Where to hang this weekend at Aspen Food & Wine Classic — without a pass
Special to The Aspen Times
Though tickets to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen have been capped at 5,000 since the 1990s (tickets sell out mid-winter), more than double that number of visitors flock here during the three-day festival.
Clearly — as locals know — the official grand tasting and demonstration tents are only part of the long weekend’s culinary puzzle. While entrance is still available to Friday’s annual Food & Wine 5K Charity Run and a bubbly Sunday brunch at the Hotel Jerome, restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, outdoor venues, and private homes around town host myriad events open to the public, too.
Here’s what else is cooking, no Classic pass required.
HOTELS are the OG Aspen hotspots, and during the Classic they become headquarters for visiting chefs, producers, winemakers, and press. Widely known as chef central, The Little Nell unveils three ticketed wine experiences at element 47: The Great Domaines of France with Jay Fletcher on Friday night ($850) and on Saturday, a Krug luncheon and rare evening featuring Opus One ($2,000 for both). The dining room is open daily for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner (find a new vegetarian option on the Indulgence Menu), now offering house-made butter, artisanal cured meats, and dishes showcasing local American Wagyu beef. Late-night Champagne parties return to Chair 9 downstairs on Thursday and Friday with cash bar and entertainment.
Top chefs George Mendes (Aldea/Lupulo, New York) and Abe Conlon (Fat Rice, Chicago) are staging a “Portuguese Takeover” on Saturday at Chefs Club inside the St. Regis Aspen Resort. Find a four-course, prix-fixe menu (including sourdough rabbit sausage, marinated black sea bass, and optional Portuguese wine pairings), plus à la carte dishes on a limited version of the regular menu.
It’s a rare time to experience the members-only Caribou Club, which opens its doors to the public for a series of special events, beginning with Tequila Madness! on Thursday. There also are two California winemaker dinners: Jackson Family Wine on Friday and Martin Ray Vineyards on Saturday, both followed by a Monkey 47 Lounge in the nightclub.
Over at Jimmy’s Bodega, Fords Gin collaborates on a cool combo: large-bottled martinis (500ml) to pair with over-the-top seafood platters (1.5 pounds king crab legs, 18 oysters, 18 shrimp). Specialty Fords gin and tonics and Negronis will also be poured all weekend.
While Aspen Kitchen hosts a number of invite-only events over the weekend, chef Matt O’Neill will serve lunch Friday, farmers’ market brunch Saturday and Sunday, and happy hour beginning at 3 p.m. on all three days.
Beneath Aspen Kitchen, the new jazz/blues club Rickhouse Social hosts a NOLA Bourbon and Brass party serving up sazeracs, hurricanes, Cajun cuisine and live tunes by a brass band.
Also sponsored by American Express, but open to the public: A food truck stationed outside the St. Regis Aspen Resort will serve complimentary milk and honey soft-serve from NYC’s NoMad Hotel.
Wine at the Mine by The Infinite Monkey Theorem, Denver’s beloved urban winery, is sure to be cranking Saturday night — get on the almost-impossible guest list if you can.
POP ONTO A PATIO
Grey Lady Aspen is frozen-cocktail central. Frozé (rosé + slushie) will flow all weekend in collaboration with St. Germain, which hosts the booze-free-for-all formerly known as the Patron Party on Friday, this year open to the public. Enjoy popsicle cocktails and an adult-lemonade bar (vodka, gin, garnishes), plus an expanded bar menu, all closing with a public patio party Sunday.
Joining the ranks of farm restaurant and artisanal grocer Meat & Cheese around the corner on Hopkins Avenue, Rustique Bistro now serves lunch on its outdoor patio, tucked off the sidewalk.
Boasting one of the best clear views to Aspen Mountain, bb’s beloved second-floor patio is a prime spot to get up and away from the hustle and bustle.
Oenophiles who enjoy surprises should stop by Victoria’s Espresso & Wine Bar — Aussie owner John Beatty always has winemaker friends around.
Thursday evening, the free Snowmass Free Summer Concert Series draws guests to Fanny Hill for a performance by special musical guest See-I Reggae Funkmasters. The concert is paired with Cochon555’s wood-fired “Rustic Grind” Culinary Experience featuring heritage breed, responsibly-raised Colorado meats, along with Bourbon Punches, Smoked Old-Fashioneds from Breckenridge Distillery, Courvoisier Slushes and premium wines. All-inclusive wristbands may be purchased on site for $40. (Purchasing a wristband gets patrons a 5-ounce tasting glass and access to the Heritage Fire culinary preview.)
Belly Up Aspen brings in Guster on Thursday; The Struts, presented by Butter Chardonnay, on Friday; and ’80s maniacs The Spazmatics on Sunday. Ruckus and Bow Wow hits Bootsy Bellows on Saturday; Warren G is rumored to make an appearance this weekend, too.
Justice Snow’s features jazz and Americana on Sunday for brunch and late-night; head up Aspen Mountain for Bluegrass Sunday with Hardscrabble and a bite at The Sundeck.