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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


Aspen—Highlights From the First 24 Hours


4.30 pm Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg cruises around Aspen in his jeep.
8 pm  One of the festival highlights, the magnum party, kicks off at D-19. That means super-sized bottles of 94 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet on ice and '84 Freemark Abbey Sycamore on the tables (some $20,000 worth of wine is poured), while chef Dena Marino passes out platters of pulled pork sliders.
11 pm  Start of super-deluxe Champagne and oyster party at the Little Nell. With extra-large shots of Sombra Mescal, too. Run back and forth between the party and the Little Nell lounge where F&W best new chefs are lounging on couches and the awesome Nancy Silverton is hanging out with her friend Phil Rosenthal (Everyone Loves Raymond's hilarious creator).
1.45 am Decide not to check on chef Tim Love's all-night whole-animal roastathon at the Hotel Jerome. Which is a good thing because the following morning there will be stories of Love doing shots of everything from tequila to chilled canola oil.


Fly Fishing Fun


Fly fishing

© Emily Kaiser

I was thrilled to arrive in Aspen yesterday, a day before the real festivities start—it gave me time to adjust to the high altitude, which left me feeling  a bit  foggy (and very hungry for burgers). By this morning, I felt totally refreshed so F&W’s Emily Kaiser and I headed 12 miles or so outside Aspen to the bucolic Roaring Fork Club for a few hours of fly fishing with the great people behind Napa Valley’s Gamble Family Vineyards, Cliff Lede Vineyards and Coquerel. Both of us were complete novices but thanks to our guide, Steve, we were casting like pros in no time. In fact, we got more casting practice than anything else—in two hours on two different ponds, I got little more than a nibble, and never hooked a fish, even though we could see 12-inch-long trout just below the surface. Perhaps, with the Food & Wine Classic going on just down the road, the fish have gotten as picky as us food editors, and can spot faux meals from a few feet deep.


Aspen's Burger-ific Ajax Tavern


After braving a mild snowstorm on our drive up from Denver, my colleague Kristin Donnelly and I arrived in Aspen last night for this weekend's Food & Wine Classic. I'm pleased to report that things are off to a burger-ific start, thanks to our dinner at the Ajax Tavern at the Little Nell.  (If only F&W headquarters were in Aspen year-round...) Ajax’s version of the In-N-Out double-double burger was impressively tasty, as were the juicy and ridiculously immense Alaskan king crab legs. The truffle fries almost went perfectly with the 2006 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet, though they probably would have been even better with the rich chocolate milkshakes that the kind Ajax servers brought at the end of the night. We slurped them down before dashing back outside. The ominous storm clouds made us consider going back inside to eat a few more burgers, but we decided to call it an early night.


It's Here: F&W Classic in Aspen


Yesterday, I got a preview of the F&W Classic in Aspen: meeting legendary Italian winemaker Roberto Conterno in NYC. Now I'm here in Aspen and it's even more exciting. This is the 27th anniversary of the festival, which is a mix of genius chef demos, wine seminars and a whole lot of parties. Every minute there’s something amazing going on; I’ve made a huge effort to pick three of my most anticipated events.

Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton preparing dishes from Osteria Mozza: Batali’s seminars are invariably some of Aspen’s best and most entertaining; this year, the amazing Silverton will help him prepare dishes from their L.A. restaurant, including spaghetti with garlic and guanciale.

Sommelier Challenge: The great Lettie Teague, F&W wine columnist, pits four of the country’s elite sommeliers (including Bobby Stuckey of Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine and Jordan Salcito of NYC’s Gilt) against each other to see who is best at selling wines. It’s not unlike watching Britain’s Got Talent, minus the singing and dancing.

Classic Quickfire: On Sunday morning @ 10.30 (not too early, thank goodness—Saturday night is party night in Aspen), Top Chef season 4 winner Stephanie Izard will face off against Top Chef season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg. They’ll each have a superstar assistant. I have my own ideas about who will win; let’s see if I’m right.

Test Kitchen

Journey of 1,000 Cookies


My coworker Melissa Rubel and I are four-fifths of the way toward my goal of baking 1,000 cookies by the end of Tuesday. These cookies will be among dozens of offerings from top chefs at Philadelphia's Great Chefs Event on Wednesday night. The Great Chefs Event supports Alex's Lemonade Stand an organization that raises money and awareness for childhood cancer research and treatment. It's already sold out! That's more than 700 people clamoring for cookies. Time to get baking.


VIPs at Big Apple BBQ


It certainly seems like every single New York City resident was at this weekend’s Big Apple BBQ blowout—and most of them have blogged about it. So let’s skip a comprehensive look at each of the 15 pit masters who worked so hard this weekend and move on to my three highlights:

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q; Decatur, AL
BBQ Plate: Tender pulled pork shoulder with coleslaw—arguably the best BBQ at the event from Chris Lilly (left).
VIP Area: None, unless you count the small open space next to a sparkling new Komodo Kamado smoker/grill on display. (It’s being called the next Big Green Egg.)
Typical VIP: A V.P from Bad Robot, the production company behind Star Trek.
Beverage: Snapple.

Hill Country; NYC
BBQ Plate: Pete Daversa and Elizabeth Karmel's succulent beef brisket (fatty burnt ends were especially amazing) and Cool-as-a-Cucumber Salad.
VIP Area: A small tent.
Typical VIP: Firemen from West Village Squad 18.
Beverage: Spiked Tea (though not for the firemen).

17TH Street Bar & Grill; Murphysboro, IL
BBQ Plate: Mike Mills’s smoked baby back ribs with awesome baked beans.
VIP Area: A big tent with picnic tables and a barbecue-sauce fountain that transfixed a Japanese TV crew. (A jealous pit master called it the red carpet of Big Apple BBQ.)
Typical VIP: Legendary food writer Calvin Trillin.
Beverage: Very potent Pink Pull Your Panties Down Punch.


A Snow-Cone Wedding


With one of my coworkers planning a wedding, a hot topic in the Test Kitchen has been catering companies and all the add-ons they offer. There's the ubiquitous chocolate fountain (which has grossed me out since I learned that it takes gallons of oil to keep it flowing properly) and the late-night coffee bar. My colleague Kate Heddings has not stopped talking about the mashed-potato bar she encountered at one wedding, with toppings ranging from chili to caviar. The latest add-on in Austin? Snow cones. But instead of flavoring the shaved ice Snoopy-style, with artificially colored, faux-fruit-flavored syrups, local event-planning company Caplan Miller uses liqueurs like Kahlúa and Baileys Irish Cream.


Win a Trip to the F&W Classic in Aspen!


Nine days left until the world's premiere food event, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 19-21. For those still looking for tickets, F&W, QVC and KitchenAid have partnered up to offer an exclusive package to Extra viewers that includes round-trip airfare for two, a three-night hotel stay, tickets to the Food & Wine Publisher's Party, front-row seats to the Classic Quickfire Challenge, a QVC gift card worth $1,000 and amazing appliances from KitchenAid. Check out Extratv.com to learn how to enter the contest, and tune in to QVC at 11 a.m. (EST) on June 21 for a live broadcast from Aspen.


Barbecue Eating Contest Tips


Pork ribs

Here's one way to work on your barbecue-eating stamina before the Big Apple BBQ in NYC next weekend. This Saturday, June 6, Manhattan's Hill Country restaurant is celebrating its second anniversary with a rib-eating contest. You can still be one of the eight rib-eating contestants-just write a less-than-250-word essay or submit a 1-minute video demonstrating your rib-eating skills by the end of the day Thursday (send it to ribs@hillcountryny.com). Or just come as a spectator--$5 will buy you a ticket to the event, which starts at 2 pm; benefits go to Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Hill Country's excellent pit master, Pete Daversa, has some tips for competitive eaters (and for those who really want to maximize barbecue consumption at the Big Apple BBQ).

* Don't starve yourself before the contest. Your stomach will shrink.

* Prior to the contest, eat lots of plain lettuce, celery or boiled cabbage. They're made of mostly water and will help stretch your belly without filling it up.

* Once you're full and can't eat any more, call it a day; don't risk choking or suffering what professionals call a "reversal of fortune."


An Edible History


Tom Standage's New Book
I know plenty of food writers, but not very many historians. So I was excited to meet British writer Tom Standage, who spoke at a dinner at NYC's Bouley last week to promote his most recent book, An Edible History of Humanity. Standage’s day job is business and technology editor at the Economist, but he's also fascinated by history and food, and all his passions come together in this book. Some topics he tackles: how the spice trade led to the discovery of the New World, how Napoleon's inability to feed his army brought about his defeat in Russia, and how Britain's decision to import food instead of grow it led to the Industrial Revolution. The book isn't exactly beach reading, but I’d recommend it to those who are looking to broaden their culinary horizons.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Join celebrity chefs, renowned winemakers and epicurean insiders at the culinary world’s most spectacular weekend, the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.