Emeril’s brie and other frenzied moments at Food & Wine Classic
Ever wonder what The Food and Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen looks like from the perspective of the AV Guy? Of course you don’t. Why would you? But thanks for being so kind. My main job over the weekend was to run the camera and sound at the cooking demonstrations in the basement of the St. Remus Hotel. Pretty good gig. I was given music to play as people entered and exited the room – soulless, pseudo jazz that makes Muzak sound like death metal. I cranked it. I had my orders. So limp and toothless was this music that I came up with a new genre: “Flaccid Jazz.” One of the things I tell my friends, or even people I’ve just met, is that if anything clever or funny comes out of their mouth while I’m around, I will most likely include it in this space at some point, preceded by words like, “here’s something bright and insightful I came up with on my very own,” or, “wow, I just thought of something REALLY funny,” or, possibly, “so limp and toothless was this music that I came up with a new genre.” I’m fascinated by crowd responses during cooking demonstrations. For example, when very famous chef Emeril Lagasse announces that he has brie cheese, the crowd goes, “Oooooooohhhh!” Is there something about brie that I’m not hip to? The way the crowd reacted you’d think it was nature’s Viagra. Later in the day, when another chef FINALLY figured out how to work the mixer, the crowd went, “Yay!” Isn’t being able to work a mixer a bit of a prerequisite? Isn’t that like giving him a standing ovation for tying his apron?The chefs encourage such raucous mob behavior, of course, because they really are like rock stars, constantly trying to get the crowd pumped.”Hello Aspen … are you ready to sauté?””I said, are you ready to sauté?””I can’t hear you!!”At one point, Emeril announced that he was going to fry something up in pork fat. This caused one woman – only one – to burst into applause.Emeril paused, and everyone turned and looked at her. I felt bad for her. She was caught up in the moment. How could she know? She thought she was merely adding to what was sure to be thunderous applause. If brie gets the crowd all gooey, then wouldn’t pork fat have them humping in the aisles?No. There was just the one lone pork fat fan, a dying breed, clapping in the wind. The Grand Tasting tent is a collection of tables of food and drink as far as the wine-clouded eye can see, and it’s the place where everyone wants to be. Since I was working, I only got to spend about 20 minutes there, but in that time I managed to eat the charred, grilled, fried, steamed and even raw flesh of at least 10 different formerly living creatures. Add a few hastily gulped glasses of wine to this gastrointestinal mismanagement, and I’m afraid for the next few hours my coworkers were paying a price almost as high as the animals.And I’d do it all over again. The bedrock of all cooking demonstration humor is the “say a little, use a lot” routine. You say, “Just a pinch of salt,” then you throw a fistful in. Hilarious. Works EVERY time. It’s the “Take my wife … please” of culinary wit.However, before you go trying this at home, you should know that there is a herb/spice hierarchy to be considered. Using a bunch of salt when you declare a pinch is needed will get you a laugh, but doing the same with cayenne will make your crowd go ape-scat. If you say “Add just a little wine” and pour half a bottle of wine in, forget it – you’ve got a riot on your hands.If it’s a chuckle you’re after, you’re safe with anything. But just because using excessive garlic gets your crowd going, don’t expect the same from, say, fennel. Or celery seed.Horseradish, yes. Curry powder, possibly. Arrowroot and bay leaves … probably not.No matter how loud you say “Bam!” when you throw it in.Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com
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