Best Thing We Ate

Best Things We Ate and Drank at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

By Lori Midson  |  June 22, 2015

Following four days and nights of nonstop feasting and drinking, we just returned from the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen where celebrity chefs, food media, movie stars (Drew Barrymore!), big-name musicians (Pink!) and culinary fans from across the globe congregated against the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. After attending numerous parties, a slew of cooking demos and wine seminars, interviews, cocktail soirees and festivities in the Grand Tasting tent, we've cataloged the 15 best dishes and drinks we savored over the epic weekend in the slide show below.

  • At the Infinite Money Theorem Wine at the Mine party, a blowout bash high atop Smuggler Mountain, the animated crew from Basta and Cart-Driver wowed crowds with their thin-crusted, wood-fired pizza topped with fresh clams, oysters, octopus, kimchi, crushed red pepper and a liberal dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

  • It was a bona fide meat fest at the Wines of Spain party hosted by chef Katie Button (Curate and The Nightbell) and Fermín USA, and their sensational black sausage studded with onions and hints of pumpkin notes was a scene stealer.

  • Justin Brunson, chef-owner of Old Major, teamed up with the National Pork Board for a pig-centric blowout that included what may have been the best dish we ate all weekend: an oyster, country ham and chorizo bread pudding that had everyone, including Jacques Pépin, swooning.

  • That same event featured a terrific porch-pounding cocktail concocted with Buffalo Trace bourbon, rosemary syrup, a splash of Limonata, sprigs of rosemary and fresh berries.

  • Much to the delight — and surprise — of adventurous gastronauts, Brunson also served rings of housemade horsemeat sausage, which were intensely flavorful, tender and sweet.

  • The Food & Wine Classic opening party, held at the St. Regis, featured dishes from the magazine's past and present Best New Chefs, including Stephanie Izard, chef-owner of Girl & the Goat, Little Goat Diner, Little Goat Bakery and the forthcoming Duck Duck Goat. Her duck, duck, goat dumplings, a China-inspired dish that reflects what she'll serve at Duck Duck Goat, were topped with mushrooms, rings of Fresno chiles, basil and a chile sauce — and they were a huge hit.

  • Über-talented Food & Wine Best New Chef Carlos Salgado, owner of Costa Mesa's terrific Taco Maria, commanded long lines in the Grand Tasting tent thanks to his remarkably good scallop aguachile with cucumbers, serrano chiles, squid ink and hoja santa, a Mexican herb that's slightly peppery and tastes like anise. In a nutshell: love at first bite.

  • At the Wines of Spain soiree, chef Katie Button made heads turn and jaws drop with her dreamy white asparagus dish splashed with lemon vinaigrette and festooned with fresh tarragon and a "light as air" mayonnaise foam.

  • There's always more wine than food in the Grand Tasting tent, but we hit pay dirt when we happened upon the pâté-stuffed deviled eggs at the ASC Catering booth. Rich, decadent and crowned with edible flowers and pickled vegetables, they were one-bite marvels. 

  • At the AMEX Restaurant Trade Program luncheon, the Bon Vivants poured a super-refreshing Super Paloma with Ancho Reyes liqueur, Tequila Ocho Reposado, fresh grapefruit wedges, grapefruit soda, lime juice and a sprinkle of salt. It was exactly the kind of easy-drinking summer cocktail that was perfect for sipping under the blistering heat of the Aspen sun.

  • The AMEX Trade luncheon also spotlighted three celeb chefs, including Andrew Zimmern, Gabrielle Hamilton and Ashley Christensen (Poole's Diner, Beasley's Chicken + Honey and more). Christensen's blueberry-rhubarb cream pies were nothing short of sublime.

  • Lexus culinary master Michelle Bernstein (Cena by Michy, Seagrape, Crumb on Parchment) held center court in the Grand Tasting tent, where she created several dishes, including a luscious basil-burrata custard with heirloom tomato salad and tomato gel. 

  • There were plenty of spectators eyeballing — and eating from — the human serving platter at Rosenberg's Bagels and Delicatessen, one of the restaurants serving foodstuffs at the Wine at the Mine blowout. On that tatted, svelte body? Slices of pumpernickel festooned with shavings of glistening lox and dots of caviar.

  • Every year during the Classic, Wines of Spain takes the culinary trophy for its massive vat of paella, and this year was no exception. Chockablock with clams, mussels, calamari and sausage, it's no wonder guests were clamoring for another bite. 

  • The Denver Five, a troop of big-name Mile High City chefs, along with Seattle Fish Co., gathered at a private home in Aspen for its yearly party featuring an impressive spread of oysters, seafood, grilled meats and decadent desserts. Among the highlights: the charred octopus ceviche with mangoes, strawberries and Chili Caviaroli from Aniedra Nichols, exec chef of Elway's Cherry Creek.