In the Tent: High-class taste
ASPEN I’ve been living in Aspen for nearly two years. I finally hit the big time Friday afternoon.It started when Stewart Oksenhorn woke me at 10:15 a.m., and asked if I could be ready for Food & Wine’s first Grand Tasting in one hour. (I’m a macaroni and cheese, not a foie grois, guy, but I was curious – where there’s Stew, there’s always good food.) It continued just before 11:30 when, as we stood at the end of a line stretching throughout the city, we were informed our press passes entitled us to go to the head of the line. We probably pissed off a few hundred people but, judging by the look on Stew’s face, he wasn’t about to lose any sleep over it.Any guilt I experienced dissipated when I walked through the gates and entered a world I never knew existed. The veritable smorgasbord of food and alcohol laid out before us was baffling – and made me wish I had more than two arms. I could’ve been much more productive.Admittedly, I felt out of place among the rare vintages and the distinguished upper classes. So I followed Stew’s lead – this was no easy task. As soon as he entered the tents, he took off, as if prompted by a starter’s pistol or the click of a wine glass.He weaved in and out the crowds with true precision, narrowly averting outstretched elbows and full plates. Stew is a tenured pro. I can’t be sure, but it seemed like he had studied the event directory meticulously the night before. Or else it was fate that led us to all the best spots in succession. It started at Lobell’s, where we delighted in beef brisket and cole slaw; the meat apparently took 14 hours to cook – we devoured it in little more than a minute, washing it down with a glass of Samuel Adams’ Boston Ale. There was little time to waste, certainly not enough to find a napkin – that’s why God invented pant legs.Then we headed in the direction of the beef tenderloin, the Australian lamb and some Colorado potatoes, pausing only for refills of cabernet. There were times when I had no idea what I was eating, but I very rarely passed any exhibit without indulging.There were pork wraps and strawberries doused in expensive liqueur. There was sushi, crab meat, chocolate filled with toffee, chocolate filled with caramel, chocolate filled with more chocolate. There were red wines, dessert wines, honey wines – I made sure to swish each in the glass, then check the legs so people I assumed I knew what I was doing. It worked, too, until I stuck my nose in a glass of Blue Moon. Rookie mistake.It was all over so soon. Only four hours later, while eating a bag of Fritos and a Hot Pocket for dinner, I was hit with a dose of reality. It sure was fun to pretend I had class, if only for an hour and a half.
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