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Aspen Food & Wine's Spanish Bonanza

We've got the play-by-plays of the Aspen Food and Wine Fest, which kicked off with a decadent Spanish barbecue. Which famous chef is guarding the cheese?

What better way to kick off the Aspen Food & Wine festival (taking place June 16 through 19) than with a plate full of Spanish BBQ? Chefs Mario Batali, Jacques Pepin, and Ming Tsai were among the guests milling about the outdoor event at a private estate in Aspen. Hosted by newly-minted James Beard award-winner Jose Andres and Wines from
Spain, the casual party featured stations offering jamon bellotta topped with caviar, a Spanish cheese bonanza, suckling pigs roasting on spits, and ridiculous amounts of fine Spanish wine.

And those were just the appetizers. The main event? A huge BBQ section manned by several cooks serving sizzling sausages, ribs, pork, beef, and salt-grilled shrimp. Andres himself presided over the deliciously smoke-filled area, serving up platters of meats and feverishly grilling vegetables simultaneously.

"American people! Are you hungry?" Andres shouted.

Probably, as a few people remarked, the BBQ distribution could have been a bit better organized. ("At least it's low-carb," one well-preserved woman said.) But guests were enjoying themselves nonetheless: Inside the estate, Marcus Samuelsson of New York City's Red Rooster jokingly acted like a bouncer at the entrance to the cheese station while Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle sampled wines.

As for me, I topped off the meatfest with a late-night second dinner at Jimmy's (hello, lobster mac and cheese!). With three more days of this festival to go, I'm going to have to pace myself.

Last updated: Jun 17, 2011

CLARISSA CRUZ is the Fashion Features Editor of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the former Style Editor of People magazine and has written for Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Food & Wine, and Budget Travel.

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