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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen: Day One

Mario

Day one of Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen was a lot of fun, even though I had to be fueled by countless cups of coffee. Aspen is so beautiful it’s almost pointless to attempt to describe it. I’ve been here a few times before, but only when the mountains were covered in white. Aspen in the summer is a whole other kind of wonderful. The hills are green green, and the air clear. I could use a few degrees higher in temperature though, after the heat the past couple of weeks in Paris and San Sebastian.

After spending the morning getting my gear in shape again, downloading photoshop and figuring out wifi access at the event, I was finally ready to attend something! The first event I went to was Mario Battali’s cooking demonstration.

Mario’s popularity meant that the line into the room formed long before the announced time. Lucky my ‘press’ badge let me breeze through the line. Ok, I must admit a pang of guilt as I was bypassing a throng of Mario’s eager fans, but certainly not one strong enough to make me join them in that epic line!

All the lines at the event actually remind me a bit of Disneyland. And true to the spirit they were quite well managed and moved quite impossibly quickly: all that was missing was a bunch of head-bobbing puppets squeaking out the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song. But I digress. Let’s get back to our Mario, shall we?

Watching him was a hoot. He’s such a personality. Not exactly a drop-dead gorgeous guy mind you, but he sure was captivating to watch. Throwing out crowd-pleaser one-liners just as fast as he chopped. He appeared slightly discombobulated –I guess the altitude was to blame- and at one point dumping a bowl of rock shrimp intended for another dish into a ‘crab’ pasta he was cooking. Not missing a beat, he announced the sudden –and of course virtuous- change of plan to the roaring laughter of his adoring fans.

Unfortunately didn’t get to watch him until the end. I had to run to the Pichon-Longueville tasting at another hotel.

Bordeaux tasting
bordeaux tasting with panel

You can't really blame me, can you? The tasting included ten(!) vintages from one of Bordeaux's most illustrious producers. I mean, I know it’s Mario and everything, but Bordeaux beckoned and a girl just had to follow her heart.

We tasted ten vintages of the grands vins, starting from the 2004 and down the line to the 1989 vintages. Incidentally, Chateau Pichon-Longueville –as though that name isn't tongue and brain twisting enough- is also sometimes referred to as Pichon-Lalande and Pichon-Baron. (Oops, I did say brain-twisting didn't I? Thanks Jeremy for setting me straight.)

The tasting was led by five hosts, including Christian Seely who runs AXA Millisimes, the company which owns the Chateau and many other great wine producers. Also on the Panel was Robin Kelly O'Connor, a huge authority on Bordeaux. It’s really funny how the matter of taste comes out so easily in something as subjective as wine tasting. I was able very quickly picked out the two voices on the panel that I seemed to agree with most readily: Bartholomew Broadbent and David Scholefield. They, like me, seemed to prefer finesse rather than the hedonistic qualities so loved by many others.

Well, I’m not going to include a full tasting note from all the vintages: last I checked this is Chez Pim and not Vinography. But I can certainly say that this avid Burgundy fan was quite impressed by some of the vintages we tasted yesterday, including the neglected ’96 and ’97 vintanges. 1990 was also quite delicious, I wish I had a case of two of them to drink now.

Unfortunately, I seemed to have forgotten the fine arts of spitting that I learnt last year in Burgundy. What, you are surprised? Of course I spat. Who do you think I am, Clive Coates? (ha!)

As a red dribble came very close to marring my lovely new dress from Paris, I quickly remembered that to spit safely one must do it with conviction. There I said it. Spit like you mean it friends. Gather, aim, and shoot. And do it all with conviction or you'll be sorry.

The dress and new white shoes remained safely free of red dots –which would have been ugly regardless of how expensive the dots were- I left the tasting happy, and ever so slightly tipsy, and made my way to the next event.

---to be continued

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