Guest Post by Chef Nicole Patel, Owner of Delysia Chocolatier
Most foodies would agree that the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen is one of the greatest events of the year. Every summer, food lovers, wine drinkers, and anyone with an appetite, gather in the heart of Aspen, Colorado to sample some of the country’s greatest food and wines. Delysia Chocolatier had the honor of being invited for a third year to attend the Grand Tasting. The Grand Tasting is made up of two large white tents that become the home for over 500 exhibitors during the weekend. Cooking demos, tastings, private parties and more fill the busy weekend for around 5000 attendees.
With every year of the festival, preparations become more rigorous for our kitchen. The weeks leading up to the festival were filled with press releases and emails as we made final arrangements for the events and parties we would be attending. With every email sent, there was still the most important part of the entire weekend – the chocolates. We made over 10,000 chocolate truffles for The Classic–more than we’ve ever made at one time. Exhausting but proved to be so worth it (and we didn’t mind the taste testing either).
|The chaotic kitchen as I handcrafted our truffles for Aspen|
Two days of driving later, with anxious little boys in the back seat, we arrived in Aspen. My husband and children immediately took to the hiking trails near our place while I made final arrangements and scheduled meetings to be had throughout the week. We kicked off the festival on June 16th by premiering our handcrafted chocolates at the Aspen Magazine’s private party at the Dancing Bear resort. The Asian theme behind this party allowed us to really wow this audience with unique flavors. We featured truffles flavors such as Wasabi raspberry, Honey sriracha, and Seaweed salad. The excitement on people’s faces when they tried our truffles is what we live for. It is our passion to astonish people with inventive flavors that show the range in which chocolate can be enjoyed. Along with this kick-off party, I also attended a Welcome Reception at the St. Regis where I met Marcus Samuelson and a party hosted by Boisset Collection at Limelight Hotel. That evening alone, there were over twenty parties taking place in Aspen.
|Gochujung chocolate truffles at Aspen Magazine’s Dancing Bear party|
|Love the moments when I speak with guests|
Friday morning launched the Grand Tasting, with a private session for the American Express Restaurant Trade VIP attendees. Before noon, the tents were filled with thousands of attendees from across the U.S. We showcased truffles and chocolate bark inspired by Southern cuisine. Many of our loyal Austin customers are already fans of our Southern flavors so we extended the selections to include new flavors inspired by traditional Southern cuisine. Each session of the Grand Tasting was a different meal including an entrée, side dish, dessert, and beverage. We began with Frito Pie, Baked Beans, Red Velvet, and Mint Julep chocolate truffles. Far too many truffles later and a visit from Zac Brown, and we had completed our first Grand Tasting of 2016. Now it was time for another party – this time partnering with Patron Spirits. We made our way to Nello Alpine to setup for Patron Tequila’s Summer Switch Up Party where they featured classic cocktails with a tequila twist. We served chocolate truffles infused with Patron Tequilas – Mango Habanero, Orange Blossom, Key Lime Pie, Spicy Maple Pecan, and our award-winning Jalapeno Tequila chocolate truffles. The party guests danced all night to an incredible DJ and violinist.
|Truffle flavors for Patron Tequila’s Summer Switch Up|
|Patron Summer Switch Up Party view|
|After meeting Zac Brown at the Grand Tasting|
Saturday would be our longest day during the weekend, starting with the Grand Tasting where our Southern meal included Fried Chicken, Collard Greens, Banana Pudding, and Hurricane chocolate Truffles. We saw old and new friends including Andrew Zimmern, Gail Simmons, and one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs, Michael Gulotto. Andrew has been a fan of our Cricket chocolate bark after meeting him at the 2015 Food & Wine Classic. Gail always has the kindest words of encouragement and is a huge fan of our Ghost Pepper bark (though we learned that her father-in- law might actually be a bigger fan!) Mike and I had the pleasure of cooking together last year at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival for an American Express Platinum Card Holder dinner at Local 3, as well as at Cured in San Antonio for a LSS charity dinner. During lunch, we quickly headed to the Grand Hyatt for Patron Spirit and Dauo Vineyards’ High End party that catered to fifty of their biggest national clients. We love the more intimate environment of the private parties as it allows us more personal time with each guest. For this party, we showcased four truffles created exclusively to pair with the high end wine and specialty tequila being served – Cigar Smoked Salted Caramel, Black Current, Honey Apricot, and Cherry Espresso chocolate truffles. After the party, we made our way back to the tasting tents where we served Brisket BBQ, Baked Potato, Peach Cobbler, and Coke & Peanut chocolate truffles.
Saturday evening consisted of a lot of strategy planning and much needed couch sitting. We grilled steaks on our patio and melted our Ghost Pepper chocolate bark over the top. Simply addicting. We were more than exhausted. It’s often funny how even when time seems to be going by so quickly, your body can’t catch up. But we only had one day left.
|Andrew Zimmern and I during the Grand Tasting|
Sunday morning we had a late breakfast with the whole family at one of our favorite restaurants in Snowmass, Big Hoss Grill. We began our way to the Grand Tasting to display all of our flavors created for the weekend. On our way to the merchandise tent (it doesn’t count if you don’t have a t-shirt, right?), we ran into Jacques Pepin having brunch just outside of our tent. We said a quick hello, took a picture, and of course gave him some chocolates to enjoy. Sunday was the shortest day as it only lasted a few hours, commencing with good-byes until next year and load out. In the evening, we celebrate over Italian food and a champagne toast to another great year at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen.
|Meeting Jacques Pepin on our last day of the Grand Tasting|