Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate | AspenTimes.com

Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I have to admit it. There are times I struggle living surrounded by all this unobtainable wealth in Aspen.

There are times when I feel envious of people who have so much more than I do. I think it’s only natural to want more, like a big house, a nicer car or a fatter bank account.

Lucky for me, my boyfriend doesn’t see it that way. I say lucky because he is seriously the happiest person I have ever met. He simply doesn’t need anything. He might yell at inanimate objects once in a while as he’s fixing them (“God damn stupid mother [expletive deleted] drain!”). But otherwise, he is like the Zen of Apartment Maintenance.

He loves nothing more than sprucing up worn-out apartments and making them like new or fixing things that are broken, even if it’s those less-than-glamorous plugged toilets and jammed disposals. He’s the guy who lives in the same Carhartt work pants (love those) and gray T-shirts all week long and the only accessory in his world is the Leatherman he wears on his belt (also very hot). He never talks about wanting stuff, except right before hunting season, but I’m sure a gun and a blaze orange hat are probably pretty necessary, considering.

He proudly drives around in “the green machine,” a forest green 1997 Oldsmobile Bravada with gold stripes and these gaudy gold rims and a Beaver Liquors bumper sticker on the back that I have begged him numerous times to remove, but alas, it is still there. I think it has like almost 200,000 miles on it. It’s true it still runs great and everything works and the back is big enough for Jorge, our horse-size dog who is not only long, but very tall. If you include the ears, he clears 3 feet.

We don’t have a washer/dryer at our place, so whenever we go to visit friends who do have these coveted machines, we bring our laundry with us. It doesn’t matter if we have two loads or 10, we’re coming to your door with a bag the size of a dead body and we’re not leaving until we’re done.

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We’ve also been trying to cut back our grocery budget, which means I eat brown rice and vegetables all week and Ryan gets spaghetti with meat sauce. I make a batch of both on Monday, and we keep reheating it night after night like old people who got freaked out by the lack of supplies during World War II.

So it’s kind of a big deal when we find ourselves at Syzygy on Saturday night with Dean and Katrina from eataspen.com for a chef’s tasting with Executive Chef Tom Fritz and Chef de Cuisine Dan Silver.

They came out in their cute little chef outfits, Tom in shorts and Dan with his flushed cheeks. He’s got this tangible intensity, like he’s lit up from within (or maybe it’s just hot in the kitchen). The way he talked about food was how some people talk about their dogs or their kids, like he’d never stop if he didn’t have to.

We sat in the lounge by the fire on these velvet couches that made me want to pet them all night like I was on drugs (which, just for the record, I was not. But if I was, I’m telling you these couches and the low lighting would be ideal). They brought out plate after plate of these super-intricate dishes that had like 50 ingredients and involved really complicated culinary processes with special ovens and cheese cloths and aging and marinating stuff for several days and special ordering of whole pig legs so they can get just the right piece of meat.

There were the broiled oysters with manchego cheese and piquillo mignonette (if you think that’s a mouthful, well, it truly is); the buffalo carpaccio with roasted garlic panna cotta (my personal favorite); the shrimp-wrapped dover sole with the tomato agnoloti (little pillow-shaped pastas that I will dream about for weeks) and the mangalista pork ravioli, which is made from the “Kobe beef of pork.” Those are words that sound to Ryan like, “Hey honey, wanna have a threesome with one of my hot friends tonight?”

Did I mention we were treated to all of this, just because? (OK, it might have had something to do with my pathetic little story about eating leftovers I’d told Dean a few days before).

This all took place after a day on the hill and a nice little apres session at The Sky, where Ryan and I first met. Let me just say there is nothing better than two beers on an empty stomach in a cozy, swanky bar at the base of the best little big mountain on the planet. Sunday was more of the same, but with an early morning gondola session with a bunch of old dog crazy locals who like to do top-to-bottom gondola laps like they’re being chased by an ax murderer. It was the kind of high speed, do-or-die luge track style of riding that made me think I really should wear a helmet.

It’s true I always get this way at the beginning of the season, when being able to swing a few gondola laps or some powder turns in the middle of all the eating and drinking makes our lives seem surreal. I think my dear friend Ms. Jelliefer put it best at L’Hostaria last night: “Food, wine and friends is what life is all about.”

And I’m like, “You mean, it’s what life in Aspen is all about.”

Ryan doesn’t care about material things or how much money we have in the bank because he’s already got it all figured out. He knows money can’t buy what we have: this amazing life that’s afforded to us here in Aspen.