I might be writing too soon, as I sit here having drunk probably the equivalent of a quintuple of a rare Rémy Martin single vintage cognac (I don't think the people at the Aspen Historical Society are accustomed to serving Cognac, hence the incredibly heavy pour). Rémy Martin Cognacs are almost always blends, but at the end of the summer the 1989 single vintage will be available in the United States, the only market where it will be distributed, and so they decided to preview it here in Aspen.
Today I also tried Macallan’s 55-year-old scotch, which is currently being launched. In Las Vegas it’s available for $2,500 a dram.
As I was walking from one of the trade seminars — which is what I'm actually supposed to be covering here, to sample the Macallan, I got a call from my excellent friend Jonathan Ray, a Georgetown professor and big fan of Macallan 12-year, which since he’s a college professor with two small children he doesn’t get a chance to drink very often.
So of course I said to him, “Oh, hi. Yeah, I’m in Aspen, on my way to try some 55-year-old Macallan. How are you?”
“Don’t do this to me,” he said.
But really, for the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen, I’ve lived a pretty healthy life. I arrived two days ago, a little after noon, and had lunch at Lulu Wilson with various fascinating writers, as well as publicists and nice people from Food & Wine. I met the editor of the new Denver magazine, which is about to go monthly and hopes to be, from what I could gather, a more cosmopolitan version of 5280. So that’s exciting for Denver.
That evening I did go to three parties. The first was thrown by Gallo, at which I ran into Mimi’s Cafe's marketing guy Lowell Petrie, and we reminisced about me interviewing him about fried pickles for an article on regionalization of chain menus. So that was a treat.
Then I went to the Food & Wine Classic kick-off reception at the St. Regis, where I did a sort of whirlwind “hi, hi” with everyone until I settled into a chat about blog commenters with Ben Leventhal of Eater. We ended up sharing a van with a bunch of students from the Culinary Institute of America — here as chef helpers — to the blowout Wines from Spain party.
That’s the party you’re supposed to go to on Thursday night in Aspen. So the celebrity chefs were there, as well as this year’s Food & Wine Best New Chefs, and of course the strikingly beautiful and healthy-looking Aspen socialites who find their way into such events.
“Where do you suppose the unattractive people are partying tonight?” I asked New York-based Michael Psilakis, one of the Best New Chefs.
“It’s Aspen,” he said, or something to that effect (I wasn’t taking notes), with a shrug. One such beautiful person sauntered up to Michael and said that he was originally from Shaker Heights and was glad to see that Cleveland was getting a food name for itself.
“I’m not that Michael,” he said as sweetly as possible, because he’s used to being mistaken for Cleveland-based Michael Symon, who also is a celebrity chef making Greekish food, and also is bald with facial hair on his chin (although Michael Symon has a rounder face and a soul patch; Michael Psilakis's face is more narrow, and his facial hair sprouts from under his chin).
There was partying to be done until nearly dawn, but I went to my hotel and was in bed before midnight, so that I would be all refreshed for the trade seminars, which started at 8:15, and which you will be able to read about soon in Nation’s Restaurant News.
Yesterday I mostly went to trade seminars, and between them I met chefs, namely Bryan Ogden, Giuseppe Tentori and Kelly Liken, whom I interviewed in quick succession in the lobby of the Little Nell. And I also caught up with Jennifer Jasinski, because why not?
Then I went to the annual Texas Outlaw party at Kenichi, where I met, among other people, local wellness educator and personal trainer Dirk Schulz, who suggested that later that evening we meet at Wine Spot in the Grand Hyatt.
As I was preparing to leave, I met Allison Bend, who works for David Rockwell, who designs many things but in my world he’s famous for designing restaurants. Her husband, Grant, went to Tufts and graduated a year before I did. So we chatted as we left and ended up eating at Cantina, where we had margaritas and nachos and then Grant and I split some skirt steak fajitas. About midway through the meal we were met by Allison’s aunt and uncle Debbie and Murray (Murray’s a conductor for the Aspen orchestra, whose season begins any moment now).
After that I took a brief nap before heading to Wine Spot. I got there before Dirk and his friends, so I met other locals, including many of the members of the local ballet troupe, including Sam Chittenden, who from the way everyone was talking about him was something of a local hero — rock climber, graphic designer, great dancer and really, really nice guy.
He was hanging out with dancer Nolan McGahan on the outside patio. At the back of the patio was quite a large bonfire, and Sam and Nolan were speculating that the people sitting around the fire were probably really cliquish and would not welcome them. Considering the local star that Sam is (as I would find out through the course of the evening), his observations were particularly funny, or maybe poignant.
I told him he was probably projecting, or watching too many 1960s beach movies, and once they found out that I was a food writer we spoke a bit about food, including Top Chef. Nolan wondered if anyone really was making bacon ice cream.
I don’t watch Top Chef, so I don’t know who he was referring too, but I said bacon ice cream was really kind of passé. I mean, Paul Liebrandt was making it in, like, 2000.
I later ended up by the fire and chatted with ranch hand Ryan Slack, who lives in nearby Basalt and works on a ranch near the second or third homes of super-rich people. I asked if he worked with cattle.
“No, I move rich people’s shit,” he said. He’d gotten a day pass to the Classic, and was now relaxing with a Budweiser. He wasn’t very cliquish.
I closed out the night in typical late-night fashion, heading to New York Pizza in Aspen with mostly locals, including ballet dancer Stephen Straub. A slice was $3.75, which is crazy, but that’s life.
I got home by around 2 a.m., which is quite early for Aspen, and was able to awake refreshed and made it on time to the 9 a.m. trade seminar this morning.