If you’ve never been to Aspen Food & Wine … here are reasons NOT to go to: 1. You don’t really like to eat or drink. 2. You are on a diet and plan on sticking to it. 3. You don’t own stretchy pants or a loose-fitting dress. 4. You hate fun. 5. Paying the hefty $1185 a pass. That last reason, the expense of getting here and putting yourself up is probably the biggest reason and only reason why more people don’t or can’t come. Although, if you drive up (like we do in our mini-van) and stay in Snowmass (very kid & family friendly AND cheaper) – you can actually do it and not spend a lot of $$, except for the pass. We usually split a nice-sized condo in Snowmass with friends.
Next year is the festival’s 40th anniversary, so if you’re saving up for something special, that would be the time to go. TONS of stuff for the kids to do in Aspen and Snowmass, so you can always pepper your trip with fun hikes, bike rides, s’mores by campfire, fishing, swimming, rafting, etc.
I’ve been going to the Aspen Food & Wine festival since 2002 and I always have a great time. Lots to eat, lots to drink and always something to learn. This was a great year, but a very light year as far as liquor brands having a presence. A lot of my mixologist friends didn’t make it out this year which just means big budget cuts. I find it interesting, given that I think the festival itself is at an all-time high. Maybe because of the incredible exposure it has gotten from shows like “Top Chef,” they completely sold out of passes, something they haven’t done since 2004. But, perhaps it’s just a fluke and next year will be an insane year for my industry.
I did a few events – a book signing at a Beam Global brunch, a Mount Gay event (made a Mai Tai) – see recipe and image below, and a Social Mixology event for the closing day pool party. Great fun … except for the part where I got thrown in the pool … okay, I didn’t get thrown in the pool, but relented to the peer pressure of people yelling and clapping for me to make the jump. My friend, Tobin Ellis, puts together these pop-up speakeasies around the country, called “Social Mixology.” He announces what city he will be in, but you don’t know exactly where the event will be, what time it starts or the password to get in until he emails it that day. If you like that kind of thing, definitely check out the website and register. His events do not disappoint. He did another event during the festival called “El Mustachio” – it was an agave party. The password? Well, you had to be wearing a mustache to get in. (The best was this woman who had written “Talk to Selleck” on her upper lip.) There was also the SKYY party which was themed “Hell, Yeah!” which was great.
Mount Gay Mai Tai
1.5 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
0.5 oz Cointreau
0.5 oz simple syrup
0.5 oz orgeat syrup (almond syrup)
1 oz lime juice
Dash of Angostura bitters
Dash of orange bitters
Float of Mount Gay Extra Old rum
Garnish: Orange flower (rolled up orange peel w/ mint sprig)
Directions: Combine all the ingredients (except the Mount Gay Extra Old) in a cocktail shaker. Top with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into an iced glass. Top with a float of Mount Gay Extra Old rum. Garnish.
One of the great things about Aspen is how kid & family friendly everything is. Unlike other years where I’ve been completely crazy busy, and up to my ears in prep-work, this year I really got to take it easy and do some really cool things with the family. We biked from Aspen to Woody Creek Tavern. A BEAUTIFUL ride following the river all the way down. It’s about an 8-mile ride one-way, but downhill the whole way. Took us about an hour, had a couple of margaritas at Woody Creek Tavern and called a bike taxi to take us back up to Aspen.
Another great thing we did was took a trip to the Grottos. About 30 minutes outside of Aspen. A beautiful hike – lots of cool ice caves to check out. Due to amount of snow they had this past winter, the rapids here are epic and really high. Check out the picture below. I think normally, this is a small little waterfall, but it was roaring.