Aspen Food & Wine 2014

Day 1

Monday was travel day for team Bravo! We landed in Denver and started our trek to Aspen. First stop was in Golden Colorado, not to see Coors Brewery but to grab lunch near Parfet Park. Yes, it's named after Don's great grandfather George Washington Parfet. He was a clay miner in Golden and an admired civic leader. He was the first president of the local Kiwanis Club in Golden. After his death the park was named in his memory. One of his sons, George William Parfet was the Worshipful Master of the local Masonic Lodge and read the burial rites at the burial of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Yes, this is true. We even traveled up to the top of Lookout Mountain to see the burial site and the Buffalo Bill Museum.

The Buffalo Bill Museum
The Buffalo Bill Museum

The drive to Aspen was amazingly beautiful with snow topped mountains, raging rivers, and verdant canyons. Unfortunately, Ann was wedged in the back with the luggage and did not get the best view.

We arrived in Aspen as the Food & Wine tents were going up. This was to be the 25th Food & Wine Classic and we could feel the pulse.  Being team Bravo! we immediately set about organizing our own food and beverage provisions. We had overnighted a "CARE" package from Bravo!, including the world famous bacon we use for our Sunday Brunch, beef tenderloin, lamb racks, and duck breasts. We needed to shop for some staples, like fruit, bread, chips, guacamole, beer, wine and brown liquor.

Dinner was at Matsuhisa.  This is the restaurant of world famous Chef Nobu Matsuhisa who specializes in combining Japanese and Peruvian flavors like Black Cod and Miso with Jalapeño. The food and service rock.

Day 2

The gang about to hike up the mountain

Team Bravo! has balance; we work hard and play hard, so we start the day with a hike into the mountains.  Beyond Kevin Costner's Ranch, on the way up Independence Pass is an area called the Grottoes. We hiked up the trail crawled into caves still filled with snow and even made snowballs. And we thought winter in Michigan was long.

Terry & Shawn playing in the snow

Dinner was at Cache Cache - our favorite restaurant in Aspen. The food was great and crafted with quality ingredients that aren't complicated. Don picked a great Pinot Noir.

Day 3

The morning started early. Terry & Whitney ran the celebrity chef 5K Classic that raises money for the Wholesome Wave Foundation, a charity which works to improve the accessibility and affordability of healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables. The race was at 7:00 A.M. in high altitude. It was most helpful to have the rest of Team Bravo out to cheer on Terry & Whitney. Plenty of chefs were participating including Chef Marcus Samuelsson who led the way.

Terry, Whitney & Chef Marcus Samuelsson after the race

After the race cool down, it was seminar time. Terry & Whitney's first class was presented by sommelier Marnie Olds titled "What Not To Pair." Whitney learned that many people focus on the protein when pairing wine and food. Marnie suggests that pairings should be based on the strongest flavor and many times that is the seasonings.

The highlights:

  1. Wine is like sauce on the side.
  2. Pairing is about the flavor of the meal, (sweet, sour, spicy, hot) not the protein or meats.
  3. Sweet foods cut the sweetness of sweet wines.
  4. Acids like vinaigrettes, are not good with rich oakey wines like Chardonnay, but are great with dryer acidic wines like Sauvignon Blanc.
  5. High fat foods like garlic butter are good with full bodied intense wines like Cabs, but not with Sangiovese wines  that are tart.
  6. BBQ (sweet candy for meat) is good with Cabernets that are not oakey
  7. Dishes containing tomatoes that are cooked pair well with Sangiovese graped wines.
  8. Any wine aged in barrels will go well with cooked foods.
  9. Rieslings can't be screwed up; 90 million Americans can't be wrong.

On a break from our morning seminars, we adjourned into the Grand Tasting Tent. Inside are thousands of wines from around the world. Let the tastings begin. While inside we run into Food & Wines' Top New Chef Dave Beran! Dave is originally from Paw Paw, Michigan and was named 2014 Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine. He is currently working alongside Chef Grant Achatz at acclaimed restaurant, Next in Chicago.

Paw Paw, Michigan is busting with celebrities including Major League Baseball player Charlie Maxwell, NFL Player Jason Babin, Tony Award winning choreographer Jerry Mitchell, and now Chef Dave Beran.

Dave Beran

Also in the Grand Tasting Tent, Whitney sipped Whistle Pig Straight Rye Whiskey from Vermont which was delicious! Wine Enthusiast gave it 96 Points, the highest rated rye whiskey. It was one of the Top Five Whiskeys of 2010 from The Wall Street Journal, and won the Best Rye Gold Medal at the International Whiskey Competition 2013. We are hoping that the Michigan Liquor Control Commission will have this available for our guests at Bravo! soon. Michael David Winery was a favorite from the wine tent. Look for a Bravo! wine dinner with the wine maker next summer.

Afternoon seminar

Whitney has always known that chocolate goes with red wine, but after attending The Ultimate Indulgence: Chocolate & Wine Tasting, featuring Lindt Chocolates, Whitney now knows that chocolate pairs well with white wine too. Her favorite pairing was Lindt Excellence Pineapple with hazelnut and J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay. At under $20.00 per bottle, this affordable wine is easy to enjoy. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the Fall to pair it with the Lindt Pineapple Chocolate, when it will be released.

The runner up pairing was the Lindt Excellence Lemon Chocolate and a Pinot Blanc. The Lemon Chocolate is a new flavor for Lindt, only two months old.

After our break we're back to seminars until 5:00, then we're off to dinner at L' Hostaria for some outstanding Italian food and wine.

Day 4

Aspen has a great Farmers Market every Saturday morning at the base of Ajax Mountain. The market was stocked with great produce and many opportunities for great chef sightings. We needed a few supplies for our annual "Big Night" dinner that our team prepares every year.

Ann & John at the Aspen Farmers Market

After shopping, It's off to more seminar highlights:

Wine by the numbers: 3 Things About Wine Labels

  1. Alcohol content.
    • Grapes are like tomatoes, the riper the better.
    • More ripeness = more flavor with grapes.
    • Sunshine + Warmth = Sweetness.
    • Sweetness = Sugar.
    • Sugar = Creates Alcohol.
    • The higher the alcohol the more flavorful.
  2. Age
    • 95% of all stores and restaurants in today's business climate sell the current release of wines, meaning restaurants and markets sell wine within 6 months of the actual bottle production.
    • Aged wines are stored in barrels to enhance their flavors.
    • Barrels breathe and concentrate the liquid. The air in barrels give a toasty and caramelized flavor to wines. New wood also adds oils and flavor.
    • Vintners store wine in barrels for at least 2 years.
  3. Price
    • It's like a 1 fork vs 2 fork dinner
    • You're paying for the storage and interest on the wineries pay check
    • Quantity vs Quality
    • Efficiency vs Excellence
    • Popularity vs Personality

The next seminar is on wine and cheese pairings. Wine and cheese has always paired well, but did you know that many cheeses go well with Sparkling Wines? Laura Werlin proved that. One of Whitney's favorite cheeses, Vermont Creamery's Bonne Bouche, had an edible veggie ash on the outside. For the lactose intolerant, good news! Whitney learned there is no lactose in aged cheese, only in fresh cheese.

Don attended a seminar featuring the best wines to serve after a successful IPO. It was a tasting of the "who's who" of great wine-making with one really big surprise. The champagne was Dom Perignon. Also featured were two extraordinary wines from Burgundy, followed by two Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa. The first Cab was the Reserve from Robert Mondavi and the second (the big surprise) was the Yao Ming Family Reserve. Yes, the Yao Ming of NBA fame is making an extraordinary wine. Walk, run, dribble or jump your way to your favorite wine merchant to secure as many bottles as you can. Bravo is trying to get an allocation as you read this. The final pre-poured tasting was of Château d'Yquiem. This Sauterne is a rock star. The final tasting was a special pour of an 1871 Madeira. Very sweet and very smooth. The entire tasting was a lot of fun and included a cameo appearance of Mrs. Robert Mondavi who sat down two seats away from Don. She was most gracious and obviously supportive of our seminar leader, Mark Oldman.

Every year Team Bravo! has a tradition of cooking a "Big Night" dinner on Saturday. We invite friends and create food items that we learned during our seminars or ones we ate at one of the restaurants. Some of the dishes are inspired by the foods at the farmers market or grocers.

The "Big Night" Dinner  

Shrimp Cocktail
Crab Cakes
Shrimp Toast
Dover Sole Stuffed With Crab
And Corn Chowder Sauce
Grilled Lamb Chops
Red Curry and Fried Asparagus
Deconstructed Chile
Roast Beef Tenderloin
Cabernet and Serrano Pepper reduction
Topped with black beans, tomatoes, cilantro & chili peppers
Grande Marnier Soufflés
With berries and chocolate sauce

And Don picks some outstanding champagne and wines.

Terry with sous chef Connor 

Day 5

Carla Hall our Kalamazoo connection, prepared some fantastic vegetarian dishes including a seared ricotta cheese dish that will be showing up for a special on the Bravo! menu.

Chef Carla doing her thing!

The setting for one of the tasting classes. Circa 10:00 A.M.

After the Sunday morning seminars the Food & Wine is over, so it's back to the house for a late lunch.  Grilled duck breast with orange marmalade and triple cream cheese sandwiches. Time to get back to Bravo! and tweak our wine list and menus. What a fabulous time with great chefs, sommeliers and friends!