Paul E. Anna: High Points
That sure did go fast. Seemed like just yesterday we were sweltering in the May heat, looking forward to the 30th Aspen Food & Wine Classic and hoping that the cash registers would ring this summer. Now we sit on the cusp of Labor Day weekend. We got our monsoons, the Classic was classic and this has been a busy and, by all accounts, profitable summer for local businesses.Time for a celebration, I’d say. And while many are looking forward to longtime Labor Day shindigs like the Motherlode volleyball tourney and Kid Rock in Snowmass, I can’t wait for the first annual (we hope) Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival and BBQ, this Monday, Sept. 3, at Ajax Tavern, from 4 – 9 p.m. This will be a perfect place to close out the season eating the best offerings of the summer.”Great food, an amazing setting, it’s like a block party on our patio,” says Sabato Sagaria, director of food and beverage at The Little Nell. Sagaria, who is fresh off his first career hole-in-one (the par 3 17th at The Snowmass Club), was positively effusive in his excitement about the event. “We’re bringing the foods we like to eat ourselves,” he said of the menu, which marries the best of the Atlantic and the high mountain foods of the Rockies.Start with the sea. The crowd at The Nell, that is to say those who toil in the kitchens, swear by the Island Creek Oysters that hail from Duxbury in Massachusetts. These beauties will be served on the half-shell, just like they do in Duxbury, as well as baked, Po-boy-ed, Rockefeller-ed and fried. They may even BBQ a few.From the high country, for those who have the cajnes to try them, will be the sweet and hot taste of beef balls. Yes, Rocky Mountain Oysters will be fried and prepared buffalo-style with blue cheese dipping sauce.So, there is something unique about these delicacies that you may not have considered. Usually when one eats meat or fish it comes after said animal is, well, terminated. When you eat Rocky Mountain Oysters, however, it is possible, even likely, that the calf who provided your chewy bite is still roaming the range as we speak. That’s right, the testis of the bull calf is removed in youth and the animal is then free to live life. Not sure PETA approves but hey, it is better than the alternative. (Note: There is a great piece in this summer’s Edible Aspen by Brook LeVan that details the process.)There will also be a whole roasted pig to pick from Tenderbelly Farms and a Crystal Farms lamb will be roasted and served Greek-style with pita bread, tatziki sauce and onions. Oh, and don’t forget the freshest of heirloom tomatoes and watermelon.Hungry yet?If you get thirsty, there will be cocktails from Peach Street Distillers and beers that will help you find your folly from New Belgium. No doubt everyone will go away from the summer -and the Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival and BBQ – happy and ready to begin their fall in the right frame of mind.Tickets are $75, which covers food, drink and music from the Damian Smith Trio. They can be purchased on-line at ajaxtavern.ticketbud.com/rockymountainoysterfestival and, if it doesn’t sell out, you can buy them at the door as well.
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Commentary: “My granddaughter Charli, dressed in an ankle-length sun dress, sporting a fresh manicure and wearing light lipstick (her mother helped reorganize that), quietly welcomed me to the affair, maintaining an air of sophistication that surprised. She knew it was a big deal.”