A guest blog post by Tracy
NEWS FLASH…Aspen is Fabulous! Perhaps that’s not exactly breaking news. After all, you don’t earn a reputation for hosting the rich and famous without a damn good reason. And while I’ve never visited in winter when the snowbirds flock by the thousands to ski Aspen’s renowned slopes, I can certainly tell you with confidence that summer has something truly special to offer…the Aspen Food & Wine Classic!
Without going any further, I should let you in on a little secret…I’m neither rich nor famous. I’m quite frankly a passionate consumer of delicious food and wine (and have no discernible expertise regarding either). For years, my boyfriend and I dreamed of simply eating and drinking our way through one of the most prestigious food and wine festivals in the country, and finally made that dream a reality this summer.
I’m not going to lie to you…financially, this event is not for the faint of heart. So, for those of you who’ve yet to have the pleasure of attending, here’s essentially what you can expect:
The Aspen Food & Wine Classic takes place over a period of three days in mid-June, and only 5,000 Consumer Passes are sold each year. Therefore, being fully aware of the highly coveted nature of these tickets, I relentlessly stalked the Food & Wine website, anxiously awaiting my opportunity. In mid-December, I literally squealed with delight when a pre-sale was announced…exclusively for American Express cardholders. CRAP! First order of business: Get an American Express Card!!! The pre-sale provided $100 off the normal ticket price, so with my shiny new American Express Card in hand, I eagerly purchased two Consumer Passes at the cost of $1,550 each. [GULP] If it helps, each [mortgage payment-priced] pass included seven seminars and five Grand Tastings throughout the festival weekend.
Next order of business was to book a hotel. As you might imagine, Aspen is a costly destination, and even more so during special event weekends. Therefore, after much research (and utter shock at the exorbitant rates at famous hotels like the St. Regis and Hotel Jerome), we booked a room at the St. Moritz (a small, clean, European-style hotel), which is located in a residential area, just ten to fifteen minutes by foot to nearly everything downtown Aspen has to offer. We reserved a king room with private bath, which – by Aspen standards – was a steal (approx. $250 per night).
Now for the fun part…in mid-April, we received the highly anticipated email from Food & Wine notifying us that it was time to choose our seminars from an extensive list of options. (More on our particular choices later.) Subsequently, in mid-May, we were notified that we had the option to purchase tickets to The Height of Good Taste, a wine dinner at The Sundeck on TOP of Aspen Mountain ($275), as well as the Farewell Feast: A Bubbly Brunch at the Hotel Jerome ($150), ultimately deciding to splurge on both. Go big or go home, right?!?
Imbibing…a True Test of Endurance
After a tortuous six-month wait from the time we purchased our tickets, we finally landed in Aspen a full 24 hours before the festival began. After a change in altitude of nearly 8,000 feet, we felt it prudent to assess our drinking stamina. (We’d hate to embarrass ourselves, after all.) So, to that end, we quickly dumped our luggage at the hotel and began our assessment at the St. Regis Hotel (try the Downhill Snapper Bloody Mary with fresh basil and dill!)…
…followed by a glass of Prosecco at the Red Onion (Aspen’s oldest restaurant and bar, established in 1892)…
…next enjoying a lovely French sparkling rosé at So (the rooftop bar at the Aspen Art Museum)…
…then a much-needed afternoon siesta. Did I mention we woke up at 3:00 a.m. to catch our flight?? (By the way, we were fortunate enough to save a few [hundred] dollars by booking our airfare using miles on United Airlines. #winning)
After our snooze, we picked up right where we left off by strolling over to Jimmy’s for a couple of pre-dinner cocktails (don’t miss the Dulce Caliente if you can tolerate a little heat)…
…eventually heading over to The Wild Fig for dinner. This was one of our favorite meals of the weekend, and we would definitely return if ever lucky enough to visit Aspen again. The rack of lamb (with accompanying wine from the Willamette Valley) was sensational!
Dinner was followed by…you guessed it…more drinks – this time at Justice Snow’s where I had a tasty off-menu cocktail for which I can’t recall the name, and my boyfriend braved an absinthe cocktail of some kind (I decline to discuss my checkered history with absinthe).
Last stop…Chair 9 at The Little Nell for the pre-festival Champagne Party presented by Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot. In addition to the DJ, they had an electric violinist, Kat V, who was absolutely extraordinary! And although the entertainment was top-notch and the glasses of Veuve Clicquot beyond delicious, exhaustion began to rear its ugly head and we finally called it a day. At the risk of showing off, it’s clear our first day at 7,900 feet was a complete and utter success…a true testament to our fortitude…a declaration of our commitment …blah, blah, bah. (Tell that to Friday morning’s relentless headache – just don’t say it too loudly.)
Tracy Thornton, Guest Blogger
Read a short bio on Tracy in Red Shoes. Red Wine.‘s Guest Contributor section here. Follow Tracy’s adventures in Travel, Wine, and Photography on Instagram: @texanstracy