Time to wine and dine | AspenTimes.com

Time to wine and dine

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

The Food & Wine Classic is often considered Aspen’s game, but a few Snowmass Village chefs are proud to strut their stuff during the epicurean festival this weekend.

Ricard, Eight K, The Artisan and Bia Hoi all will be serving food in the grand-tasting tents in Aspen this weekend. While it’s hectic in the tents, where the chefs have to cook about 1,000 plates on site, it’s an exciting opportunity to reach everyone from locals to visiting food lovers to the top chefs in the country, they say.

“It’s fun to have that face-to-face interaction with everyone and see some famous chefs walking around,” said Randall Baldwin, executive chef at the Artisan. “Two years ago we got a thumbs up from Jacques Pepin … that was awesome.”

Jeff Armstrong, chef at Bia Hoi, has a similar story about Pepin, one of his idols, said his wife, Toni. It feels good to get rave reviews in the tent, she said.

“In our own right, we like to showcase what we have and show that we can rub elbows,” Toni Armstrong said.

Baldwin will be serving a new dish on The Artisan’s summer menu — citrus-roasted brussel sprouts topped with bacon, Avalanche goat cheese and tobacco onions — in the tent on Saturday morning. Every year, he looks forward to finding the perfect wine from one of the neighboring booths to pair with his dish.

Bia Hoi is serving a rice salad with house-made pork sausage.

“It’s actually a favorite dish,” Toni Armstrong said. “We get a lot of rave reviews about it so I think it should be a hit.”

Will Nolan, executive chef at the Viceroy Snowmass, has barbecue shrimp and grits from Eight K and frog legs from Ricard on the menu for the grand tasting on Sunday. But that’s not all for Nolan: He’s joining the team from Root Down in Denver during Heritage Fire, a live, outdoor cooking event on the Base Village lawn on Friday.

“It’s whole-animal cooking,” said Nolan, who plans to use his trademark Louisiana flavors in cooking up the rabbit his team will be given.

He’s also a judge in Grand Cochon, an event that has outgrown Aspen and moved to the Viceroy grand ballroom because of its popularity. Chefs who have won competitions in their home cities will cook and serve whole pigs in the event on Saturday night.

It’s no small thing that those two events as well as a kickoff party on Wednesday night — which all three restaurants are also participating in — are taking place in Snowmass.

“Let it be known that Snowmass is a power to be reckoned with,” Nolan said.