Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

So I forgot to write my column last week, which is ironic considering I was in a tailspin over not having any money.

I had just received some big mean letter in the mail from the IRS, something about back taxes and numbers with more zeroes than someone at my income level should ever have to see. So I went for a long run to clear my head and ponder my future in Canada and completely forgot it was deadline day. Somehow I managed to not do the one writing job for which I’m actually getting paid.

I would say times are tough, but the thing is they’re not. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve had to make huge sacrifices. Like, I haven’t had a pedicure since March and haven’t seen the inside of a spa in way too long. Instead of those amazing European facials I used to get from Valentina, I now have to resort to mud masks at home made from powdered clay and apple cider vinegar and store bought zit cream that leaves bleach stains on all my clothes. And you should have seen my roots before Rita at Queen B felt sorry enough for me to fix them and let me pay later. Disaster avoided!

Still, it’s not like I’m starving. Even though my bank account balance is less than my shoe size and height combined, my life seems richer than ever.

Over the course of the last week alone, I ate roast lamb, beef tenderloin, and baked salmon. I was among the breast-baring, zebra-print-mini-dress-and-thigh-high-leather-boot-wearing crowd at Bret Michaels’ Rock of Love Tour stop at the Belly Up on Tuesday night when Ryan decided to buy tickets at the last minute.

Between Passover and Easter the beer really did flow like wine ” I could have filled my bathtub with it. I started Easter Sunday with a spicy Bloody Mary and ended it with a 30-year-old scotch on ice with a lemon twist. Somewhere in between, I snowboarded in 6 inches of powder and then downed a brunch of Eggs Benedict soaked in rich hollandaise sauce with two mimosas and a shot of some unidentified Austrian liquor the waiter brought unsolicited to our table.

“You are like, totally wasted,” Ryan said when I collapsed under a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

All I could do was nod. “I’m just not used to drinking this early in the day,” I said when I finally caught my breath. All it takes is a few drinks, my friends. They say adolescents are filled with hormones, but what’s my excuse?

I was still riding on the high of a week packed with social callings, good times and great friends. Tuesday night, Nate took me to Plato at the Aspen Meadows for dinner to celebrate his long-awaited business success. It was a restaurant neither of us had ever considered since the whole vibe over there has always struck me as scary-pretentious-smarty-pants, more of a gathering place for kings and monks than my dirtbag crowd. But the dimly lit Bauhaus dining room was as aesthetically pleasing and sophisticated as the food, refined in its presentation and quality of flavor. The menu featured mostly a modern interpretation of classic dishes like lobster bisque and Colorado lamb, with delicate portions and creative sides. The service was also excellent, but then again, we did have the place all to ourselves.

Wednesday the yoga chicks took me to L’Hostaria for caprese salad and savory fish soup with muscles, crab, tuna, followed by a nice light cheesecake the chef sent out because he knew someone from our table. (Ambere, I’m gonna fix your knees, don’t worry).

Thursday I found myself seated around a candlelit table for Passover Seder in the fabulous home of longtime Aspenites Gerry and Christine Goldstein. The old cabin, tucked into a steep hillside on a windy little street I never knew existed, has been expanded and renovated over the years into something out of a fairy tale, like a gingerbread house or a castle in a forest. Inside, it’s all exposed wood and cozy spaces with window beds and low ceilings and tilted floors and bookshelves chock full of mementos, evidence of a well-lived past. It’s a virtual museum of Aspen’s rich recent history, 50 years of good times had, of friends loved and lost. The free-spirited vibe of that era seemed to linger in the air like the sweet, dank smell of pot right after someone has smoked it (figuratively speaking, of course). Needless to say it was nothing like the dry Seders of my youth, wrought with boredom and bad food, but something special, deliciously eclectic, eccentric, authentic and fun.

Then came Easter, a holiday I always dreamed of celebrating after my Atheist parents strictly forbade me to indulge in it as a child. I guess it had something to do with Jews not believing in the rebirth of Christ or maybe it was the ham or baskets filled with more candy than a child should be allowed to eat. So I took long-awaited pleasure and pride in the whole dual-tradition thing.

After a perfect day, we drove down to Missouri Heights where Ryan’s good friends Matt and Laura had an Easter table with the best view in the valley waiting. It was an amazing meal (no ham) followed by a generous glass of Scotch, a tradition I somehow created when I had to prove I could hang with the boys, drinking the hard stuff and puffing cigars long after the ladies have gone to bed. Pour it on. I can hang. Or be hung, as the case may be, the next day when my little body can’t quite process things the way a man’s can.

For richer or for poorer, as the saying goes, I think we’re off to a fantastic start.

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