Saturday at Aspen Food & Wine means new tastes
The last full day of the Aspen Food & Classic means being adventurous, going a bit more out of the comfort zone to try something new.
The day began with superstar chef Mario Batali and family cruising the expanded and entertaining Aspen Farmers Market. It’s Batali’s morning off, a few hours with his family before back into the hubbub.
But he loves visiting these local markets.
“This all impresses me,” he said. “Anything that’s homemade and local impresses me.”
Then it was off to listen to Paul Grieco of Hearth Restaurant in NYC on “Wines from the Edge.”
“Drop all your preconceptions, all your ideas of what wines should be, you might not like any of these,” he warned as he took us on a jouney of wines from such iconoclastic wine makers as Ales Kristancic of Movia (Slovenia, writer Ray Isle has a profile here), Abe Schoener of the Scholium Project in California and Josko Gravner of Friuli, who ages his wines in clay amphora, just as the Greeks once did.
Shoener’s project once was described by New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov as “No winery in California is more unconventional, experimental or even radical than Scholium.”
Grieco says wines such as these, with minimal intervention (Kristancic puts his in barrels, caps them and leaves them alone to make wine with natural yeasts) reflect perfectly the “place of the grape.”
“Grapes give voice to the sense of place,” he said. “A winemaker’s role is to step back and let that voice ring.”
These are intense, multi layered wines, wines that come alive, but only if you let them guide you, not the other way around.
Before selling you one of these wines in his restaurant, Grieco will converse with you, making sure you understand just what you’re getting.
“They aren’t for everyone,” he warns.
The next adventure was listening to author and chef Jennifer McLagan and charcutier Michael Sullivan of Blackberry Farm in the Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee regale us with the importance of fat, specifically animal fat, for flavors in our food and health in our diet.
“Fat is what makes things taste good,” Jennifer said. “A little fat goes a long ways.”
Too many people mistakenly shun animal fats, especially butter, and lose the flavors it delivers, Sullivan said.
“Fat carries flavor,” he said.
Good fat, meaning from animals raised on natural feeds, not the grain-fed mass produced hogs and beef commonly seen in our stores and restaurants.
“Fat can be an expression of the terroir, with subtle flavors and nuances,” said Sullivan. “We have to demand better animals, better husbandry.”
And on it went into the night, where at the New Chefs Dinner the crowd was served such intricate delicacies as Sepia Noodles (Michael Sheerin of Blackbird, Chicago), Chego Meatball wrapped in Sesame Leaf (Roy Choi of Kogi, Los Angeles), Hearts of Walla Walla Onion (Matt Lightner o Castagne, Portland,) and the crowd’s favorite (determined by tweets), Fromage Blanc Raviolini by Jonathon Sawyer of the Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland.
A day full of exciting flavors and fascinating lessons in winemaking and food.
The video has clips of Claudine as Julia Childs; Paul and Ales talking about his wines and the disgorging of Ales’ unfiltered sparkling wine; and the opening of the New Chefs Dinner.