Barry Smith: Fond memories of Food & Wines past |

Barry Smith: Fond memories of Food & Wines past

At this very moment – assuming you are reading this right now – I am once again acting in a professional capacity as an Audio Visual Guy at Aspen’s Food And Wine Brouhaha.Each year since 1995 I have worked AV for the event, taken little notes along the way and put them together in a hilarious column. Today, in preparation for that glorious annual wrapup, I’m offering some highlights from bygone years of Food And Wine Hilarity.I’ll be stationed once again at the Cement Tent, so feel free to stop by and say hello. Or, if you are too drunk to use polysyllabic words, just say hi. If that’s also too much, you could just make an “h” sound really close to my face.Better yet, don’t talk to me. I’ll be working.* Looks like the Veal people are trying to change their image. Their new slogan is “Veal: Taste The Difference.” This is far better than last year’s “Veal: Who Says Animal Torture Doesn’t Have Its Finer Points?” Or the year before: “Veal – Rhymes With Squeal. Get The Picture?”* My favorite culinary technique/expression, “sweating onions,” would also be an exceptional name of a restaurant. * A few things that got a big “Ooohhhh,” “Aaahhh,” or even all out applause from the audience during the cooking classes: Showing everyone how small a bowl is, adding grits to a bowl of water, putting olives on a pizza, putting Kosher salt on pork.* After hearing all this talk of people who were “Bon Vivants,” I have decided that that’s how I want to be thought of. I, too, want to be a Bon Vivant. Is there anything special I need to do, you think, or could I get away with just putting it on a business card and introducing myself as one? * A few suggestions, if I may, for next year’s cooking classes: “Grease Fires – Kitchen Mishap or Avant Garde Finishing Technique?” and “Fish Schticks and Garter Sauce – The Naughty Side of Cooking.”* Absolute best “conversation” of the weekend:WOMAN (entering the Cement Tent, looking around intently): Is there any water around? Like REAL water?ME (genuinely puzzled): REAL water?WOMAN: Yeah, you know, bottled water.I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we only had artificial, “water flavored” water in this venue.* It must be something they teach you in “How To Be a Famous Chef” school, because every Famous Chef I saw on stage did some variation – much to the delight of the audience – of the old “Say ‘just use a pinch’ of whatever ingredient it is while simultaneously throwing a shitload of it in the pot” trick. Killed ’em every time.* On Saturday I was paid a visit by the Mythical Flatusius, The Thunderous God of Improper Food Combining. Fortunately it was during a cheese tasting, so no one noticed.* Stopped by the lecture entitled “Italy’s Youthful, Fruity Reds,” thinking it was going to be a dissertation on the recent resurgence of Communism among the flamboyant teenagers of Italy. It wasn’t.* Maybe I’m a little slow, but it just occurred to me that these wine experts are making this shit up. I mean, they have jobs where they are REQUIRED to drink, so it isn’t as if any of them are going to blow the whistle on themselves or their colleagues. I’ve been watching wine tastings for three solid days, so I’ve seen first-hand the exchanges of the subtle, knowing glances of those drunk on their own thesaurus. “This expresses the grape very vividly,” one of them will say, and the other experts will suppress a smirk as they all try to out-modify the other.I bet that when they’re hanging out afterwards, swilling down the best wine in the world for free and getting paid for it, they have conversations like: “And then I said, check this out, I said, ‘This one’s a bit on the shy side, and slightly leathery,’ and everyone nodded their heads and wrote it down in their notebook. Ha! (Sluurpp) Hey, this Cabernet is pretty kick ass!”* Overheard quote: “I have to tell you my favorite horseradish story.”* Worth mentioning: There exists in our solar system, indeed, on this very planet, a Bacon of the Month Club.* As the weekend wound down, I noticed that the wine vendors seemed to be having doubts as to whether anyone cared about their spiel anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure I witnessed sarcasm:VENDOR (while pouring): This is a classic Pinot Noir with just a dash of Yak bile, aged in plywood and particle board casks held together by highly toxic Dupont resins. That’s what gives it that Vaselinelike finish. The little floaty things you see in the glass are not bits of cork, but the result of the winemaker flossing his teeth over the open barrels.DRUNKEN “CONNOISSEUR” (while drinking): Whatever … got any cheese?* Until you’ve heard a tipsy wine-tasting panelist trying to pronounce, with nothing even resembling success, the word “minimalist,” you haven’t lived, my child.* Inside the Porta Potty there is a sticker that reads, “Capacity: 10 People.” Sure, I guess 10 people COULD fit in there, but it would have to be 10 very special people. * When you find yourself being tempted by the robust bouquet, ample body and well-rounded fullness of the spit bucket, it may be time to consider lingering at the cheese and bread station for a few moments.Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Monday and Thursday. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at

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