While the rest of you were in Denver, languishing in the beat of the summer heat, thousands of culinary cognoscenti, many of them heeled in stilettos and outfitted in backless black dresses showcasing perfect spray tans, spent the weekend at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen hobnobbing with some of the country's top chefs and winemakers. The chef demonstrations, wine seminars, blowout grand tastings, invite-only lunches with the likes of Eric Ripert, Ming Tsai and Jacques Pepin, private house parties, rooftop parties, poolside parties and altitude-high parties on the crest of Aspen Mountain naturally resulted in debauchery, culinary capers and frolic.
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Those that sojourned to Aspen on Thursday -- and had the requisite invites -- were treated to a welcome party at the glitzy St. Regis, where a concentration of celebrity chefs, including Tsai, Pepin, Marcus Samuelsson, Daniel Boulud, Grant Achatz and Andrew Zimmern converged with Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs, as well as Bravo's Top Chef winners. There seemed to be a lot more food than wine, but that's probably because everyone was waiting to bloat their stomachs at one of the most epic parties in Aspen: José Andrés's Spanish-themed jubilee of wine and food, always held at a sprawling mansion worth millions of pounds of Iberico ham. While many of the chefs sequestered themselves in the TV viewing room to watch the Miami Heat slaughter the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA finals, the highlight of the night was Andrés and Pepin sprawled out in a king-size bed, fluffing pillows and clinking wine glasses.
On Friday, Tsai and Pepin cooked lunch together for a posse of their peers, while the always hospitable (and insanely swoon-worthy) Eric Ripert hosted a luncheon featuring cuisine from the Cayman Islands. Parties all over Aspen, including a slew of swine-centric sprees, went well into the wee hours of the morning, and somewhere along the way, I tripped over Tom Colicchio.
Speaking of Colicchio, he danced his booty off Saturday night during a concert at Belly Up that featured the Spazmatics, a fantastic Texas-based '80s cover band that very well may have resulted in the the best two hours in Aspen. If these guys are ever in Denver, do yourself a favor and go to their concert -- they're brilliant. Colicchio -- and his cohorts -- mingled outside after the dance bash, bantering about dudes, dancing and dating, not necessarily in that order.
Before that party started, Food & Wine's Best New Chefs dinner uncorked at the top of Aspen Mountain. The celebration, now in its 25th year, ballyhooed an onslaught of past celebrity chef winners, including Thomas Keller, David Chang, Daniel Boulud and John Besh, all of whom could not have been more gracious, especially Keller, who came to my rescue when I embarrassingly began choking on Chang's rotisserie lamb ssam, which was stellar, by the way. But the star that night was Boulud, whose housemade charcuterie lineup -- terrines, sausages and pâtés -- was absolutely astounding.
If you missed the revelry, take a journey though our photo gallery -- and mark your calendars now for next year's Food & Wine Classic, slated for June 22-24.