Aspen Food & Wine Classic 2016

I have been a bit of a vagabond since Memorial Day, floating between Arizona, California and Texas. While it has been great, the kids are growing a bit weary living out of a suitcase. I am happy to settle down for a month in California before the kids’ school starts to enjoy some cool weather and catch up on my posts. For the fourth year in a row, I have started the summer by attending the Aspen Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado. While attending three cooking classes and three wines classes, I noticed that the trends this year centered around sauces, such as Argentine chimichurri and Italian salsa verde, a celebration of the pig and all things pork related, and a focus on entertaining outdoors in the summertime barbecue season. I always return inspired by the chefs and their visions, and hope to impart some of that same inspiration by sharing what I have learned.


Tyler Florence, restauranteur/chef/tv personality, who was recently named one of the 30 Most Influential People In Food by Adweek Magazine, focused on a lesser-known style of barbecue called Santa Maria Barbecue.  Santa Maria is a town in California just 30 miles up Highway 101 from Buellton. Known as a “gaucho style” barbecue, Santa Maria-style barbecue originated in the mid-19th century when local ranchers would host Spanish-style feasts for their vaqueros. They barbecued meat over earthen pits filled with hot coals of live oak. Therefore it’s roots Mexican but with a twist.  As Santa Maria Barbecue is a fast-cooking method with no fancy barbecue sauces, by some standards it may not be considered “real” barbecue.  Typical Santa Maria barbecue uses tri-tip meat, and Tyler smoked it in a Nordic Wear table-top smoker using live oak chips (1/4 c. wood chips).   The meat was seasoned with a simple rub of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then placed in smoker until the temperature reached 220-250 degrees.  He served it with 2 different salsas, a salsa verde and a charred poblano chile salsa. In his salsa verde, he used fresh herbs, such as parsley, marjoram, and cilantro, blended with garlic, capers, lemon juice, chili flakes, and EVOO to a consistency a bit thinner than pesto. For the poblano chile salsa, on a cooktop grill, he charred poblano chiles, tomatoes, red onions, pulsed them all together in a food processor and added cilantro, EVOO and white wine vinegar, instead of lime juice which is typically used to season a salsa quemada.


Santa Maria Barbecue does not use a slow-and-low cooking method, but rather is served medium rare.

Picture perfect.

Picture perfect for the camera.

This was my fourth year in a row to attend Tim Love’s class, and, as usual, it did not disappoint. This year it was called Backyard Barbecue, and Chef Love started with his usual panache by stating that originally he was going to make potato salad, but “that’s bullshit, so let’s just cook meat”.  And in 45 minutes he did just that by cranking out Chicken with Chimichurri, New York Steak with Red Bell Pepper Salsa, and Lamb Lollipops with Yuzu Aioli.


Grilling chicken under bricks.

He brined a whole chicken in sparkling water, salt, chili flakes and garlic. The sparkling water in the brine will tighten the skin while cooking, producing a crispy skin, Love instructed. Cut out the backbone of the chicken with shears (or ask butcher to do so). Then season the chicken with garlic and onion powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, chili flakes and salt. Rub with peanut oil and add more seasoning. He likes to cook with peanut oil because it imparts a nice flavor and allows you to cook at a high temp without bitterness. Place on the grill skin side down with two bricks on top (covered with aluminum foil). He emphasized that you must have patience as you want to completely char one side of chicken before turning it over to do the same on the other side. A smart idea for entertaining is to char the chicken a few hours before your guests arrive and then finish cooking it in the oven before serving. While charring the chicken, he made a chimichurri sauce by pulsing together 3-4 garlic cloves, ¼ cup basil, ¼ cup cilantro, ¼ cup chives (all fresh), the zest and juice of 1 lime, the juice of 1 orange, 2 cups olive oil, chili flakes, toasted cumin seeds, and salt & pepper to taste.


Grilling is not complete without a glass of wine in your hand, and preferably Love’s label of rosé, Love and Hope out of Paso Robles.

In one of Love’s previous classes, he taught us how to make the perfect steak, which he sort of recreated here, but topped it with a red pepper salsa that I can say was out of this world (I had a little bite at the end). To rub the New York steak (his favorite cut), he used a simple mixture of garlic powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, chili powder, and salt. The steak was then rubbed with peanut oil, grilled and topped with lemon juice, EVOO and cracked salt. Love cut it in slices across the grain because it makes the steak “nice and tender”.  The red pepper salsa was a simple and delicious compliment to the meat and made of diced red peppers, garlic, red onion, green onion, cilantro, and white wine vinegar.


For his last dish, Lamb Lollipops with Yuzu Aioli, he took a rack of lamb that had been frenched, rubbed with peanut oil and Love’s Wild Game Rub of kosher salt, ground pepper, ancho chili powder, ground cumin, fresh thyme and rosemary (see detailed recipe below).  He grilled them to a juicy red and served them with a yuzu aioli sauce (where can I get a yuzu tree?).


Jacques and Claudine Pépin are a darling father and daughter duo who whipped up 6 simple and delicious recipes for entertaining in the mere 45 minute class. Jacques has had a lot of practice having presented for an impressive 25 years at the Classic. He is an extremely accomplished chef, TV personality and cookbook author who has worked on 27 cookbooks and 67 projects.

Champagne goes with everything.

Champagne goes with everything.  This is exactly what I would like to be doing when I am 80.

A devoted father and grandfather, Jacques is planning to work on his next project with his granddaughter, and has titled it Lessons of a Grandfather. During this class, Jacques and Claudine prepared Cannelini Bean Dip, Camembert with Honey and Nuts, Eggs in Pepper Boats, Carpaccio of Mushrooms, Chicken Tenders with Chimichurri and Instant Orange Pound Cake, all of which can be found in his latest cookbook, Heart & Soul In The Kitchen. I found his chimichurri particularly interesting because he added a French influence by using julienned radishes (see recipe below).  The cookbook presently sits on my kitchen counter, and I look forward to working my way through it in the next month.  I already tried the Eggs in Pepper Boats, and it met with grand applause from all.  And the best thing about this recipe, and many in the book, is that I was able to make it in less than 30 minutes…for reals.  Take that, Rachel Ray.

What will you make this weekend? Stay tuned for the next post which will feature wines to pair with all this yummy food.  xoM


Eggs in poblano pepper boats.

Tim Love’s Wild Game Rub

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup pure chili powder, such ancho

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

Yuzu aioli

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt to taste

2 eggs

1 bottle blended oil, 75 percent canola and 25 percent olive oil

Yuzu juice, to taste

  1. Cut the lamb racks into 1-inch chops.
  2. In a nonreactive metal mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and lemon juice. Continue to whisk while incorporating eggs, one at a time. Whisking continuously, drizzle in the oil, drip by drip. When aioli has thickened and doubled in size, add salt and yuzu to taste.
  3. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the lamb chops with game rub. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons oil to the hot skillet, and place chops in one at a time. Cook to desired doneness. Serve with yuzu aioli.

Jacques Pepin’s Chimichurri Sauce

1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup scallions, minced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1/2 cup radishes, julienned

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/3 cup olive oil

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Served with grilled chicken tenders for a fun appetizer.

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1 Comment

  • Santa Maria-Style Barbecue – Texaz Taste
    September 27, 2016 - 7:57 pm

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