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Aspen: Day 1

I’m in Aspen for the 29th annual Food & Wine magazine Classic. It used to be the classic AT Aspen, but they changed the name a few years ago to make it less pretentious.

I’m not sure it worked, but despite the need to periodically run the gauntlet of celebrity chef groupies to do the networking I’m here to do, it’s a fun event — basically a three-day party, sponsored by many beer, wine and spirits companies, interspersed with cooking demonstrations and panel discussions.

During the kickoff reception on Friday night I ran into Belinda Chang, whom I’d just met during the James Beard Foundation Awards last month. She won the award for best wine service as sommelier of The Modern in New York, and then, her mission accomplished, she quit.

“I’m a sprinter, not a marathon runner,” she told me last night.

I ended up hanging out with her and her friend Justin Warner, who was a captain at The Modern and left to open his own place, Do or Dine, in the decidedly ungentrified Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Justin says his new place is a dive American izakaya, which is to say a bar with great bar food (as opposed to a gastropub, which is a bar with good food that’s not necessarily intended to facilitate drinking).

Do or Dine doesn’t have a liquor license yet, so for now it’s BYO, but Justin, whose beverage people come from PDT and Pegu Club, plans to offer delicious cocktails priced at less than $10.

So that should be fun.

The big post-reception party in Aspen is a barbecue sponsored by Wines from Spain and hosted by José Andrés, but Belinda, Justin and I instead went to Isis, where there also was a barbecue but with fancy American wines and the added appeal — always desirable at Aspen — of not being where the masses were.

It’s probably obvious, but Belinda and Justin are in the picture that accompanies this blog entry.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary
Follow tweets from Aspen at #fwclassic

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