My cousin co-owns a tattoo studio in Brooklyn and is always telling me about how he has an unusually high number of customers who are chefs. His theory: “Chefs are extremely passionate about what they do—and anyone who loves something deeply will get tattooed to express that love or passion.” Just look at Food & Wine’s 2009 Best New Chefs for proof. At the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Riesling fanatics (including myself and colleague Kristin Donnelly) were rocking giant Riesling tattoos to show our love for the wine.
Other obsessive eaters who have been inked with their favorite foods can enter Sonoma County's first Food and Wine Tattoo Contest. Entrants submit a photo of their coolest food- or wine-themed tattoo here and the public votes online. The grand prize: a year’s worth of bacon from Zazu restaurant.
Bored with plain water and in need of nonalcoholic liquids to help me get over the post-Aspen
cold that's knocked out several F&W editors this week (possibly from late-night parties at 212 House
), I stopped by Green Canteen
, the first restaurant to become LEED certified in New York. After a fragrant house-made ginger soda and a peanut butter-banana milk shake, I'm on the mend and ready for more drinks. Here are a few I'll make this summer, whether I'm sick or just hot:Gingery Fuji Apple Soda
(above)Rhubarb Soda Green Tea SodaAlmond-Tea Milk ShakesPrune Whip Shakes
It isn’t all wine and meat here at the F&W Aspen Classic: at the Tasting Tent I was glad to find Amano Chocolates’ new single-origin milk chocolate bars, and to meet founder Art Pollard. I got to write about Pollard for F&W Across America: Salt Lake City, but we’d only spoken by phone. It’s sort of like meeting the Ferran Adria of chocolate: while he’s a little more soft-spoken than the Catalan crusader, he’s got a similar magnetic enthusiasm for his work that left me convinced I should eat and think about chocolate all day like he does. In fact, in another life I would like to be him: the chocolatier not only builds (and launches) rockets for a hobby, but he travels all over Venezuela, Madagascar and more recently, Indonesia and Ecuador, hunting for beans. He’s just found one that yields a distinctive flavor never tasted before in chocolate; he says that one should be out in bar form soon. Meantime, to tide us over we have his licorice-tinted Jembrana milk chocolate from Bali and—for all the meat lovers—the milk version of the mildly bacony Venezuelan Ocumare.
I’m in the midst of a wine tasting marathon. I’ve gone from the elegant, aromatic red Burgundies of Domaine Dujac to the weightier, more fruit-driven Pinot Noir from Sonoma County. Next up: A flight of Barolo from legendary estate Giacomo Conterno. More details will come on all these wines later, but one of the most fun parts of my day was learning that winemaker Jamie Kutch proposed to his wife, Kristen, in 2005, during their first harvest, after eight years of dating. He set the ring on the sorting table and sent it down her way. Luckily, she found it and the rest is history. Actually, the young couple is just at the beginning of something exciting: The 2007 Kutch Pinot Noirs are exceptionally balanced, pure, fresh wines with relatively low levels of alcohol (below 13.5%). Perhaps it’s because Jamie honed his palate in New York City with some of the East Coast’s most vocal wine geeks who champion finesse over power (including Lyle Fass of RockssandFruit fame and a former coworker of mine). Jamie makes a very small amount of wine but is hoping to eventually amp up his production to 2000 cases. I encourage any Pinot lover to get in on these wines now--before they're even more impossible to get.
You can tell I’m a city mouse here in Aspen—my camera is filled with pictures of Alpine-like wildflowers and animals roasting on spits. Both are rare sites in NYC. Last night, chef José Andrés hosted a party with the Wines of Spain where whole lambs rotated over a slowly-burning fire on the bank of a rushing stream. I must say, it was a beautiful sight. And the sandwiches chef Andrés made with the pulled meat were perfect for soaking up all of that Spanish wine.
Today, Fort Worth, Texas, chef Tim Love served up lamb, goat and venison, all roasted whole over mesquite wood. The key to cooking lean animals like venison over an open fire for so long? Bacon, apparently. Love used the smoky fatty pork to keep the venison juicy. Instead of wine, we ate the smoky meats with Belgian beers. With its sweet richness, Leffe Blond is always one of my favorites, but today, in the heat of the sun (which we’re thousands of feet closer to here in Aspen), the citrusy-spiced Hoegaarden was especially good. Now it’s time to hike off all that meat—and continue to play nature photographer.
I attempted a trifecta my first-ever day at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Here, the highlights:
WINE: I kicked off my day tasting Italy’s most extravagant wines at a tasting led by David Lynch, who recently announced he’s leaving NYC’s the John Dory to become wine director at Quince in San Francisco. Lynch made a passionate case on why Italy’s Ca’ del Bosco Brut “Cuvee Prestige” can hold its own against French Champagne and blew my mind with a 15% alcohol 2003 Le Ragose Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. Star sighting in the seminar: A certain chef in orange clogs who Lynch worked with at Babbo for seven years.
BEER: Texas chef Tim Love pulled an all-nighter in the Hotel Jerome courtyard slow-cooking a deer, goat and lamb for a killer Belgian beer-paired lunch. Master beer sommelier Marc Stroobandt led the crowd through the tasting of Hoegaarden, Stella Artois and Leffe Blonde. Inside gossip: In need of an early-morning, Texas-style pick-me-up, Love requested a shot of ice cold, Crown Royal. Apparently the hotel staff mistook his Texas twang and brought him an ice cold shot of canola oil.
COCKTAILS: Oahu native and cocktail genius Julie Reiner led a rowdy, standing room only seminar on tiki culture and mixed classic tiki drinks including a Zombie, Bermuda Zwizzle, Mai Tai and the Lychee-Lemongrass Fizz featured on her menu at the Flatiron Lounge in NYC. Rumor from the audience: Reiner was shocked and saddened when someone in the audience informed her that Ft. Lauderdale, Florida’s classic tiki bar Mai-Kai is closing.
It may have begun with burgers, but the theme of this year’s Classic is definitely the whole animal. No party is complete without one—or four—roasting on a spit. José Andrés
set the bar high yesterday at his party sponsored by the Wines of Spain: Two lambs were turning over coals by the Roaring Fork River (above), while José and his sous chefs used the sliced meat to make some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. Even the affable Ming Tsai was rendered speechless (below) watching the champion of all things Spanish assemble Dagwood-level works of art: whole baguettes sliced lengthwise, quickly charred on a grill, then slathered with a fresh, rich romesco sauce, juicy chunks of lamb and a healthy sprinkling of fleur de sel, followed by thin slivers of spicy piquillo peppers and crunchy whole Boston lettuce leaves. Forget Aspen—F&W’
s offices need to move to Barcelona ahorita
. Or as Jean-Claude Szurdak sagely suggested, as he and his compadre Jacques Pépin sampled a few, “José, you really need to open a restaurant."
4.30 pm Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg cruises around Aspen in his jeep.
8 pm One of the festival highlights, the magnum party, kicks off at D-19. That means super-sized bottles of 94 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet on ice and '84 Freemark Abbey Sycamore on the tables (some $20,000 worth of wine is poured), while chef Dena Marino passes out platters of pulled pork sliders.
11 pm Start of super-deluxe Champagne and oyster party at the Little Nell. With extra-large shots of Sombra Mescal, too. Run back and forth between the party and the Little Nell lounge where F&W best new chefs are lounging on couches and the awesome Nancy Silverton is hanging out with her friend Phil Rosenthal (Everyone Loves Raymond's hilarious creator).
1.45 am Decide not to check on chef Tim Love's all-night whole-animal roastathon at the Hotel Jerome. Which is a good thing because the following morning there will be stories of Love doing shots of everything from tequila to chilled canola oil.
I was thrilled to arrive in Aspen yesterday, a day before the real festivities start—it gave me time to adjust to the high altitude, which left me feeling a bit foggy (and very hungry for burgers
). By this morning, I felt totally refreshed so F&W’s Emily Kaiser and I headed 12 miles or so outside Aspen to the bucolic Roaring Fork Club
for a few hours of fly fishing with the great people behind Napa Valley’s Gamble Family Vineyards
, Cliff Lede Vineyards
. Both of us were complete novices but thanks to our guide, Steve, we were casting like pros in no time. In fact, we got more casting practice than anything else—in two hours on two different ponds, I got little more than a nibble, and never hooked a fish, even though we could see 12-inch-long trout just below the surface. Perhaps, with the Food & Wine
Classic going on just down the road, the fish have gotten as picky as us food editors, and can spot faux meals from a few feet deep.
After braving a mild snowstorm on our drive up from Denver, my colleague Kristin Donnelly and I arrived in Aspen last night for this weekend's Food & Wine Classic. I'm pleased to report that things are off to a burger-ific start, thanks to our dinner at the Ajax Tavern at the Little Nell. (If only F&W headquarters were in Aspen year-round...) Ajax’s version of the In-N-Out double-double burger was impressively tasty, as were the juicy and ridiculously immense Alaskan king crab legs. The truffle fries almost went perfectly with the 2006 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet, though they probably would have been even better with the rich chocolate milkshakes that the kind Ajax servers brought at the end of the night. We slurped them down before dashing back outside. The ominous storm clouds made us consider going back inside to eat a few more burgers, but we decided to call it an early night.