Steven Holt had been after me to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch since before it opened.
Bachelor Gulch is part of Beaver Creek, in the greater Vail area, conveniently located midway between Denver and Aspen, so it made sense to stop in on the way to the Food & Wine Classic.
So after a brief stay with family — a highlight was hanging out in a mall (The posh Cherry Creek Shopping Center) with my 12-year-old niece, talking about boys — I picked up my rental car and headed down I-70.
I have known Steven for a long time. New York publicist Shelley Clark instructed him to look after me the first time I went to Aspen for the classic. He was in charge of PR at the Jerome hotel at the time, and he took me to good parties and generally made me feel welcome. Since many of the people in Aspen during Food & Wine weekend are based in New York, they already knew me, and Steven wondered aloud why exactly I needed to be taken under his wing, but it was nice of him anyway.
Here at Bachelor Gulch I’m in a corner suite with one-and-a-half baths, two plasma screen TV's and an automatic fireplace. It’s not a bad place to adjust to the 8,000-foot altitude that Vail and Aspen share.
I was hoping to have a couple of days of relatively clean living in the prelude to Aspen, which is a bacchanalia if ever there was one, but I'm staying on the club floor, which means I can hang out in the lounge that has five food-and-beverage presentations a day (continental breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m., a mid-day snack from noon to 2 p.m., “Aprés Tea” from 3 to 4:30, hors d'oeuvres from 5:30 to 7 and dessert from 8 to 9:30) not to mention wine and cheese that are available starting at 11 a.m.
Oh well, at least I’ll get plenty of sleep.
Steven has left for Aspen now, but last night we had dinner at Spago, prepared by chef Mark Ferguson, who was born and raised in the Denver suburb of Littleton, where he graduated from Littleton High School (although his older brother went to Arapahoe), before becoming a chef. He cut his teeth cooking under Jeremiah Tower at Stars, in San Francisco — which means he’s older than he looks. He’s been working for Wolfgang Puck for more than a decade.
Now, I'm going to tell you what we ate and drank for dinner, but first I'd like to point out that it has been snowing on and off here in Beaver Creek for much of the day. Just a few flakes, but it’s snowing. If you happen to be going to Aspen, don’t let that scare you; 32 degrees in the dry, crisp Colorado mountain air is not like 32 degrees in humid coastal areas or on the plains. It's light-jacket weather. You’ll be fine.
What we ate and drank:
Spicy tuna tartare cones
Mini crab cake
Rudi Weist Riesling (a crisp little guy from Austria)
Spring Asparagus soup with Maine lobster, ramps and Provençal olive oil
Hand-made pea agnolotti with seven-year “Boni” Parmigiano-Reggiano
Boxler Pinot Blanc (also Austrian, which a rich lusciousness that reminded me of Martinborough Pinot Noirs
Pan-roasted Alaskan halibut “aqua pazza” with garlic potato purée, ramps, crab, sweet shrimp and lobster
Château de Puligny-Montrachet
“Chinois [presumably on Main] Style” Colorado lamb chops with Hunan eggplant, snow peas and cilantro-mint vinaigrette
Syrah Copain “L’hiver” from Mendocino County, California
Kracker Beerenauslese Cuvée