Katie Shapiro (left, with "Chef Roble & Co." producer Todd Lichten) is a freelance writer and public relations consultant based in Aspen and Denver specializing in film, travel and style. She's involved with Food & Wine as a member of the press, covering for outlets including Departures Magazine and The Huffington Post. We caught up with her over e-mail in between bouts of sucking down fresh sliced charcuterie, oysters, and endless glasses of wine to get her take on the experience that is the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
How many times have you been to Food & Wine?
This is my 2nd time covering Food & Wine as a member of the press, but I've attended parties and the Grand Tasting in years past.
What's the crowd like?
It's a crowd of serious foodies from all over the world. Celebrity chefs, leading winemakers, brand exhibitors, journalists – plus culinary connoisseurs here for fun. We all come together for what really is a true indulgence and celebration of the best in the business. And it's a great mix of young new talent and the pioneers with fans on both sides of the age spectrum.
Who are you excited to see and what are you excited to taste over the course of Food & Wine?
One thing I love about Food & Wine (and all festivals really) is that many of the same faces return year after year, so it becomes a summer camp of sorts for people who share a specific passion. It's great to catch up with chefs and industry folks while being among the first to hear what everyone has in the works for the coming year.
The "Casa José" pre-festival Spanish barbeque on Thursday night is always a highlight. Hosted by Chef José Andrés in conjunction with Wines of Spain, it's held in a different mountain estate each year. I ate my way through stations of ribs, prawns, fresh sliced charcuterie and oysters in the $27 million mountain-chic stunner last night.
Also a pre-festival event, the Top Chef Welcome Reception on Thursday has the best bites. Signature dishes from Kristen Kish, Stephanie Izard, Richard Blais and Bart Vandaele were a great way to kick-off the weekend. My favorite was Chef Blais' "Lobster Knuckle Sandwich" with uni mayo and lobster salt to finish.
In the Grand Tasting tents, don't miss the Best New Chefs station, where the class of 2013, who also graces the current issue of Food & Wine, present signature dishes. It's the magazine's 25th anniversary of the award, where fest-goers will officially celebrate at a party at the top of Aspen Mountain on Saturday night.
What's the best way to go about each day so you don't end your day early by being drunk, bloated, and exhausted by one in the afternoon?
Drinking a lot of water is a must in any mountain town. But during Food & Wine, you probably can't drink enough. The wine officially starts flowing at 10am each morning (and probably earlier for some!) and doesn't stop until the wee hours. So, pacing yourself is key and luckily there is more than enough food to soak it all up.
Tickets sold out months ago, but there are individual event tickets stragglers can nab. What are the events you can still get tickets to and which ones would you recommend?
Yes, passes to the festival are a really tough ticket?they sell out earlier every year and are pretty pricey. But, Food & Wine has really made a great effort in adding separately ticketed events so that everyone can get a taste of the weekend. This weekend there are still plenty of options to indulge:
• Gail Simmons' Last Bite Dessert Party
Tickets ($125) to this salute to the sweet tooth (June 14, 10 p.m.) are still available. Held at the historic Hotel Jerome and hosted by culinary personality Gail Simmons, the Art Deco–themed evening features desserts by pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini and local notables.
• Reserved Tastings
Tickets (from $175) are still available for one of these tastings, featuring rare varietals and hosted by winemakers and sommeliers. Try "A Piedmont Superstar: The Wines of Angelo Gaja" or "Two Legendary Rioja Vintages: 1994 & 1995."
• Pure Leaf Iced Tea Science of Pairings Lunch
A panel of unparalleled experts will reveal the precise science behind food and beverage pairings. From aromatic apéritifs and decadent desserts to the season's haute ingredients, this invitation only (sort of, tickets still available for $75) event should leave attendees reveling in their newly heightened understanding of perfect food-and-flavor pairings.
• Cochon 555
This is an independent event, but one of my favorites. Held on Sunday at the Hotel Jerome, it's the culmination of a 10-city tour, where five chefs go head-to-head creating a menu of five dishes made from an entire heritage breed pig. Tickets are $150.
Where's the best place people watch celeb chefs outside of the Wagner Park venue?
The St. Regis is one of the host venues where many of the special events and seminars take place. You'll definitely catch a glimpse of chefs like Mario Batali, Tom Coliccchio and Andrew Zimmern and your favorite Top Chef contestants if you post up in the lobby bar. The historic J-Bar or cozy living room in the newly renovated Hotel Jerome Living Room are also hot spots.
But sightings are also likely throughout town and any one of Aspen's stellar restaurants or coffee shops. Snag a table on the outdoor patio of Peach's Corner Café or Main Street Bakery in the morning and head for Ajax Tavern or Matsuhisa later in the night. And all of the chefs are super friendly and love chatting food?don't be shy!