Pass it around: Food, friends and firewater make a Classic weekend
June 19, 2018
Even though the ski season starts Thanksgiving Day, winter in Aspen really begins Christmas/New Year's week. The same is true for summer; locals know the weather is nice around mid-May but the Food & Wine Classic weekend is the first Sunday where it's easier to take the bus into town than park for free. However, I've noticed that even though the local workforce has been put through one of the top five busiest weekends on the calendar — with an arduous slog ahead — they're jubilant rather than asking for sweet relief.
It's like an interesting twist in a nature documentary. Look at the busy Aspenite, laboring long hours, working to save money for the future. It's almost like the winter monetization, only something's different, something's changed. Instead of grumpy and callous, they're exuberant and overjoyed, wearing bright clothes and gyrating, trying to impress mates.
The reason for this is because Food & Wine is essentially locals' appreciation weekend. If you've lived here for two or three seasons, you probably have a few ins for parties, passes and events. Once you reach seasons four, five and six, you really start to solidify those crucial, almost failsafe contacts. However, when you're pushing a decade or are past it, the festival turns into a family reunion.
The parade of free, flavorful food and cold, fancy cocktails are the impetus that drives locals to push themselves to go out after (or before) work. The connections and memories are what make residents and even those who've migrated on yearn devilishly to experience the fun again.
I was extremely lucky this year to attend the events that I did. There was uni, tuna and caviar handrolls; pork loin in a crispy skin; a ridiculous seafood tower; corndog pops; oysters; cured meats; tacos with condiment bars; whole-roasted pigs and enough booze to give a college kid a hangover.
More importantly, though, there was Sarah, Zach, Joey, J.D., Nick, Caitlin, Carlton, Jim, Kevin, Steve, Elisa, Alvarez, Danimal, Amanda, Mom, Dad, Ben, another Zach, Jenkins, Rose, Fuzz, another Kevin, Anna, Dave, Jim, Andy, Gladiz, Angele, Andrew, Rebecca, Coco and so many other people primed with spirits and ready to meet, mingle, dance and enjoy the festivities.
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It's one of those "Oh, s—, (enter name of person you haven't seen in years and will convulse with happiness upon first sight here) is in town?" kind of weekends. The Aspen Times did reporters' notebooks from seminars and the like — which were really well done and you should read them — but it's a good thing I did not.
It would've read like a 5-year-old's journal: First I saw Kevin and we ate fish eggs on Lays chips, and then I saw Jenkins and I ate lettuce, oh, and I saw my Nick and he gave me a sandwich, after that we saw Zack but he was really tired, and then I saw Kevin again and he had this thing on a toothpick that I tried but made me sick so I didn't eat that again, then I saw Sarah and she told me to get in line and ask for Charlie but he wasn't there, just some guy with more fish eggs. I ate them and they were good. I had a lot of fun.
Damn, I should have just done that for the whole column. Dave, I have a late addition for the reporters' notebook.
Unfortunately, we all know the dark downside. The politics of finding a pass or getting your name on a list are by far the worst part of Food & Wine. Nothing sucks more than having to leave a man at the check-in booth. You have to be selfless out there when helping out a friend. Share invites, write shady emails exaggerating your importance and reach out to that guy who got you in last year even though that was the last time you talked to him. I made sure I mentioned that I'm a member of the media in every email I sent. What's the point of hanging out at parties with Food Network's finest if you can't make fun of them at a safe distance with your friends?
You can wear you lanyard like a blazing emblem of entitlement or you can share it with those of us who don't have $1,600 while you take a break from booze and, after that weekend, I think that's most of us.
I'm not saying there should be a locals' appreciation day every Dec. 22 because tourists would have a conniption over candy canes or some other inane detail. What I'm saying is can we get four or five hours with free food and drinks where we can unwind and take a break from the grind? Let them eat City Market.
All I know is after savoring every bit of Food & Wine, I'm ready to get to work — nope, no I am not. I need another nap.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.