Sean Beckwith: No food, all the whine | AspenTimes.com
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Sean Beckwith: No food, all the whine

It used to be the best part about watching food porn is you could more or less fill that void. Whether it’s al pastor tacos and a cold Pacifico; greasy, fatty, melt-in-your-mouth burnt ends; lamb vindaloo and garlic naan or any number of dishes you can only make half as good at home, there’s no substitute for sitting somewhere other than your kitchen table and eating food you can’t replicate.

I don’t know why I continue to torture myself with reruns of Anthony Bourdain eschewing sides for more meat, parades of pastries and potpies on “The Great British Baking Show” and tantalizing “Top Chef” challenges. If I see one more chef pull fresh truffles out of the ground I’m going to chug a bottle of truffle oil and chew ibuprofen until I can taste Valhalla.

I made a pheasant potpie the other week and, even though it was savory and delicious, I couldn’t help but hear the voice of Paul Hollywood critiquing its soggy bottom.

This was supposed to be the week to fill those fantastical food dreams, briskly walking from tent to tent until the walk turns to more of a stroll and then finally into booze-soaked amble. There’s no Taste of Spain tent, no free frozen Patron treats or sloppy lanyard-laden tourists stumbling about in pastels.

The closest we’re going to get to recreating Food & Wine weekend is to spread picnic blankets of take-out food at Wagner Park and slam so much booze that the lukewarm samosas are good enough to distract from the potato salad you accidentally sat in at the BBQ blanket.

There’s nothing wrong with dining out at a socially distanced patio or pulling up and down your mask to sip rose all day other than the entire process. Is New Zealand accepting tourists yet? I don’t care if I have to quarantine a month, I just want to mingle in a crowded bar and yell over music that’s too loud.

Charity events aside, I don’t know a single person who is amped for a virtual version of anything. I’m glad Food & Wine took a year off because any potential online seminar has either been done already as a Masterclass or a YouTube tutorial — with better jokes.

At this point, let’s bring in the Fairbury hot dog launcher guy from Nebraska games and have him fire cased meats at people properly spaced at the Buttermilk parking lot while a fire engine mists the crowd with sauvignon blanc.

I might wander around Smuggler Mine on Saturday night with a burrito and a paloma for nostalgia’s sake. This whole pandemic is worse than dining out with Andrew Zimmern.

Dude, you’re a really nice guy, but can we eat something that’s not a reproductive organ?

From a restaurant industry standpoint, the worst part about the coronavirus crisis other than thousands of people out of jobs or with significantly reduced hours is the potential loss of culture. Taco shops, pizza parlors, diners, mom-and-pop breakfast spots and open-air cafes make cities and towns more than a collection of buildings where people live.

Sure, there will still be chains but no one really wants to live in a place with the same options as a terminal at DIA. I have no idea what a lost year will do to the dining scene in a chain-free Aspen but it can’t be good for any outlet that just opened, doesn’t have a wealthy owner or the resources that come with being backed by a hotel.

Even with 8-foot buffers and waiters looking more like surgeons in an operating room, people aren’t psyched to eat out. There’s a perception that the food industry is comprised of part-time college students and undocumented immigrants, but there is a huge number of Aspenites who are career servers, cooks and chefs who are taking a hit right now.

Obviously, continue to support local business through take-out, gift cards and any way you feel comfortable, but also please don’t make those workers enforce protocol if you do go out. (And tip like 30% minimum.)

I’m pretty sure I’ve lobbied for some kind of restaurant employee industry appreciation day before but the city should seriously consider it this time around. Maybe the day after Food & Wine next year non-food industry workers put on some kind of community potluck?

I’ve seen your Instagram; I know you think you can cook. If you talk to anyone who works full time in a kitchen, they’ll tell you the last thing they want to do after hacking through the weeds all week is cook.

Might not be the worst idea — unless your specialty is steamed vegetables. Mull it over like those California cabs you were going to slurp up this weekend.

I would offer some kind of glass half-full/optimistic food analogy to end this but the f—ing glass is empty. Tip your waiters, bartenders and delivery drivers. I’m going to go eat vicariously through “No Reservations.”

Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at sbeckwith@aspentimes.com.


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