Aspen Times Weekly: Ticket to Paradise
Special to the Times
There are two types of people in town during the run up to the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen: Those who have a golden ticket and those who do not. This have and have-not scenario often comes with a sense of superiority for passholders who have either shelled out the $1,250 each for a full pass, are working at the event or scored a coveted volunteer position. On the other side of this plate are those who are without said pass and are abhorrently jealous, angry and left with feelings of inadequacy and desperation. Beyond that is the very small, almost nonexistent fraction of Aspenites who claim not to care about Food & Wine at all, and pick up and go camping somewhere far, far, away to avoid all the smiling faces around town.
Why are so many people smiling? For many of us, this is the most exciting weekend of the entire year. Not only has the sun and warm weather arrived, Food & Wine is always ripe with the best chefs from around the country, access to food and cooking techniques that we’ve yet to experience, and parties of every sort featuring delicacies from cocktails to pork and mocktails to port. Everywhere during Food & Wine weekend, Aspen is alive and kickin’.
In preparation for this year’s event I’ve created a cheat sheet. Actually I’ve prepared two cheat sheets: What to do during Food & Wine for Passholders, and What To Do During Food & Wine for Non-Passholders.
IF YOU HAVE A PASS
• Have a Grand Tasting Plan: Public drunkenness and skinned knees from falling off the curbs on Durant Avenue is hardly OK even for a kid, so seeing adults stumbling down the Hyman Avenue mall during daylight hours is all the worse. Trust-you-me, there is nothing wrong with imbibing, but neither is there any fault in using the spittoon! Have a plan when you go into the Grand Tasting tent. Accept the free Fiji water. Eat the food — it’s delicious and will save you when the intense Aspen sun burns off your otherwise good judgment and you have that last Patron cocktail in the courtyard before being ushered out of the white tents.
For me the plan is this: Every year, I go left. I circle the entire tent once, drinking my recommended water. I scope the wines that I have heard a buzz on. I eat a bite or two. Then I head back to what is newsworthy and drink the stuff that is really worth tasting. (Note: All bets are off at the Saturday afternoon tasting; If I see you, chances are I’ve ignored my own good advice.)
• Choose Your Seminars Wisely: Everyone has their pants charmed off by the enormous cocktail party that is the Grand Tasting. But the real learning, if you want to walk away with any kind of gained knowledge, is found at the seminars. This year my top seminar picks are “Riesling Report” with the fun and gregarious Paul Greico, owner of Terroir Wine Bar in NYC. He’s a great presenter and Riesling is my wine of summer, so it’s a homerun. On the food end, I am such a sucker for shellfish that “Oysters 10 Ways” with Jose Andreas is a close winner over “Global Vegetarian” with Susan Feniger, because vegetarian is the new pork, haven’t you heard?
IF YOU DON’T HAVE A PASS
• My Goodness, Stop the Whining: If you look hard enough, you can find someone that is willing to give up their pass on Sunday morning for the only tasting left on Father’s Day. Start some good vibes now, be nice, look both ways before you cross in front of my car on Main Street and maybe you’ll end up with a little something special by the time 10 a.m. rolls around on the 17th.
• Cochon! Cochon! While vegetarianism might be the new pork, pork still makes us sometimes-vegetarians happy, and there is no more good lookin’ pork in one room than at Grand Cochon. The King or Queen of Porc is crowned at this annual event at the Hotel Jerome. Held on Sunday afternoon, it is a fabulous event that attracts the same food enthusiasts as Food & Wine— and many more — who are happy to try food from the best up-and-coming chefs and sip on craft beer and spirits from around the country.
• Hit the After-Party Circuit: From magazine fetes to special a la carte Food & Wine events, there are so many parties to choose from that most locals will be able to enjoy themselves without ever having gone near Wagner Park. Sure, you might need an invitation to get in, but we are a tiny town of 5,000 residents. Surely you know someone? If not, or if you just don’t care, perhaps camping alone during this weekend — away from town and all those damn happy people — is a better choice.
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