This was my third Food and Wine. The first year I attended was intense. And by intense I mean there was a moment when I couldn’t breathe for almost two hours as I had to retreat to a bale of hay to sit, unzip, and convince myself that nobody had ever died of spontaneous belly eruption.
For those of you who have never been to the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, here’s the general breakdown. There are celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, food and wine pairings, wine tastings, private parties, and Grand Tastings. Back in 2014, I blew the load with the Grand Tastings. I thought there was only one the whole weekend so I hit EVERY sample possible in the allotted hour and forty-five minutes. Little did I know, there were five Grand Tastings spread over the course of the three days with mostly the same food. I didn’t have to panic; I could have eaten like a human rather than a bear. But I digress.
One of my favorite events at F&W are the cooking demonstrations. A lively scene, most of the chefs demonstrate their love for tequila and I learn how to improve my culinary skills. (AKA, I learn to make more than a reservation.) Last year Tim Love taught us how to cook the perfect steak, now I’m the expert in telling everyone they are cooking my steaks wrong.
This year was by far my best year, as I went to two private events and I didn’t make myself sick. At the first – the AMEX lunch at Herron Park – I finally tried Tim’s famous meat, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. The other – the Wine at the Mine party at Smuggler Mine – was AWESOME. Everyone walked around with silent disco wireless headphones, jamming out in the cool night air.
Chef Scott Conant
The headline of my weekend, though, was the demonstration by the super sexy chef and restaurateur, Scott Conant. He taught us how to make gnocchi and spaghetti aglio e olio, and if I close my eyes and really concentrate, I can open my mouth and actually take a bite out of how it smelled.
Conant began the demonstration by explaining that we must be louder than the crowd at Andrew Zimmerman’s demo next door and we must laugh at all his jokes. Here are some of those cringe-worthy jokes:
“I got a [cook] book, please somebody buy the book other than my mother.” “I’m going to pause a couple of times because I want you to understand the gravity of what I’m saying…and because I’m not that smart.”
And my favorite, which was actually funny, was when he demonstrated how to force roasted potatoes through the tamis to make the gnocchi (pronounced tammy, it’s a kitchen tool shaped like a drum that acts as a strainer) and the whole crowd reacted with an authentic AHHHHHHHH! when the potato went through. As if he just pooped gold. To that Scott said,” You guys gotta get out more often.” Because we were all really lame for being impressed by a strainer.
At one point, Mr. Conant reached the topic of pasta cooking water. Contrary to popular belief, he said you don’t want the water to taste like the ocean, but instead like a broth because…and then he got incredibly sidetracked. After his tangent he asked, does anyone have any questions? I eagerly raised my hand, dying to know why my pasta water should not taste like the ocean. I asked him in a very polite voice to please explain why, reminding him that he was about to explain it before he went astray. This is me now paraphrasing his response:
JESUS, I ALREADY HAVE A WIFE! HOW’S MY HAIR? DO YOU LIKE MY SHIRT? (Because I told him what to do).
Actually now that I think about it, that’s a direct quote.
He then explained that the water shouldn’t be too salty, because he uses it as a starchy broth throughout the rest of his night cooking, adding it to whatever else he makes, like sauces.
So that was that, end of story…or so I thought.
The next day when my brother-in-law and his girlfriend went to a Grand Tasting, they ran into Mr. Conant signing his infamous book. They bought it for me, and he inscribed the following note:
So now two of us own his book. Me and his mother.
**Featured photo courtesy of Eater Denver.