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.