Classic Times in Colorado

Postcard from the Aspen Food & Wine Classic: Foodie heaven, celebrity chefs, spectacular scenery, and driverless cars


Aspen Colorado mountains
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Aspen Food & Wine festival chef addressing audience
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Scotty and Jana Arnoldy and Patrick Henry at Aspen Food & Wine festival
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Ski run above downtown Aspen
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Mickey Altman Randy DeWitt, Jack Gibbons, Tim Timbs at Aspen Food & Wine festival
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Chefs working for the large crowd at Casa Tua event at Aspen Food & Wine festival
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Robert Del Grande and Don Short with a bottle of Roxor Gin at Aspen Food & Wine festival
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Mickey Altman drives a Tesla without his hands near Aspen
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Jonathan Waxman and Johnny Iuzzini at Aspen Food & Wine festival
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Aspen mountain scene
Photo by Lonnie Schiller
Jonathan Waxman with Drew Neiporent at Aspen Food & Wine festival
Photo by Lonnie Schiller

Being in the restaurant business and also one of the founders of CultureMap, I decided when at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic to share some pictures because, after all, everywhere you look is a postcard. 

Of course it’s not possible to show the 75 degree weather and low humidity. And at 7,800 feet, the Aspen air is a little less thin than the really high resorts like Telluride and Breckenridge. Makes for an easier transition.

If you sign up for all the events and seminars that are part of the festival you can dive pretty deep. Well-known chefs and restaurateurs such as Danny Meyer, Tim Love, Andrew Zimmern, Daniel Boulud, Jonathan Waxman, and many more are giving the talks.

Within the tents and at some of the top hotels there are 40-plus sessions and demonstrations over the three days. Some
examples: Wines for Zillionaires; What to Drink with Fried Chicken; Cab Franc - The Godfather Grape; Food of the Jedi; How to Sound Sophisticated When Drinking Beer (I made that one up). 

Tent tickets for all this over the three-day weekend go for $2,000, and it's limited to 5,000 people. There are other good food and wine festivals around the country but being in Aspen and having the pick of the best chefs and brands, and with a affluent foodies, all tickets are gone six months early. 

An interesting aspect of the weekend is that, in addition to the sessions in the tents, there is a whole other series of events scattered around Aspen. Patrick Henry, founder of Houston-based Patrick Henry Creative Promotions, had four events in one day – all for different wine and liquor brands.

His company creates bar promotions and training for multi-location operators such as Interstate Hotels, Landry’s Inc., Front Burner Restaurants, and many more. So what better place to showcase all those products?

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Pictured here, Patrick Henry, right, with Houstonians Scotty and Jana Arnoldy.

Everywhere you look, the scenery is gorgeous. Here is the ski run above downtown Aspen. 

My friend Mickey Altman is a frequent visitor to Aspen. At one party Mickey and I ran into Randy DeWitt from Dallas. Randy’s company Front Burner Restaurant Group has some very successful restaurant concepts including Whiskey Cake, Velvet Taco and Twin Peaks. 

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Pictured here, from left, Mickey Altman, Randy DeWitt, Jack Gibbons, and Tim Timbs. 

Chefs work hard to prepare a feast for the large crowd at an event hosted by Patrick Henry Creative Promotions at Casa Tua restaurants (locations in Aspen and Miami).

My restaurant partner at Cafe Annie, Robert Del Grande, was in Aspen representing his Roxor Artisan Gin, with founder Don Short. Robert and Don are close friends who share a love of gin. Robert was a James Beard Award winner in 1992. 

While walking around the little mall area in downtown Aspen between parties we noticed across from one of the many cannabis dispensaries — they're starting to look like Prada stores — was a Tesla showroom. I had seen a lot of Teslas in town. We started chatting with showroom owner Nathan Kamens, who said, not surprisingly, that people in Aspen have lots of money and are generally very environmentally conscious. Thus lots of Teslas.

He said the Aspen festival is a great way to showcase the new Tesla models with so many people in town. We even went for a test drive down valley and Nathan showed us how the car drives itself. You just push a lever and it takes over. The car reads the yellow lines, knows the speed limit, takes the turns – it really does drive itself.

When back in town, the Tesla parallel parked itself. Nathan said you could send it to the pizza place and it would bring your order back (although that’s not yet legal).

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Pictured here, Mickey Altman demonstrates no-hands driving while in a new Tesla.

Celebrity pastry chef and cookbook author Johnny Iuzzini, left, and Jonathan Waxman, a pioneer of California cuisine, sign autographs.

 

A mountain view near Aspen.

Next we talked to Jonathan Waxman who cooked alongside Alice Waters at Chez Panisse and went on to open Barbuto in New York City, and is now coming full circle to open something new back in LA.

Jonathan told me, “I have been going to Aspen since 1981. I had my bachelor party in Aspen and I set up the Caribou Club with my dear departed buddy Harley Baldwin. I love the snow and skiing, the gorgeous summers, and fly fishing in the fall. I have hiked from Crested Butte to the Maroon Bells. I have driven four wheelers to Marble. I have hiked many of the local trails. And I love dining in Aspen. It is a perfect place.”

For a lot or Texans and many others, that about sums it up. 

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Pictured here, Jonathan Waxman, left, and New York City restaurateur Drew Neiporent.

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