Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
I don’t know about you, but I never really thought about how mozzarella cheese was made. Now it’s all Ryan can talk about.
We learned how to do it, or at least watched Chef Roland Richter from Joe’s Diner in Santa Fe demonstrate how to do it at the Wine and Chili Festival last week.
I gotta say, we were pretty lackadaisical about planning a honeymoon. As the costs of the wedding stacked up and hundreds of dollars for this or that seemed incidental, the reality of taking an exotic trip became more and more distant. Then we realized “exotic” and “distant” aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.
The New Mexico border is right down the road, and it’s plenty exotic.
It always strikes me how everything changes as soon as you drive over the state line no matter which direction you’re headed. In Utah, the skies open and the rocks turn red and begin to form canyons. In Kansas, the mountains disappear and the earth spills out into one big flat expanse of nothing but space. In New Mexico, scrub oak and cactus and desert flowers scream Southwest, but it’s more than that. There’s an aura, a vibe. The energy is different. It feels ancient, out of time and place. The little slogan on the license plates got it right. It really is the Land of Enchantment.
We sampled green chili stews and red chili sauces and ate fresh-made tortillas with honey (what a brilliant idea that is) and walked around the town square, where it’s easy to get dizzy from all the silver and turquoise and native patterns and colors and clothes with ruffles and the way the denim blue sky pops against all that adobe. We laid by the pool at La Posada de Santa Fe, an oasis right in the middle of downtown where iron spiral sculptures move with the wind and our room was more like an apartment, with a private entrance and a patio and a fireplace and a staff that was wonderfully accommodating to us and our horse-sized dog.
We had a couples massage at the spa and drank bottles of champagne in the middle of the day. We lounged around in the sun and meandered around town and ate good food and better yet, got to attend a few of these cooking demos that were part of the Wine and Chili festival.
We’d go each day to the Santa Fe cooking school on the second floor on San Francisco Avenue and learn how to do things like make our own cheese (heat water to 140 degrees and add to cow’s milk cheese curd, ladle by ladle until it forms into a ball with a shiny, pearl-like consistency) or how to cook ruby red trout in ghee (purify butter by separating fats and solids from the liquid over medium heat) or how to make creme fraiche (mix buttermilk with cream and let sit at room temperature overnight) or how to whip up buerre blanc sauce (simmer, whisk frequently, and don’t burn).
We learned about wine pairings (or faked it, anyway) and what makes a good rose (light in color, with no sugar content). We drank wine for breakfast and then followed the adorable chef from our demo (that would be you, Joseph Wrede) to his new restaurant (The Palace) where we ate halibut with strawberry and red chili sauce and green rice seasoned with cilantro and mint and seared ahi with fried avocado (what could be better) and marlin sashimi with fried kale (ditto).
We visited a Japanese-style spa called 10,000 Waves where our friend Pierre (love you, D Bar!) bought us a private session in a waterfall bath. When I first saw it, I was like, “Why would someone pay all this money for a hot tub and sauna?” But within the first five minutes my robe was gone and the sky came into view and I finally figured it out. Between the hot tub and cold plunge with waterfall that tickled our scalp and private sauna we were probably the most relaxed newlyweds on the planet. I even bought some Japanese socks that have a split in the toe so you can wear them with flip flops (why didn’t I think of that?) and an overpriced scented candle and some bath salts. Nothing better than a little heat to melt the brain, warm the heart, and get the fire started in a new marriage. It was the best ever.
I bought a handmade silver bracelet with a rare blue spider web New Lander turquoise stone from a guy named Robert Eustace Jones who grew up in Zuni Pueblo and learned to make jewelry when he was just a boy. Of all the vendors I somehow landed in front of him, and only him. It’s not only about this beautiful piece of jewelry but its context – definitely enchanted.
On the way home, we swung through Taos where we visited the 1,000-year-old pueblo and felt odd about being tourists tromping around this sacred land. So we made ourselves at home. I taught Sunflower how to do half tortoise pose because she complained of sciatica from sitting long hours to paint pottery over the last 40 years (yes, I bought a plate). And Ryan followed Sitting Tree around trying to learn how to build from adobe. We finished things off with a stop at the Mothership (Burning Man-esque homes made from recycled junk) and the Royal Gorge bridge (mandatory tourist photo).
Finally, we made the drive over Independence Pass where the Aspens seemed to explode from the mountainside like a million flash bulbs going off at once. In many ways, it seemed to summarize the experience of getting married, all that focus on you.
Some might think the honeymoon is over, not even close. The Margos of Aspen are just getting started.
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