Su Lum: Slumming
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Last Sunday, an article by Kelly Hayes ran on the front page of The Aspen Times, about a “mega-meal and wine event” at The Little Nell for 30 guests and six premiere wine-makers, for $2,000 a pop.
The first thing I wondered about was why The Little Nell Restaurant changed its name to Montagna and why they have now changed it again to the even more unmemorable Element 47. “I’ll see you at Element 47” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as, “Meet you at the Nell.”
The second thing I wondered was what kind of dinner could possibly be worth $2,000 or, for a couple, $4,000 plus an $800 tip. Sauteed hummingbird tongues sprang to mind.
I know that this parochial naivete will identify me as a culinary Neanderthal but, that aside, aren’t quite a few people starving on the planet and even some hungry in our own community?
Forty-eight-hundred bucks would buy quite a few boxes of mac and cheese.
The dinner’s starter was, “kataifi-crusted red mullet on saffron rye berries,” sending me to my computer’s search engines. Kataifi, I learned, is a shredded phyllo pastry, and entering “saffron rye berries” brought up Kelly’s article in seventh place on Google.
As for red mullet, “The ancient Romans reared them in ponds where they were attended and caressed by their owners. Specimens were sometimes sold for their weight in silver” (Element 47).
The mullet was accompanied by poached langoustine (a highly-prized, small, pink-fleshed lobster) sea urchin and a bouillabaisse emulsion.
Scallops en croute (in crust) layered with Perigourd truffles came next, followed by “spiced squab breast, which was crisp around the edges with a hint of salt and rare and tender in the center.” This description was accompanied by a photograph of what looked like a chuck of raw liver.
I might not have known what a langoustine is, but I do know that squab is pigeon. Given the present trend to eat locally grown food, we could hope that several birds were killed with one stone, serving to reduce our pigeon pest problem while gracing the tables of the connoisseurs at the $2,000 feast. More than 500 glasses of wine were served to 36 participants, so maybe they were too sloshed to inquire into the credentials of the pigeons
Google “spiced squab breast,” and Hayes’ article comes up in first place.
Then came “the piece de resistance, hay-baked T-bone ‘Rossini’.” For this dish, huge porterhouse steaks were propped on a bed of hay around mounds of foie gras and black truffles, grilled and served with the hay in flames. The steaks were no doubt marvelous, and none of the patrons caught fire.
I probably would not have had room for the cheese selection and pickled ramps (related to wild onions/garlic/leeks) or the cardamom-orange cigar (wrapped in phyllo or, some recipes say, white bread, which I doubt was selected).
A grand time was had by all.
Sorry I missed it.
Su Lum is a longtime local whose cheap computer does not have accent marks. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at email@example.com.
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