Lum: Winning the culinary lottery
A couple of months ago, I got a call from KAJX, our local public radio station, telling me that I had won that day’s membership drive drawing — a catered dinner for eight prepared by chef Matt Maier. Value $1,000. Yes!
My initial bubbling excitement soon settled down to a slow-boiling panic. My kitchen is my dining room and it would be a real squash to fit eight people and a chef in there, but the biggest concern was who would those people be? I have old friends, I have new friends, I have daughters, I have Aspen Times friends who are both old and new.
The guest list eventually boiled down to my daughters, Hillery (Hillery M.) and Skye; their husbands, Bruce and Steve; my great friend-becoming-caretaker Hilary (Hilary B.); my friend Nancy of 50 years; her husband, Roger, and their dachshund, Sam. Sam is 15.
When Steve couldn’t make it, we invited Danielle, a friend of mine and Hilary B. who lives next door. Danielle is 10.
Meanwhile, I was in email correspondence with Matt Maier, whose website (www.aspenprivatechef.com) was full of credentials and a somewhat intimidating mention of several luminaries he had cooked for, including Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey.
Matt was booked for the first half of April and then took his culinary kids to a competition in California and is getting married in June, so that month was out. We settled on May 9, a date which, by then, was rapidly approaching.
I had no idea how it all worked and was full of questions such as did we use my dishes (yes) and did he cook it here or away (both)? The closest I’d come to this kind of thing was takeout at Little Ollies.
My entree choice was prime rib roast and a lemon cake for dessert because both Bruce and Hillery M. had birthdays coming up. Matt suggested the rest: antipasti of artisan meats and cheeses; salad of young arugula, heirloom tomatoes and Manchego cheese; roasted young asparagus and potato gratin.
What I called a “lemon cake” he more mouth-wateringly described as “multi-layer lemon cake, lemon curd, candied peel.”
Skye had the idea to turn the living room into a dining room, freeing up the kitchen for Matt to work his magic.
The day before the big night, Matt emailed that he was cooking up a storm, and Hilary B. mowed the lawn, which had sprung up almost knee-high with all of our spring rain (not complaining) before taking all the dogs out for a romp.
It was about 5 p.m. and I seized the moment to take a little lie-down while listening to “The Goldfinch” on audio book. From my bed, I can see a small portion of the kitchen. I was just beginning to nod when I heard a noise and saw my friend Jack Johnson going into my kitchen.
Knowing that without my hearing aids I’m deaf as the proverbial post, Jack usually loudly announces himself, or the dogs announce him with screams of joy. But the dogs were out with Hilary B.
I didn’t have my glasses on, either, but it wasn’t Jack — it was a large, smiling man introducing himself as Matt Maier.
“I knocked but no one answered,” he said, “so I thought I’d start unloading some things.” Recovering from my near cardiac arrest, I was gibbling that I was so glad he decided to make a site visit and we had been thinking of putting small tables in the living room. He, no doubt ruing the day this insane, little old lady on oxygen won the lottery, went calmly back and forth to his vehicle, bringing in knives and pans and platters, and I was feeling pleased that he was so ahead of the game and thinking that all of my own panic had been for naught.
Then Matt reached to turn on the oven and I had a horrible realization.
“You do know that the dinner party is tomorrow?” I said.
Su Lum is a longtime local who will finish this story next Wednesday. She is supporting Bert Myrin for City Council. Reach her at email@example.com.
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Once in a beautiful town called Aspen, there was an historic cabin owned by iconic Aspen Times columnist Su Lum. For years Su lived there, caring for her home and gardens on her lovely little…