A newbie’s experiences at the Food & Wine Grand Tasting | AspenTimes.com

A newbie’s experiences at the Food & Wine Grand Tasting

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

It’s getting close to my first anniversary as a reporter with The Aspen Times, and to celebrate, I took a casual stroll through the Private Trade Grand Tasting event Saturday at the Food & Wine Classic. OK, I went at the insistence of my editor. Having a press pass that allows for full access to the vendors and their goods, I decided to go for it and try as much as I could while staying within reasonable gluttony standards.

By the way, great call by my editor.

The hardest part for me was to convince myself to go ahead and try some alcohol, even if I was supposed to write afterward and it was only 11 a.m. I admit I’m a lightweight with booze, but today I was determined to get my Aspen game-face on and suck it up — literally.

Let me say that Food & Wine is so big with so many quality offerings that it really is impossible to sample everything — but I gave it the old college try. I tried Sartori cheeses from Wisconsin and duck sliders from Chobani SoHo in New York as well as a few spirits. Within five minutes, I knew this wasn’t going to work.

I made it about a quarter of the way around one tent before I admitted I would be too full and way too drunk to function if I kept sampling everything, so I started to get selective.

That also turned out to be difficult, but I found my groove when I started to hit the Colorado beef displays.

The 7X beef from Colorado was a showstopper, especially cooked as beef Wellington. 7X is pure Japanese beef, raised from one single breed with a 100 percent pure bloodline but raised in the high country of Colorado. The tenderness and intense flavor were undeniable.

The Piedmontese beef also stopped me in my tracks. The cattle originate from Italy and have a natural genetic makeup that produces extra muscle mass with very little fat. The sample I had was cooked to medium-rare perfection and literally melted after a few bites. The beef is raised in Nebraska, and despite the exclusive nature of the breed, it wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it would be.

Then I saw it — the Alaskan Copper River sockeye salmon. I grew up in Seattle, and I know all about the deep, frigid waters of the Copper River and how the salmon produce extra-oily fats to counter the cold waters. It gives the salmon an even richer flavor, which I tasted right away.

The only way my salmon experience could get better was if there was some crab to go with it, and sure enough, there was the Alaskan Seafood stand close by with its wild Alaska king crab and sole ceviche.

I took a step back and decided to do this right, so I went back and grabbed another 7X beef sample, more Copper River salmon and some king crab with the ceviche. All that was needed now was the proper lubrication, so I topped off my surf and turf with some Ty-Ku Sake Silver. Then I went outside the food tent and ate my little piece of heaven under the watchful gaze of Aspen Mountain.

For me, it was the perfect Food & Wine experience in Aspen, and now I know why the lines were so long to get into the Grand Tasting — emphasis on “grand.”

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