies and industry notables who, while enjoying the intoxicating tendencies of the Classic, were there to experience dishes that were helping to shape the dining scene across the country.
By the third year (2015), I had a media pass and was ready to learn. I experienced wine pairings with cheese guru Laura Werlin and
got to watch famous chefs Andrew Zimmern and Carla Hall compete in a cook-off. Even outside of the Food & Wine magazine events, there was plenty to see. I learned about whole-animal grilling at Heritage Fire and the immense amount of foods that go with pork at the Grand Cochon.
Now, in my fourth year at the Food & Wine Classic, I feel it’s best to share some of my experiences with the first-timers and anyone else who has cared to read up until this point. This is a weekend unlike any other. Although it’s a breeding ground for debauchery, it’s also a foodie’s haven and a chance to witness the forefront of food trends.
In conclusion, for the millennials during the Classic weekend, although this could and probably will be the most indulgent weekend of your life to date, try to pause from time to time and learn about what it is you’re ingesting. Take a note or two, research a favorite winery, or try out a recipe after the fact. Most of all, remember to appreciate the culinary opportunity in front of you. And, for our predecessors, please be patient with our entitled tendencies and our flagrant disregard for sobriety. We will learn — eventually.
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