Chamber kicks off Food and Wine Classic in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Chamber kicks off Food and Wine Classic in Aspen

The 36th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen kicked off in traditional fashion Thursday with the chamber of commerce luncheon at the Hotel Jerome.

In front of a packed ballroom, Aspen Chamber Resort Association President and CEO Debbie Braun joked with the crowd of business representatives that she didn't want to see anyone getting picked up off the ground intoxicated this weekend, and that they need to pace themselves.

"This is not a sprint, this is a marathon," Braun said with a grin.

Leslie Sbrocco, an author, wine consultant and television host, was the main speaker at Thursday's gathering.

She went into detail with the crowd on the three wines from Spain that were served, which were paired with chilled pea soup with burratta and morel cream, a frontier ranch trout with asparagus, fingerling potatoes, leeks and tarragon and a strawberry tiramisu mousse.

Sbrocco said she travels around the world engaging in the world of wine and food, and this weekend in Aspen outshines all of her experiences.

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"This is the best event I've ever done," she said. "This event is my favorite."

Sbrocco is hosting two seminars this weekend, "A Match Made In Heaven: Chocolate & Wine" and "Portugal's Perfect Pours."

And because it was an ACRA membership luncheon, a bit of business had to be taken care of.

Julia Theisen, vice president of sales and marketing for ACRA, reported that since the lodging tax was increased from 1 percent to 1.5 percent in 2010, the agency has been able to more effectively market the resort, particularly during the shoulder seasons.

She reported that occupancy has grown from 56 percent to 72 percent between May and September in the past seven years, and July is now the busiest month of the year at 76 percent full. And many weekends during that time are topping out at over 90 percent.

This summer's new messaging called "How to Aspen" is geared toward educating tourists on the do's and don'ts here — essentially how to play in the great outdoors and respect the environment at the same time. Key points are hiking etiquette, picking up after dogs and how to properly open a bear proof trashcan.

Then Theisen, while admitting it's a bit cheeky, asked the crowd to stand and join tourists in taking the "Aspen Pledge" which reads:

I pledge to explore Aspen responsibly.

I will come prepared for any experience.

I will feed my sense of adventure, but never feed the wildlife.

I will forgo high fashion, and dress for high elevations.

I will venture into the great unknown, while staying on the known trails.

I will carve the snow and not the trees.

I will find myself without Mountain Rescue having to find me.

I will hit the slopes without hitting other skiers.

I will take awesome selfies, without endangering myself-ie.

I will camp only where permitted and secure a permit when necessary.

I will remain in one piece, by leaving the wildlife in peace.

I will adhere to ski patrol closures as I wander here and there.

I will not ski in jeans.

csackariason@aspentimes.com