Everything You Need to Know About the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
Your guide to the sky-high food event of the year.
Going to the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen is a food lover’s dream. It's a gorgeous mountain town filled with extraordinary chefs and culinary personalities from all over, you can barely move without bumping into a former Top Chef contestant, Food & Wine Best New Chef, James Beard Winner, or the team behind a Michelin-starred restaurant. The days are jam-packed with delicious tidbits for mouth and brain alike, from the Grand Tastings to cooking demos to more serious conversations about the state of the industry, and how and why we can and should do better.
There are some tips and tricks to navigating the Classic that can be helpful for the novice, starting with the basics of packing. Days are pretty casual, the weather is changeable, and the best way to get anywhere is to walk. So, bring easy layers, super comfortable walking shoes, and with all the nibbling, flowy clothes. Speaking of tasting, the Grand Tastings—which are the centerpiece of the Classic—will keep both of your hands full of food and drink, so either a jacket or vest with lots of pockets or a small crossbody bag is ideal, so that you aren’t juggling your gear and your snacks at the same time.
Hydrate like it's your job
Your health is also an important factor at the Classic, since you cannot enjoy yourself fully if you don’t feel great. Altitude sickness is common, so plan on acclimating yourself appropriately to the different oxygen and barometric pressure levels. Some pros fly into Denver so that they can drive up to Aspen, allowing the body to adjust more slowly and naturally. Regardless of how you arrive, stay very well hydrated throughout the weekend to limit the effects both of the altitude and the abundance. If you are feeling thirst, you are already a bit under-hydrated, so your goal is to not get thirst! A pro tip is to think about keeping a refillable water bottle on you at all times, and sip consistently, which is better for you than chugging large amounts less frequently and be sure to have a glass before bed. Sadly, wine doesn’t count.
Speaking of wine, alcohol is naturally dehydrating, and will affect you differently at altitude so if ever there was a time for moderation and rationality, this is it. Be sure to alternate boozy beverages with water, and know in advance that at 8,000 feet above sea level, you are officially a cheap date, so throw out your usual rules about how many is too many for you, because where the air is clear, your head is not. Assume you should consume half of what you might normally be able to tolerate, and you will thank yourself in the morning.
Plan, but not too tightly
Plan your days as best you can (hint: use the online schedule or the festival app) but be prepared to pivot. Certain sessions are wildly popular due to famous presenters. Often these sessions are repeated at least once during the weekend, so if you don’t get in on Friday, look on the schedule to see if there is a rerun session on Saturday. But also, be ready for the opportunities this presents. Almost everyone who has attended a Classic has had one unexpected magical experience where they wanted to do one thing and got scooted into another. The team at Food & Wine has put together a schedule that is thoughtful, interesting, and has worked very hard to ensure that the presenters are engaging and the topics fun and varied. Missing out on one of the more marquee sessions might just free you up to have a more meaningful and intimate experience elsewhere. Be open, and the Classic will have your back every time.
Don’t be shy! There is no more horrifying anxiety-riddled silence like the silence when a presenter asks if anyone has any questions. Those moments before the first hands go up in the air are interminable. So, come prepared to be the hero and ask something, or offer a comment. Any presenter’s favorite audience member is the one who asks the first question and breaks the ice for everyone.
Get your geek on at some of the demos that attend to your personal passions. Whether you are a cork dork or a curd nerd, a foraging fiend or a pork proselyte, there is a session that will speak to your heart, and which is better, you are likely to meet some other devotees there as well.
Which leads to one of the most important tips we can give you in anticipation of this year’s Classic. Do take the opportunity to really connect while you are there. From moving outside your circle of travel companions to meet other food lovers from around the world, to being sure to follow and participate in relevant social media threads and hashtags with other attendees. Get your selfie on with your pals old and new, capture your favorite dishes and the glorious Aspen landscape, and be sure to tag everyone—and hashtag it #FWClassic. When you do this, you become a part of the Classic and not just a consumer of it, and you will have an unforgettable experience.
Here's to a fantastic 2019 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen—make sure to tag us @foodandwine in your Instagram photos for a chance to be featured on our Instagram. We'll see you in Aspen!