Food & Wine Reporter’s Notebook Day 2: Pairings on the go and a stiff competition |

Food & Wine Reporter’s Notebook Day 2: Pairings on the go and a stiff competition

Chefs Stephanie Izzard and Tiffy Cooks prepare dishes during a morning seminar at the Hotel Jerome during Food & Wine in Aspen on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The Fastidious and the Foodies

I was waiting outside the tent for a Burger King or McDonald’s truck to show up for Mark Oldman’s “Fast Food and Fancy Wines” seminar. I should’ve had loftier expectations for what these people consider “fast food.”

“When Food & Wine says ‘fast food,’ they don’t mean Hardee’s. They don’t mean Jack in the Box,” Oldman said. “This is from The Little Nell.” Now it makes sense.

Placed in front of the attendees in a packed room was an intimidating setting of eight wines — three white, two rose and three red of various orientations — and a large plate consisting of truffle fries, a spring roll, a chicken wing, a grilled cheese square, a barbecue rib and a beef slider (eaten in that order, respectively, along with the paired wines). I envision this is what Wendy’s serves in heaven; unfortunately, I’ll probably never know. (Because I’m immortal, not because I’m going to hell. Jeez.)

“Most wines work with most food, but there’s a precision to making all the flavors really stand out,” Oldman said, half choking on a spring roll and Chapoutier Belleruche Rose. “Need some water?” an audience member asked.

“At Food & Wine?” Oldman wheezed. “In my hotel room I have a spigot and chardonnay comes out.” Um, bro that’s probably the bidet.

I don’t pretend to be an authority on food or wine — I was expecting to be scarfing down a Double Chubby Chuck and pounding Mogen David, after all — but as Oldman guided us through each pairing of food and drink, he explained how the different components complemented each other.

For example, “Spicy foods need something bubbly and tangy, not a deep red,” Oldman said. “You need a weight match and a flavor match.”

And he was right. Delicately take a bite of the creamy grilled cheese, chew thoughtfully, then sip its ruche counterpart and boom — every element immediately enhances twofold in your mouth. It didn’t even matter that our grub had been sitting out for a while.

“French fries are like sex,” Oldman said. “Even when it’s cold, it’s good.”

I’m certainly not one to kink shame necromancy but maybe Aspen PD should put an extra watch around the Ute Cemetery tonight.

— Benjamin Welch

Single Malt Showdown: Scotland vs America vs Japan with Nate Ganapathi

Our host for the afternoon, Nate Ganapathi, started his journey in whiskey as an investment and has gone on to create a career in the industry. He’s recognized as an authority in collecting and is a judge of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The theme of the day was single malt, a new tradition for American makers — being only 7 years old and not yet officially recognized by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — went off on the OG whiskey makers from Scotland and newer but more recognized Japanese variations.

While slated as a competition, all 10 of the options were special in their own right. Having conceded that women have better palates at the top of the seminar, one of Ganapathi’s goals is to market whiskey better to women, who have been left out of much of the historical narrative.

Whether we have better palates or not, I am delighted to share my favorites of the day and a few tidbits learned along the way. Coming in at No. 1 for me was Dalmore from Scotland. With its signature orange nose and diverse cask method (six different casks), it was silky smooth and immensely drinkable. No. 2 came from Taiwan (not technically in the three-country seminar title competition) maker Kavalan. This whiskey had a port cask finish that made it so enjoyable with zero afterburn. Kavalan has become synonymous with great whiskey, having won some of the highest international awards in recent years.

My top three seminar takeaways: Always smell whiskey with your mouth open to get both senses working at the same time; whiskey ages are determined by the lowest age in the bottle (you could be drinking 99% 30 year and 1% 18 year, but it is labeled as 18 year); and my personal favorite, never pass by a duty-free shop — especially in Tokyo and London airports — without buying a whiskey. They apparently have some of best selections to add to your collection (either for investment or enjoyment). Slàinte mhath, kanpai and cheers to worldwide whiskey making.

— Amy Laha