A classic Classic
Recently, Stewart Oksenhorn wrote an article in The Aspen Times about the abundance of cultural events in Aspen. Look at the lineup, and include the other national events that are played out on our local stage, like the World Cup and cable television sports promotions (the X Games), and it is clear that we have an embarrassment of riches.But this corner would like to acknowledge just how terrific the annual Food and Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen is. It is, year in, year out, the best event this valley has to offer. “How can you make that assessment?” cries the classical music lover and the Jazz Aspen fan. “Dude, whassup with that?” derides the skiercross aficionado with a sneer. “Perhaps you’re slightly off pointe,” demures the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet patron.Well, all can make valid points for their events being the big dog in our overcrowded kennel – and this column reserves the right to change its mind anyplace, anytime and at any event – but for now, the vote says Food and Wine is the best.Why?Perhaps the euphoria of the past week still hangs heavy. Despite the rain and snow, the streets of Aspen basked in the warmth of a million smiles for three days. Restaurateurs, winemakers and the people who love them get what life is about. They make lemonade of lemons; party until the wee hours and just generally have a great time. There is an aura in town, a palatable feeling that this is the only place to be if you love good food and good wine (which Paul E. Anna does. Passionately).But there is more than that. There is tradition. At 26 years and counting, F&W has shown that it has, to use a wine term, “legs.” Points are accrued because it is an event with local origins. Gary Plumley from Grape and Grain planted the seed that blossomed into a world party, and by God, he deserves some recognition locally. Perhaps wine could sprout from the Hyman Avenue fountain one day a year.It is also well-run. Devin Padgett has turned this multi-tent circus act into the Swiss watch of local events. Let his Devi Inc. take over Italy and the trains will, once again, run on time. The vast number of volunteers give Food and Wine a local presence unlike any other event. This past week tourists were offering sizable bills to buy the orange “Volunteer” T-shirts just so they could look like locals.It has great timing. So it rained on the parade this year. It still is as much a harbinger for summer as the opening of the ski lifts are for winter.But most of all, it is just a fun event. Three days of bacchanalia in a safe, beautiful setting that lures good people from the four quarters of the earth.Best in Show.