A thousand miles away from where I live, the Aspen Food & Wine Classic took place this past weekend. And it always feels like home to me. This three-day event is the premiere food party in the US according to many . . . it’s intimate, secluded, located in one of the most bucolic places on Earth. It also offers superb demos by the biggest names in food (Batali, Andrés, Pépin, Flay), the best seminars from industry experts (Achatz, Keller, Colicchio, Nieporent, Meyer, et al), the most comprehensive wine education and sampling opportunities I have ever seen, and, of course, hundreds of the best chefs in world cooking dinners, hosting parties, cooking intimate lunches, and hanging out all over town. [caption id="attachment_843" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Grand Cochon finals"]
[/caption] There’s the famous Publisher’s Party at the top of Aspen Mountain (food this year from John Besh and Emeril Legasse), the Grand Cochon pig cook-off, the Grand Tasting Tents, and this year, the insane Elvis Costello concert for 1,000 folks with food stations all throughout Aspen Meadows helmed by Mario Batali, José Andrés, and Michel Nischan. It was a great weekend. I cooked a game demo on Friday, recipes on the newly re-launched www.andrewzimmern.com, and I was a judge for the Grand Cochon finals.
In between I went everywhere, saw everything and learned a ton. You can catch up on all the happenings on www.braiser.com, www.eater.com, www.foodandwine.com , and on my Instagram feed (chefaz) but here are some other little nuggets: Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger who lived and worked for years in the Twin Cities opened Catbird Seat in Nashville last year, and this season won a Food and Wine 10 Best New Chef award. They were blissed out all weekend and send their best back to all their fans and friends in Minnesota. I was so happy for them, and they will be a force in this business for years to come. [caption id="attachment_855" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Best New Chefs Dinner courtesy Aspen Food & Wine Classic"]
[/caption] The other winners were: Mario Carbone & Rich Torrisi Torrisi Italian Specialties New York, NY Danny Grant RIA Chicago, IL Dan Kluger ABC Kitchen New York, NY Corey Lee Benu San Francisco, CA Jenn Louis Lincoln Restaurant Portland, OR Cormac Mahoney Madison Park Conservatory Seattle, WA Bryant Ng The Spice Table Los Angeles, CA Karen Nicolas Equinox Washington, DC Blaine Wetzel The Willows Inn Lummi Island, WA
CeeLo Green loves Bizarre Foods. I promised him I would never eat his cat. This dude is really nice and owns Tyku Sake . . . who knew that??? Not me. Sean Brock is eating and cooking a lot of Chinese food this spring, just found a production company he loves, and is going to finally do his show about touring and cooking in the south. I am thrilled for him—he’s the real deal and a great guy. Hanging late one night with Sean, Linton Hopkins, and George Mendes, I learned that the Edwards aged, smoked country ham might just be America’s premiere slicing ham. Paul Qui is not saying anything about his new restaurant except that it will for sure be in Austin. I was with him late into the evening each night and I tried to extract more info, to no avail.
Rappahannock Oysters are the bomb. They have a salty and a sweet, depending on harvest zone on the river and I couldn’t stop eating them all weekend, and I am not usually a fan of east coast oysters. I went into a gun and rod shop over the weekend as it closed, I was looking at their custom line of Spanish shotguns and some of the deer rifles. Who did I find had the same idea as me but Tom Colicchio, an impassioned fly fisherman. He spent Sunday on the river and got some beauties . . . check out his Twitter pics @tomcolicchio. [caption id="attachment_844" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Courtesy Aspen Food & Wine Classic"]
[/caption] I had the pleasure of riding up the gondola to the Publisher’s Party with Mario Batali. He’s quite the music maven and his latest recommendations are Disappears, Jim White, and the Relayer album from YES. His Rome outpost of Eataly just opened last Friday, and he told me they had so many customers the Italian government had highway A1 closed at one point during opening day. HOLY CRAP! His food all weekend long was superb, and his reach might be the biggest of any star in the food world firmament. I adore that man. Tip of the year: Steve Dolinsky (born in the Twin Cities, my friends) hosted two days of Amex Trade Talks and the highlight for many of us was Sean Brock waxing poetic on the nature of the carrot, this years culty rediscovered vegetable champion. Describing the care his team at Husk and McReady’s in Charleston take to grow, harvest, wash, cook, handle the carrot, he said, “you can taste the intention in the carrot.” And suggested that with all food you should be able to do the same. I love that idea. Tim Love came up with the most brilliant lunch party idea for us to do together next year. It’s called The Game Show and yes, I think some grilled meat will be in play.
Elvis Costello has still got it. His set list was massive, his band killed it and he is one of the most gracious and funny men I have ever met, and he is obsessed with Johnny Cash. In a good way. [caption id="attachment_846" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Courtesy Aspen Food & Wine Classic"]
[/caption] José Andrés once again hosted the house party of the year at a stunning $26 million home on Buttermilk Road. Sponsored by the Wines of Spain, he and his team cooked dinner for 500 friends and a bunch of us all snuck into the living room with Jose to catch the 4th quarter of the NBA Finals. Wanting to support the OKC Thunder, at one point he got up and sang the title song from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma. You can’t even imagine . . . My buddy Jeremy was in Aspen with his mom—quite the lady. We are going to produce a show called Mom-tourage where five famous moms of food stars all come on a food trip with me, kvetching and harassing me the whole way. I like this a lot. I had ash macarons, ramp ash, almond ash, birch ash, pine ash, oak ash and about a dozen others this weekend. Ash is the new sous-vide. Oy vey.