Barry Smith: Irrelativity
Another has come and gone, leaving the streets awash with a Cabernet and something that looks like a mixture of Bailey’s and Thanksgiving leftovers.For nearly 10 years in a row I was a part of the annual Aspen Food & Wine Classic while in the protective guise of an AV Guy. Each year I emerged with a notebook full of wry observations, insider/outsider insights, quotes taken out of context that make for good double-entendre and some sort of embarrassing stain on the front of my shirt. Then I’d race home and give you the dirt, just in case you weren’t there.Well, this year I wasn’t there. No, I’m now confined to the periphery of this everyone-who’s-anyone event. But I still have pages and pages of old notes, and things can’t have changed THAT much, can they? So travel back with me now to the Golden Years of Food and Wine and Rain. Spit if you must.• Actual Overheard quote: “I have to tell you my favorite horseradish story.”• Inside the Porta Potty there’s 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.• Overheard Exchange Between Wine Novice and Wine Expert:Novice: Do you think there’s a sweetness in this wine?Expert: Well … there’s the IMPRESSION of sweetness.• Stopped by the lecture titled “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.• The following cooking demo moments (all true … I took notes) received an enthusiastic “ooh,” “ahhh” or even all-out applause from the attendees: removing a tendon from a chicken breast, peeling a mango, showing everyone how small a bowl is, adding grits to water, putting olives on a pizza, putting Kosher salt on pork, correctly operating a food processor. Tough crowd.• At those same cooking demos, the following events were met with enthusiastic laughter: adding salt to water, adding garlic to oil, turning up the heat on a stove, putting salt on lettuce, putting butter in a skillet, tossing a salad, incorrectly operating a food processor.• Overheard Wine-Based Comments That I Like To Pretend Could Also Be Used In Reference To Me: “Very firm tannins,” “Notice the slight spritz?,” “A little red currant, some vanilla, some leather,” “Very large Yugoslavian barrels,” “Spent 24 months in French oak casks,” “38 dollars a bottle.”• Overheard Wine-Based Comments That I’d Like To Think Could NOT Be Used In Reference To Me, But I’m Probably Wrong: “I’m getting acidity here,” “A real intriguing gaminess to the aroma,” “Fruity, but reserved.”• I think the first thing they must teach in “How To Be A Famous Chef” school is the “say a little-put a lot” routine. It’s the “take my wife … please” of culinary wit. For example, say “Just add a touch of butter …” while actually putting in a humorously larger amount. I’ve seen this routine performed with pepper, wine, sugar, barbeque sauce and garlic. It killed every time.At one point, a chef declared that he was going to add a cup of olive oil, and he then glugged in THE WHOLE BOTTLE! There were audible gasps in the room, as if an albino tiger had just leapt from the skillet and into the crowd.Before you go trying this at home, you should know that there is a herb/spice hierarchy to be considered. Just because using excessive garlic gets your crowd going, don’t expect the same from, say, fennel. Or celery seed.• Absolute best all-time Food & Wine “conversation”:WOMAN (entering room, 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.• Year after year, as each weekend wound down, the wine vendors seemed to start having doubts as to whether anyone really cared about their spiel:VENDOR (while pouring): This is a classic Pinot, aged in plywood and particle board casks. Notice the Vaseline-like 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.CONNOISSEUR (while drinking): Awesome … got any cheese?
Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays in The Aspen Times. Read more at http://www.barrysmith.com.
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