Alison Berkley: No such thing as a free lunch |

Alison Berkley: No such thing as a free lunch

Last night, six of my closest friends and I racked up a $400 dinner bill at a restaurant we chose specifically because we thought we could afford the local’s special fixed-fare dealio.


You should have seen our faces when the bill arrived. Our smiles melted and skin turned to ash, the lights in our eyes dimmed and sank into black, ghostlike holes. No one moved. No one spoke. It went from wedding to funeral, from shits and giggles to “oh, shit?”

Awkward silence erupted into a bitter discussion about who owed what. Sideways glances were cast at the martini drinkers. Quiet calculations were made about who ate how many pieces of what roll. Credit cards piled up, but no one could face the fact that we owed more money for one meal than we budgeted for a month’s worth of groceries. So we kept coming up with different ways to add up that we were all pretty much screwed.

Of course we decided to split it.

Seventy dollars! I could have wasted that money somewhere else instead of eating it with chopsticks. I mean, what do I have to show for it besides a bloated belly?

Now that it’s off-season, we’re headed into that cycle of poverty and proclivity for Aspen’s excess, that hunger for everything we shouldn’t have, don’t need and can’t afford. Without those wealthy “second-home owners” (can we really call them tourists?) to keep those business owners, well, in business, temptation is pushed in our faces like Pamela Anderson’s boobies. No worries, mate. You get 50 percent off what was already four times as much as it should be!

Oh, don’t get your panties in a bunch. I totally understand businesses still have to pay rent even when the tourists are gone, overhead is high, you do what you gotta do, and blah-blah-blah. A discount is a discount after all.

This is not to say businesses are courting us under false pretenses. It’s to say, locals, get a grip: Just because it’s discounted doesn’t mean we can afford it.

I’ll be the first to admit that the whole not-being-able-to-afford-it thing really doesn’t faze me. I’m going to run out there and drop three-figs on a meal if for no other reason than I’m bored off my ass and there’s nothing else to do. Just ask my friend Brady. I tried to bail last night, I swear. I lied to her and told her I had a stomach ache. But then I realized, “Shit, I have nothing to do!” and changed my mind.

It’s like that blow job you gave/got in some degrading location with some person you don’t even like. Even though you hate yourself for it, chances are you’d do it again, so you might as well do it right next time.

For starters, don’t go out to these off-season dinner deals with your best friend who is also a big fat piglet whose appetite knows no bounds. His fare is about as fixed as the gate to the bull pen. When that thing flies open, the stampede is gonna trample all over your cheap dinny-din-din.

My friend Scott is like that. He consumes large quantities of food as if it were a race. He hovers centimeters from his plate, like a fork might not be necessary. The occasional snort escapes through his nose, his mouth too full to breathe. He drowns everything with hot sauce and loads of salt and pepper, just to be sure he covers up even a hint of flavor. He reminds me of a medieval king, slurping on the bones of an enormous carcass, napkin tucked under his chin, face red and lips glistening with grease while the poor people starve.

You can always count on pig boy to do the unthinkable, like order double-full retail appetizers and snort them up his nose so you don’t get any and are left with the shredded-carrot garnish. This is no time to put him on a diet – better just to skip the invite. He’ll be just as happy at home on the couch in front of the TV with his macaroni and cheese anyway.

Leave your alcoholic friends at home. No, wait. That won’t work because all of your friends are alcoholics. Instead, meet beforehand at the biggest drunk’s house and suggest they do bong hits. Smoking mass quantities of weed will focus the drinker on eating because once in a public place, they will be too freaked to get more wasted than they already are.

Eat before you go. Now you’ll understand why mom always asked you to clean your room before the cleaning lady came. The cleaning lady didn’t really clean. She just wiped stuff off and vacuumed. It’s the same thing: Going out to eat in Aspen has nothing to do with eating. You’re there to socialize with friends and show off your new outfit. It’s best to eat beforehand so you won’t get tempted. Filling foods like half an avocado, a few slices of cheese, or a grilled steak and a baked potato with sour cream work best for me.

Even better, go “out to eat” with all your anorexic friends from L.A. That way, you can talk about food the whole time but not waste any money on it. Order vodka instead, which everyone knows has the fewest calories. On an empty stomach, you can be sure she’ll be a cheap date. Lucky for us, every restaurant in Aspen offers tuna tar-tar so that all those women who are starving themselves can have something to pick at and don’t have to feel so embarrassed.

So you see, it’s not about finding a deal, but making it. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as free lunch – especially in Aspen.

[The Princess would love to go out to dinner as long as you are buying. E-mail your invites to her at]

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