Taste buds continue to be pushed at Heritage Fire event in Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

Taste buds continue to be pushed at Heritage Fire event in Snowmass

Felix Florez couldn’t wait to coat his childhood with his own concoction of herbs, onions and lemon juice. The owner of Black Hill Ranch in Houston, Florez has made a business out of pork, lamb, beef and goat, but at Heritage Fire in Snowmass Village he opted to return to his roots.

“We have a ranch in south Texas. It’s been in the family four generations. And as a kid I would walk that 1,000 acres with a little .22 rifle and I would come back with 15 or 16 rabbits a day,” Florez recalled June 16.

“We’d cook them like we did today over the fire real slow and we’d just make tacos out of them. So for me it was going back to my childhood. I’ve got a special place in my heart for rabbits.”

Whether it was Florez’s rabbits, a hunk of sturgeon or a bit of octopus, the fourth annual Heritage Fire event didn’t disappoint for those looking to push their taste buds — and stomachs — to the limit. The event was founded by Brady Lowe and Cochon555, with the proceeds benefiting his nonprofit, Piggy Bank, which helps small family farmers.

“It’s an honor to be sitting here at this point,” Lowe said. “To have an event that people speak very highly of and they regard as one of the best food events of the weekend is amazing.”

Down the road in Aspen, the 36th annual Food & Wine Classic was in high gear. While there are obvious similarities between the events — note the abundance of food and alcohol — Heritage Fire is completely unrelated and completely unique in its approach. While known for its beef, chicken and pork, chefs pushed the barrier more this June, with a lot more seafood and, yes, rabbits.

“It’s hard for people to step out of their comfort zone and try new things,” Florez said. “People get stuck in a rut with what they eat.”

It wasn’t just about the main dish, either, as some chefs did what they could to round out the meal. Cue Napa Valley’s Peter Jacobsen and Team Toast, which provided a wood fire-grilled Gorgonzola ciabatta toast to the buffet.

“The diversity of food is important,” said Snowmass resident Kareem Dabbagh, who was part of the Team Toast entourage June 16. “People are doing drink pairings and things pair a lot with meat, but we had this Gorgonzola slather that we really make from scratch and slow cook here and it just soaks into the toasted ciabatta in a really nice way and pairs with any red wine that’s around, or even a whisky, something smoky. It just adds to the great diversity of food.”

Unlike the past few years, where Heritage Fire partygoers had to suffer though the blistering and unrelenting heat, Saturday’s event was held under overcast skies, with rain only causing issue toward the end.

“It’s community. It’s collaborative. So everybody is clicking together over fire, which is different than going to an event where everyone is just at their own table,” Lowe said. “It’s nice to open the doors a little wider so people don’t think it’s just a meat-focused event. It’s just about good farmers.”

And among those farmers was Florez, who wanted to bring his Texas childhood to Snowmass in the form of 40 slow-cooked, tender rabbits served up with bacon butter beans.

“When we were growing up, it’s you eat what you have in front of you or you don’t eat at all,” Florez said. “And I don’t know if people are doing that anymore these days. There is so much out there.”


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