Taking a Bite Out of Food & WIne | AspenTimes.com

Taking a Bite Out of Food & WIne

Rabbit porchetta served at the "Exotic Mediterranean" seminar Friday morning at Food & Wine in Aspen.
Rose Laudicina/The Aspen Times |

The 35th annual Food & Wine Classic continued Saturday with another full day of seminars, tastings, parties and other delights. As the newspaper of record in Aspen, we felt it our job to share the latest happenings and dispatched our team to cover the “foodie” side of the Classic. Bon Appétit!


Chef Ludo Lefebvre has become the most influential chef in contemporary Los Angeles, with the pop-up restaurant revolution of LudoBites and dishes like his French onion soup at Trois Mec and his escargot at Petit Trois inspiring rhapsodies from even the toughest of food critics.

But for his debut demo at the Food & Wine Classic on Friday morning, Chef Ludo went back to his roots. A native of Burgundy, France, he shared stories of meals and moments in the kitchen with his grandmother in Provence.

He prepared a Provence-style ratatouille and a tarte flambee (or “French pizza”) topped with caramelized onions, prepping vegetables and kneading dough while reminiscing about his grandma: how she would make a big pot of ratatouille, and then serve it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for days in different combinations; how he would sit in the kitchen doing his homework and watching her work her simple culinary magic; how she taught him to be gentle with a flame.

“I grew up with her in the kitchen,” he said. “I have amazing memories about her and her passion for cooking – for her family or just for my grandmother. She was so passionate. She was so serious about food.”

Many of her lessons were straightforward but have stuck with Lefebvre on his rise to culinary stardom, for example: “Cooking is just about good ingredients and some technique.”

Chef Ludo also deserves some high-altitude Aspen street cred for powering through his demo after running the Classic’s charity 5K on Friday morning.

“I’m shaking, guys,” he gasped to the crowd at the St. Regis. “I’m so tired from the 5K, ohh-la-la. … In my head I’m 25-years-old but the body is 46.”

– Andrew Travers

Chocolate Classic

Johnny Iuzzini knows a thing or two about chocolate.

As the mastermind behind Chocolate by Johnny Iuzzini & Sugar Fueled Inc. — as well as a pastry chef, chocolate maker, cookbook author, TV personality, judge on ABC’s “Great American Baking Show” and 2006 James Beard “Outstanding Pastry Chef” award winner — Iuzzini isn’t someone you question when it comes to concocting a sumptuous crepe dish at an Aspen Food & Wine Classic cooking seminar. But, then again, Brooke Williamson — Top Chef season 14 winner — isn’t one to “assist” without a few back-and-forth barbs.

“Brooke, you made me drink too much …,” began Iuzzini, as he challenged her to make a crepe up to par with his.

The end game: Notella Cashew Crepe Cake, which will be served at this year’s Farewell Feast.

So while Williamson made “pan-crepes” and Iuzzini made “crepes,” words of widsom were imparted. Among them: “Let it dance, dance, dance,” as the crepe cooks in the pan; measuring cups are only good for making sandcastles (grams is the way to create and follow a proper recipe); and a golden ticket at an Iuzzini seminar will get you luscious 500 gram bar of chocolate.

And not just any chocolate, all of Iuzzini’s creations are “bean to bar” — the sweeter version of “farm to table.”

“Think about flavor …” he said.

– Jeanne McGovern

Exotic Flair

It’s 10 a.m., my first seminar of the Food & Wine Classic 2017 and renowned chef Daniel Boulud is standing in front of me holding a skinned rabbit high in the air.

Strange enough, this wasn’t the only time he dangled a dead animal in front of the packed house at the “Exotic Mediterranean” seminar in the courtyard of the St. Regis, but more on that later.

Boulud teamed up with Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy, an Aspen local, to present three delicious dishes inspired by the Mediterranean with three wine pairings.

To go along with the rabbit dish, a porchetta, was a Rose, or as McCoy and most Food & Wine attendees call it, “summer water.” I’m not too fussy when it comes to food and I will always try anything once. So despite the appearance of rabbit dish, which looked kind of like meat sushi, I took a bite and was thrilled with the flavors.

“Once you go rabbit, you never go back,” Boulud said.

On to animal No. 2: octopus. Lucky for all attendees, the third course was eggplant, because I don’t really know how you can top dangling not one, but two octopuses in front of people.

My favorite dish was the honey-glazed eggplant. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender and reminded me the most of the Mediterranean. Or at least what I envision ithe Mediterranean to be like, I’ve never actually been there.

One of the best parts about the seminar was at each place setting there was a book of the recipes for the three dishes Boulud prepared for us, and it included the three wines McCoy had selected to accompany them.

“Once you’ve found the octopus and rabbit, it should all be very easy,” Boulud said.

From what I can tell, the recipes do look rather straight forward, and since some more obscure ingredients can be hard to find in Aspen’s small-town sized grocery stores, I’m inclined to agree with him.

– Rose Laudicina

Crazy Mad Tips

Every line cook has a dream, and for most it includes cooking whatever you want in the kitchen all day to figure out the best combination. No pressure: mix, cook and repeat.

Justin Chapple is living his dream at 33 years old and made his eighth trip to Aspen’s Food & Wine Classic this weekend. He has gained more prominence each time.

Making  a niche as a “mad genius” in the kitchen, Chapple first came to the Classic as an intern in 2010 and this weekend was leading a seminar, standing in front of a crowded room with a longtime national televison personality.

Chapple has climbed up to deputy editor of Food & Wine magazine and spends days in their test kitchen. His recent book, “Mad Genius Tips”  is filled with 90 expert hacks and 100 delicious recipes and each chapter involves a different kitchen tool. His style gives insight on the practical nature in real-life kitchen settings.

His fifth season of “Mad Genius Tips” just dropped on YouTube, and one of the hottest segments is what he introduced this weekend. After a mixed-berry spritzer, watermelon-chicken salad with arugula and a Bloody Mary hamburger, his segment on making an ice cream sandwich dipped in chocolate stole the session.

He has perfected that “magic shell”  — the hard-chocolate dip on ice cream cones that makes things just a bit sweeter. While his YouTube video on how to make fresh tomato sauce with a box grater has nearly 8 million views, his favorite remains the ice-cream shell  made from bittersweet chocolate and coconut oil (or any oil that solidifies when it gets cold, he said later).

Chapple calls his YouTube series “more fun, refreshing cooking videos,” and his excitement is contagious.

“I get a lot of culinary students ask, ‘how do I get your job?’ because it really is a dream job,” he said after Saturday’s session at the St. Regis. “I tell them, ‘say yes to everything in the kitchen and never say no at work.’ ”

After a few sips of his mixed berry drink (muddled berries, vodka, a hint of lime and splashed with Pellegrino) made by session co-host Tamron Hall, formerly of the “Today” show and MSNBC, Chapple delighted the crowd with a full cookout menu in 45 minutes.

His crazy-mad tips included a technique to make perfect watermelon cubes for the salad (go diagonal then vertical with cuts); how to shred chicken without two forks (plug in your stand mixer); making the perfect hamburger patties (save those round lids from takeout soup containers to mash the meat); and getting the perfect ice-cream insert for the sandwiches (don’t scoop, cut the pint container with a serrated knife).

Chapple first came to Aspen seven years ago as the only Classic intern for Food & Wine magazine after going to French culinary school in New York and serving as a line cook. He worked in Aspen for weeks ahead of time getting things ready for the 2010 Classic. After  that he became a recipe tester for the magazine, writer and now deputy editor.

“I’m losing my mind on how time flies and how much has happened in that amount of time,” he said. And his experiences at the Classic? “It’s just magical to watch it all come to life, and it’s so sad on Monday or Tuesday when we leave.”

– David Krause

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