Under the tent: The infamous Aspen Food & Wine fade
June 16, 2012
ASPEN – Ask anybody who has ever attended the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, and they can tell you about the Saturday afternoon fade. It happens to everyone, professional and amateur alike. No matter if you are working, volunteering or just tasting in the tents, you can’t avoid the Saturday afternoon fade. First your legs get a little rubbery. Your stomach, while not sick, is a little queasy. Your head, while not exactly aching, feels foggy. You’re a little clammy and a little hot around the edges. What you need is a nap. And who can blame you? You’ve been going strong for 18 hours a day. You’ve been giving your liver a workout. You likely have been pushing the exercise just so you feel a little better about all that eating and drinking you’ve been doing. And you’re at 8,000 feet above sea level. There’s not much you can do but down another Fiji water and keep on keepin’ on. It’s not like anyone is going to feel sorry for you. And, besides, there is another seminar starting in five minutes. And the seminars are one big reason why you’re here. It is amazing how much fun it can be to sit in the tents or the ballrooms with some of these people and hear them talk about food and wine. On the surface, the scene might resemble a lecture, but when you mix in six wines or a half a dozen cheeses or a hot grill, the lectures become killer fun. A case in point was Saturday’s seminar with Mark Oldman, who has been a hit at this year’s event, partly because of his attire. He has been dressed in red leather pants in homage to Mike Reno, the lead singer of the ’80s band Loverboy, which had a No. 1 hit the year the Classic began – but mostly because he is an entertaining and knowledgeable presenter. Mark uses cultural reference points and descriptions to make wine accessible to those who might be intimidated or uncomfortable with the world of wine. He tells stories and uses his fair share of sexual double entendres to keep the seminars lively. And he pours good wine. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Classic, he offered up two wines from 1982, a Jordan Cabernet and Chateau La Croix Bordeaux. Jim Meehan, the James Beard Award-winning mixologist and owner of the New York cocktail lounge PDT, is another example of a presenter who is every bit as good as his material. Meehan delivers like a country preacher. He pleased the crowd as he made three classic cocktails, a Manhattan, an Aviation and a Sidecar, any of which could go a long way toward easing a Saturday-afternoon fade.As Saturday afternoon wore on, you could feel a second wind beginning to blow. Patrons were looking forward to the Elvis Costello concert in the Music Tent and the Infinite Monkey Theorem party at Smuggler Mine later in the evening. And everyone could see that they were closer to the end of this year’s 30th-anniversary Classic than they were to the beginning.