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Hangover Observations: Aspen Food & Wine Classic 2013

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[Photo: Paula Forbes]
[Photo: Paula Forbes]

This past weekend the illuminati of the restaurant world descended on the town of Aspen, Colorado for the annual Food & Wine Classic. There was an Eater Lounge at the Limelight Hotel — check out the coverage here — and all kinds of seminars, panels, special meals, parties, and other shenanigans. This year was the 25th anniversary of Food & Wine's best new chef program, which resulted in a gala on top of Aspen Mountain featuring food from the likes of Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, David Chang and John Besh. Other highlights of the weekend included Grand Cochon (Adam Sobel of RN74 took home top honors), José Andrés' welcome party, the annual Publisher's Party (also atop Aspen Mountain), and much, much more. Ladies and gentlemen, time to break out your finest "mountain chic" attire, because it's time for Hangover Observations.

Thursday evening, José Andrés threw a party at a massive three story house just outside Aspen proper with wine and snacks from Spain (including his own line of food). On the lowest level, Andrés, Mario Batali, Susan Feniger, and others watched the San Antonio Spurs lose to the Miami Heat in the NBA finals (much to Andrés' dismay). Meanwhile, Top Chef's Gail Simmons did some recruiting for the charity 5K to be held early the next morning, and Andrew Zimmern let Andrés' daughters paint his nails. Quote Zimmern on the photo: "The hand with the hairy knuckles is mine." The crowd started to break up just as it started pouring rain.

Spotted at the 5K the next morning: Marcus Samuelsson, Richard Blais, Danny Meyer, Gail Simmons.

Friday was the Eater Lounge at the Limelight Hotel. Chefs dropped by for interviews and chats all day, and almost every single one of them asked if the pastries on the table were cronuts. (They were in fact Japanese treats from Denver bakery Glaze; David Chang knew them from sight.) Pals Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert took a chance to catch up with each other in French; the phrase "avion privé" came up several times. Portland chef Jenn Louis arrived with an armload of t-shirts from her restaurant Lincoln, one of them which promotes her upcoming gnocchi cookbook declares "Gluten Is Not the Devil" in Italian.

José Andrés only had a few moments to talk before a book signing, but managed to drop mysterious hints about "another country, south of the United States" before his PR team dragged him away. David Chang and Wylie Dufresne dropped by en route to a screening of Man of Steel; somewhat serendipitously they arrived at the same time as Grant Achatz and were game for an epic group interview. (Achatz during the interview said he ended up in a car trunk at some point during the weekend; Zimmern confirms via Twitter.)

During the Lounge, Eater acquired a brochure called the +1 Club Handbook, a guide to being a guest of the talent at Aspen. Rules include: "1. Don't be a schmuck. 2. Don't be a glutton (avoid getting all blotto). 2. Show some love." More on that in another post soon.

Also spotted at the Lounge: Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods), Jamie Malone (Sea Change, Minneapolis), John Besh (various, New Orleans), Jonathon Sawyer and Matt Danko (Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat, Cleveland), Sarah Simmons (City Grit, New York City), Erik Anderson (Catbird Seat, Nashville), Hugh Acheson (various, Atlanta and Athens), Jason Vincent (Nightwood, Chicago), Dana Cowin (Food & Wine), and the one and only Drew Nieporent.

This is just a good Vine of Top Chef winner Kristen Kish doing shots with Ming Tsai:

Ming Tsai and Jacques Pepin personally cooked lunch as part of a series of AmEx events at the Hotel Jerome for a crowd of industry insiders including Drew Nieporent, who held court with Myriad alums and State Bird Provisions chef/owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski. Danny Meyer literally could not stop being hospitable, at one point going out of his way to pick up a dropped fork for someone.

A party at Sky Hotel was full of bartenders dressed like hair bands, tasty mezcal negronis, and a strong Dallas contingent including former Top Cheftestapant John Tesar. One bartender had a bottle of Aperol fixed with a video camera and filmed pouring shots into people's mouths. Afterwards there was allegedly a mysterious party where rare mezcals that are unavailable in the United States were served out of plastic water bottles.

Saturday night there was a party celebrating the 25th anniversary of Food & Wine's Best New Chef program on top of Aspen Mountain. Thomas Keller (who had an insane line for his food that wrapped around the room), David Chang, John Besh and Daniel Boulud were the somewhat astounding lineup of chefs for the event. Chang did Lamb Ssam while Keller served a selection of raw bar concoctions; Boulud took care of charcuterie and Besh went Cajun/Asian with duck rice bowls.

The BNC party meat, it turns out, went up the gondola like the rest of the guests.

[Photo: @chefstevemchugh]

During the Oyster 10 Ways seminar on Saturday, Dana Cowin kneeled on the stage and asked José Andrés if he would return to the Classic in 2014. This was as an immediate response to Andres sharing with the audience that he's always a little concerned he won't be invited back after his antics at each festival.

José Andrés and Mario Batali traded children during one of the seminars the two chefs were teaching. Two young Batalis were sent to the José Andrés lecture, and two Andres girls sat through the Italian chef's rants about the supremacy of Parmesan cheese.


Chef John Besh was up to all kinds of antics on Saturday. His Instagram feed was flooded with #thehatproject, a series of photos of random folks — including Gail Simmons, Ken Oringer, Tyler Florence, Crew Chason, and some Eater editors — wearing a hat of his choosing. Later in the evening, at the Best New Chefs party, Besh was still up for goofing around, including arm wrestling random Eater editors for photos.

Ilan Hall apologized for the dance skills (or lack thereof) exhibited during an 80s cover band show at Belly Up Saturday night:

And finally, Thomas Keller had some advice for Houston chef Chris Shepherd and the rest of this year's Best New Chef class:

Other Aspen Food & Wine Classic Coverage

· Chef Richard Sandoval Talks Top Chef Masters and New Tequila Projects [Eater Denver]
· Max MacKissock of the Squeaky Bean on Poaching Eggs and Waking Up Naked by the Pool [Eater Denver]
· Food & Wine Classic 2013 Is Underway [Curbed Ski]
· You Know It's Food & Wine In Aspen When... [Curbed Ski]
· Travel Writer Katie Shapiro With The Inside Line On Food & Wine [Curbed Ski]
· What Was Ali Larter Doing at the Food & Wine Classic? [THR]
· Working Aspen [NRN]
· Where's the Colorado in Aspen? [NRN]
· Chefs, Rancher Talk Nose-to-Tail Cooking [NRN]
· Aspen Food & Wine Classic Brings it Home [Aspen Times]
· Dallas Does Aspen Food & Wine Classic [D Mag]
· Scenes From the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen [GSNY]

—These Hangover Observations were brought to you by F&W Classic Team Eater 2013: Paula Forbes, Amy McKeever, Andra Zeppellin and Whitney Filloon.

· All Aspen 2013 Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Hangover Observations on Eater [-E-]

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