Food & Wine Classic in Aspen for First-Timers

Food & Wine Classic in Aspen for First-Timers

2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

When this culinary event launched, it attracted a mere 300 foodies. This year, more than 5,000 epicureans are expected to descend upon the Rocky Mountain town.

For a first-time attendee, the event can be a bit daunting. There’s so much to see, taste and sip.


Here’s my advice on how to get the most out of this incredible event.    

Tip #1 – Wear comfortable footwear.

Sure, everyone in Aspen looks like they’ve stepped straight off the pages of Vogue, but grass and stilettos don’t mix – the Grand Tasting Pavilion is outside at Wagner Park. Save your super cute, but painfully uncomfortable footwear faves for late night at the Caribou Club.


Tip #2 – Stay hydrated.

The mountain town of Aspen resides at nearly 8,000 feet in elevation. Once you reach 6,000 feet above sea level, you start to exhale and sweat twice as much moisture as you do at sea level. Do the math and be sure to drink lots of water.


Tip #3 – Pace yourself.

When it comes to food and alcohol consumption, moderation is key. Lower oxygen levels at high altitudes make it harder to metabolize alcohol and those tasting pours of wine will sneak up on you. Ditto for food. Don’t race to taste everything in one day. There are five opportunities to sample and savor hundreds of items at the Grand Tasting Pavilion over the course of the weekend, so take your time.


Tip #4 – Celebrities are people too.

Aspen is crawling with celebrity chefs during Food & Wine Classic. It’s hard not to get worked up when you see your favorite Top Chef crush, but be cool. In my experience, most celebrity chefs are more than happy to sign an autograph or snap a photo, but don’t interrupt meals or conversations to make such requests. Everyday common courtesy rules still apply.


Tip #5 – Be on time.

Better yet – be early. Seminars fill up quickly, so if you have your heart set on seeing a particular speaker or panelist (Jacques, Bobby and Giada!), arrive 15 minutes early to ensure a seat.


Tip #6 – Take notice of the charitable aspects.

Although it’s easy to get caught up in the celebrity chef seminars, decadent tastings and after-parties, it’s important to remember the give back elements of this event. This year is the 5th anniversary of Food & Wine’s charity initiative, Grow for Good, which supports local and sustainable agriculture. To celebrate, Bobby Flay will host a 5K Charity Run benefiting Wholesome Wave. In addition, Elvis Costello & The Blue Beguilers will headline a benefit concert and party. Food will be served by acclaimed chefs José Andrés, Mario Batali and Michel Nischan and a portion of the ticket proceeds benefiting each of the chefs’ designated charities. 


Tip #7 – Wear sunscreen.

At higher altitudes, UVR (or ultraviolet rays) are more intense. Avoid a painful sunburn by slathering on sunscreen (and reapplying as recommended). Geek facts: for every approximately 1000 ft increase in elevation there is a 4% increase in UVB radiation and for every degree of decrease in latitude there is a 3% increase in UVB.


Tip #8 – Ask questions.

There are hundreds of food savvy professionals on hand and eager to talk about their brands. If you fall in love with a food, wine or kitchen product, talk to the exhibitor – that’s why they’re there.


Tip #9 – Explore Aspen.

Aspen is one of the most stunning places on the planet. If I didn’t live in Seattle, WA, I’m pretty sure I’d call Colorado home. So, in between all of the tastings, seminars and parties, take some time to get outdoors and soak it all up. The major peaks and glacial valley of Maroon Bells is not to be missed and about 10 miles from town, reachable via bus.


Tip #10 – Follow the fun.

If you love food and wine, follow the event hashtag #fwclassic.


Travel tip shared by cpfeuffer