Over the weekend, the state’s most prestigious — and certainly most gluttonous — food and wine affair unfolded in Aspen, where tastemakers from around the world traveled to the mountains for hundreds of sips, swirls, slurps and swallows. Raking in 5,000 attendees, the 36th Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen showcased on-trend food and beverage samples from top chefs, sommeliers and industry players, along with endless amounts of luxury tastes, from truffles and champagne to lobster and caviar.
However, what made this year’s installment stand out the most was its local presence. With a strong dedication to locally sourced products, Colorado truly shone in the festival’s limelight, thanks to the festival curators, participating vendors and special chef requests. “Part of the goal of the Classic is to encourage people to travel to Colorado, and specifically, to Aspen,” says event marketing coordinator Diella Allen. “We have a close partnership with the city and the Chamber, and we want to promote the local businesses, products, restaurants and hotels as much as much as we can. A lot of the people who come are from Colorado, but a lot of them are traveling in, too, and to keep a well-rounded view of the destination of Colorado’s amazing food, distilleries and beers is part of what the Classic is all about.”
Here are some of the top Colorado-based items that made an appearance — and, for your indulging pleasure, where to find them locally.
Lombardi Brothers Meats
Where to find it locally: King Soopers, Marczyk Fine Foods, Lucky’s Markets
Partnered with the Centennial-based National Cattleman's Beef Association (the group that brought you the slogan "Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner."), Lombardi Brothers Meats supplied juicy steaks and flavorful tastes throughout the weekend. While meat scientist Bridget Wasser butchered gorgeous cuts (which were then donated to nearby organizations), chefs prepared samples, like this unique and beefy take on Hawaiian poke. If you've got the urge to replicate this dish or just fire up the grill for simple summer cooking, look for local brands that Lombardi carries, including Boulder Natural Meats, Colorado Native Foods and Great Range Brand Bison.
Stranahan's Rocky Mountain Single Malt Whiskey
Where to find it: Pearl Liquors, Super Wines & Spirits, Argonaut, Trader Joe’s (790 Colorado Boulevard), King Soopers (4600 Leetsdale Drive, Glendale), and many other Colorado liquor stores
Stranahan’s watermelon and lemon cocktails were a light escape from the warm afternoon sunshine. The refreshing sweetness of the watermelon alongside the syrupy whiskey was the perfect summer pairing, with just a twist of citrus. In Denver, you can sip Stranahan's cocktails at the distillery's bar at 208 South Kalamath Street.
Where to find it: Tickleberry in Aurora (2780 Tower Road), King Soopers, Safeway
Easily one of the most visually appealing displays of desserts at the Grand Tasting, Tickleberry Desserts crafted a rainbow of different cake-on-a-stick specialties for the taking. Popular flavors like cake batter and cookies ’n’ cream kept those with a sweet tooth returning session after session.
Where to find it: Stem Ciders (2811 Walnut Street), Acreage (1380 Horizon Avenue, Lafayette), Pearl Liquors, Cost Plus World Market, Colorado Liquor Mart, SoBo Liquors, King Soopers
The team from Stem Ciders offered stacks on stacks of cans from its gluten-free repertoire. From the unique A Salted Cucumber to the subtly sweet Raspberry and Off-Dry to Real-Dry, there was a flavor for every cider lover.
Where to find it: Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocers, select King Soopers
Boulder-based Chocolove was a decadent favorite, serving bites of rich chocolate and salted caramel, along with a new release: pretty-in-pink ruby squares with pinot noir ganache — a sweetly fitting combo for Food & Wine.
HotBox Roasters Doughnuts
Where to find it: HotBox Roasters Cafe (3460 Larimer Street)
Commissioned to create the most indulgent of desserts for the annual Wine at the Mine bash, pastry chef Angel Barnett of HotBox Roasters (part of the Oskar Blues family) crafted a s’mores doughnut with chocolate and toasted marshmallows. Although this specialty doughnut isn’t on the cafe's daily menu, other drool-worthy selections include the Homer (strawberry pink lemonade with sprinkles), Espresso Cowboy (made with the house espresso and white- and dark-chocolate drizzles) and Biz-Marquee (chocolate-dipped Bavarian or glazed doughnut dipped in lemon curd).
Golden Moon Distillery Gun Fighter American Rye — Double Cask
Where to find it: Golden Moon Speakeasy (1111 Miner's Alley, Golden), the Proper Pour (3350 Brighton Boulevard) and many other Denver liquor stores
One of the most refreshing sips at the food, wine and spirits festival was a rye punch packed with buttery notes and a hibiscus kiss from Golden Moon Distillery. The recipe for the mystery bowl of spiked goodness wasn’t advertised, but a trip to the distillery or speakeasy (both in Golden) might help you find a loose-lipped bartender willing to share.
Bonus: Denver power pourers McLain Hedges and Mary Allison Wright of RiNo Yacht Club and the Proper Pour (both inside the Source) were spotted mixing Golden Moon Ex Gratia (a genepi-style liqueur) into their “El Yunque Cooler” at the AmEx Trade Afternoon Social Friday afternoon, blending the spirit with white vermouth and Fever Tree elderflower tonic.
Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Brownie Bites
Where to find it: Natural Grocers, Safeway, King Soopers, Marczyk Fine Foods, Whole Foods, Sprouts
Loveland’s own Canyon Bakehouse had a most popular presence over the weekend. Although the brand is known around town for its line of breads, bagels and buns, mountains of brownie bites were a strong favorite — avocado toast was a close second — underneath the tasting tents.
Marble Distilling Co. Moonlight Expresso and Bonfire Coffee
Where to find Moonlight Expresso: Argonaut, Bottle Shop 33, AppleJack, Molly’s Spirits, Illegal Pete’s, Mercantile, Cooper Lounge, Next Door Lounge, Star Bar
Although these two Carbondale companies united to craft a localized cocktail (the Bonfire Iced EXpresso Coffee Cooler) for special guests in Aspen, there’s no reason Denverites looking for a complementary buzz-n-jolt can’t DIY these coolers on their own. Start by ordering a pouch of Bonfire Coffee Black Velvet cold brew online (or substitute your favorite local cold brew), then snag a bottle of Moonlight Expresso coffee liqueur nearby and add heavy cream and ice. If you’re not into the whole home-mixology thing, Denver bars that carry the coffee liqueur can probably shake you up a close approximation.
The booze isn't the only thing that will keep you feeling warm and fuzzy if you visit Marble Distilling's facility – there's also a local mission behind the product. “The social, economic and environmental balance that comes with local sourcing is what drives Marble Distilling's decisions to 'keep it local,'” says head distiller Connie Baker. "The significant reduction in Marble's carbon footprint by sourcing locally is a win-win for the planet."
Grower’s Organic Colorado Produce
Where to find it: Grower’s Organic GoBoxes, Natural Grocers, Whole Foods
Standout dishes from San Francisco-based Ravi Kapur of Liholiho Yacht Club came one after the other at Saturday afternoon’s AmEx Trade luncheon, which sported a luau theme. Along with succulent ribs, fried chicken thighs and tuna poke on flash-fried seaweed strips, items from Kapur’s chilled octopus salad were sourced locally from Grower’s Organic, right here in Denver. Japanese cucumbers, Thai basil and curly kale were the refreshing and flavorful elements that added texture to the lighter offering of afternoon concoctions.
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