Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

I’m a little worried today, people, and I need to unburden myself to somebody, so you’ll have to do. You see, I have a disturbing feeling that my food bills are about to go up considerably, and I’m not sure what I can do about it.

Now, before you go thinking that this has something to do with the looming sequester we’ve all been hearing so much about, I can assure you it doesn’t. I have no idea what the sequester is, and I can’t seem to make myself care.

This also has nothing to do with my wife’s continued insistence on shopping at Whole Foods for things that cost one-third as much a quarter-mile away at the grocery store. That’s been going on for a few months now, and we seem to have absorbed that uptick in our food budget reasonably well, so I don’t bring it up anymore.

No, my fears this time are directly attributable to the dinner I ate last night at the Viceroy Hotel in Snowmass Village. My wife and I were invited there for a media dinner – OK, fine; she was invited, and I managed to grovel and beg well enough to get myself included – the purpose of which was to introduce a new program wherein chefs from different Viceroys will fly in for a few days and add some of their signature dishes to the menu for a limited time.

Last night’s chef, whom one Viceroy employee called “Marco something Italian” (actually Mirko Paderno), was visiting from the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he has garnered numerous accolades for Oliverio Restaurant. Paderno is, indeed, Italian, and his menu for the evening included a number of traditional and not-so-traditional Italian dishes, with a wine pairing for each.

All the food was delicious, as was the Opus One red wine (yes, they served Opus One to a dirtbag like me), but two dishes in particular sowed the seeds of my eventual financial ruin.

The first dish in question was Mediterranean bass with shaved black truffle. Before last night, I had always eaten my Mediterranean bass sans truffles, but now, having tasted what a difference a little truffle makes, I’m going to start putting shaved black truffle on all my fish, meaning I’ve just acquired a $1,200-per-pound habit.

The real capper, though, was the braised veal osso bucco, which came on a bed of saffron risotto and was coated with 24-carat gold leaf. I’m not sure what the point of the gold was, but it sure did make the veal look shiny. The problem is now that I’ve eaten gold, I don’t think I can face a future where I’m forced to eat things that aren’t coated in some sort of precious metal.

As far as I could tell, the gold didn’t impart any flavor to the veal, which seemed to taste just fine on its own, but I look at this experience the same way I’ve always imagined flying first class must be. I’m told that once you fly first class (which I hope to do some day), it’s virtually impossible to go back to flying coach. So it is with me and gold. I’ve eaten it and acquired a taste for it; how can I be expected to go back to eating ungilded food?

From now on, it’s all gold for me. I plan to sprinkle gold on my Fruity Pebbles, mix it in with my chocolate milk and dip my Cheetos in it. I’ll put some on top of my Beefaroni and throw it in the oven for a minute or two so that it melts right in, and then I’ll squeeze it onto my hot dogs like so much mustard. That’s my culinary future, people, and there’s pretty much no way I can avoid it.

As of this writing, gold was trading at about $1,581 per ounce, meaning I can afford about one-hundredth of an ounce. I’m not sure how far that will go, given my ravenous appetite for edible metal, but I can’t imagine it’ll be more than one or two bowls of Beefaroni.

On the surface, that would seem to present me with a bit of a problem because I eat at least a dozen bowls of canned pasta product a day, but I think I’ve stumbled on a solution: I’m just going to demand that my wife start buying our gold at the grocery store instead of Whole Foods. That’s sure to make my new habit affordable.

Todd Hartley can’t wait to see what platinum-coated Spam tastes like. To read more or leave a comment, please visit


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