Aspen Times Weekly: Adventure Access

by Amanda Rae


555 Dinner

April 20 at 7 p.m.

Hosted by chef Mark Fischer and Sierra Nevada


Town, Carbondale

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5Point Film Festival

April 21-24

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ON APRIL 21-24, more than 60 films (including 15 world premieres) and 40 athletes, adventurers, filmmakers, and photographers will camp out in Carbondale during the ninth annual 5Point Film Festival — a four-day showcase of film, art, spoken word, panel discussions, seminars, and family-friendly activities that has become the town’s unofficial kickoff to spring.

It’s easy to assume that this year’s lineup will be indistinguishable from the last eight — outdoor action films, no matter how epic, gnarly, or awe-inspiring in the moment, tend to blur together over time. While the saying, “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all,” may ring true to certain spectators, executive director Sarah Wood is on a mission to keep 5Point fresh and robust into perpetuity.

So this year Wood is reprising a popular onetime event from 5Point’s early years: the 555 Dinner, hosted again by chef-restaurateur Mark Fischer along with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company at Town on Wednesday, April 20, at 7 p.m.

Wood selected five guests from the festival’s lineup — a professional rock climber; a photojournalist-filmmaker; an Iditarod champion; a 32-time Seven Summits mountaineer and newly appointed director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office; and an entrepreneur, emcee, and talented poet — each of whom will share a story during one of Fischer’s five courses paired with a different Sierra Nevada specialty brew.

“People come together around food and drink,” Wood explains. “Sometimes that’s where the best stories are being told: around the dinner table. Maybe you’re sitting around a campfire or across from someone at a bar — it creates that space for people to open up and talk about what’s going on in their lives. We’re creating a version of that here.”

Chef Mark Fischer recalls the original dinner, at least five and maybe seven years ago, which he hosted at once-beloved Carbondale restaurant Six89 (precursor to Town) with New Belgium Brewing Company.

“I’m the great skeptic,” says Fischer, alluding to the touchy subject of festival fundraising. “I thought this was gonna be lame, but it was quite the opposite. (The speakers) were all engaging, charismatic, and passionate. We want to contribute to that energy.”

North Face Team member Cedar Wright, a professional climber with a knack for comedy and who premieres “The Fledglings” at 5Point, will kick off the evening over oysters on the half shell paired with Sierra Nevada’s newest release, Otra Vez: a tart, gose-style beer brewed with California prickly pear cactus and grapefruit. (See more tasting notes, opposite page.)

“He’s hilarious,” Wood quips. “He’s had a lot of success with his films and a sense of humor that many people enjoy. That’s a great opener.”

Next up, photojournalist and filmmaker Taylor Rees will explore an oft-ignored reality in the mountaineering world, at least on the big screen: failure. The Park City, Utah-based filmmaker behind “The Coldest Crossing” (premiere) recently returned from an expedition that was a total flop. (Three mountaineers were rescued from the mission.)

“They couldn’t help the crew meet their objectives because were just observers capturing the trip,” Wood explains. “Her story is setting us up for not giving up and letting go of a dream. But at some point you have to understand that maybe your dream isn’t realistic at that time.” Hard lessons, for sure.

The third course — cedar-planked steelhead trout with creamy oatmeal “risotto” —accompanies Sierra Nevada’s Hop Hunter IPA and Lance Mackey’s tale from the Alaskan tundra, where he won the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest dogsledding endurance races four years in a row. (Mackey was the first musher to win both in the same year.) Like Rees, Mackey has seen defeat and hardship in his life: he’s lost more races than he’s won; he also survived cancer. “The Great Alone” documents his drive to remain present during those grueling solo journeys.

For Fischer, the 555 Dinner is yet another opportunity to show off innovative techniques and local collaboration. To create gnocchi to accompany a smoked pastrami-cured short-rib “Rueben,” for instance, Fischer uses spent grain and rye from nearby Roaring Fork Beer Company, which he toasts and grinds into flour. Those nutty undertones pair beautifully with Sierra Nevada’s new Ovila Quad with Plums.

Wade Newsom, a published poet and four-year emcee for 5Point, will present a new piece over dessert. Former owner of The Blend coffee shop, Newsom is an avid skier and mountain biker who packed up for Santa Barbara wine country some eighteen months ago with his wife — and stayed.

“Carbondale is an amazing community,” Newsom says wistfully. “It will be a special time to come back and reconnect…I’m not jumping off a cliff in a wingsuit or climbing Everest, but I focus on what the film festival is built around: those five points (respect, commitment, humility, purpose, and balance). That’s where inspiration comes from.”

555 Dinner guest speakers will move throughout the room over the course of the meal, engaging diners at each table in deeper conversation. “We hope it will create more storytelling across the table after the guest has opened the door,” Wood says. Seating is limited to 80; RSVP required. (See “If You Go…,” opposite page.)

Similarly, “We try to cook something that is more edgy or daring than we typically would if it was just a wine dinner,” says Fischer, known for his boundary-pushing approach to food. “The demographic is different. 5Point is an awesome thing for Town, but it’s not like we’re cooking dangerous-exciting food.”

That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it. Yet when was the last time you had Thai coconut laksa with “noodles” made of blanched, julienned pork skin?

“I’ve had a lot of people freak out when they realize they’re eating pork skin,” Fischer says, a hint of mischief in his voice. “Anybody can take pork skin and make chicharones, but it cooks like noodles. Put them next to a bowl of egg noodles, and 99 percent of the population wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It’s super cool, and gluten-free.”

Wood, for one, is hungry. “I can’t wait to try this—and I don’t even know what this is!” she says of the laksa. “Mark has been a supporter from the beginning. We trust him and his craft.”

Likewise, Wood anticipates first-person wisdom and inspiration from 555 storytellers. “Folks are gonna get a more intimate experience than the rest of the audience,” Wood says. “I can see how a lot of people think that these are all just a bunch of sponsored athletes and they’re getting paid to go out there, and what’s the point? Why do people do these things? Well, they’re not doing them for fame or money — many are not paid well at all for this work. We hope (diners) walk away with a new perspective.”

Adventure begets stories, tales inspire travels, and a lovingly prepared meal is a great conversation starter in itself. Better yet: with craft beer to cleanse the palate.

Amanda Rae hopes to see at least one 5Point film featuring a flying-squirrel suit.

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