Image of hobnobbing F&W chefs courtesy Metromix
Eater pal (and Portland Monthly scribe) Mike Thelin is fresh off the plane from Aspen, where, ever the busy bee, he was covering the 2010 Food & Wine Classic for both publications. Now that Mike's recovered from the tent-city hangover, he gives us the lowdown on Jose Andres' ham, festival swag, and PDX's Best New Chef rep, Castagna's Matt Lightner. Take it away, Mr. Thelin...
Just back from the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen where I enjoyed unlimited rides in Lexus luxury vehicles, ate and drank Mario Batali’s weight in free cocktails, Spanish wine, caviar, and foie gras, and decided that I would move to Aspen, Colorado, but if and only if Food and Wine Magazine’s flagship foodie event would continue there every day of my life. My life would be shorter, my waist would be even thicker, and my triglyceride levels alarmingly higher, but I would be in a state of bliss: bacon-wrapped, mole-dipped, caviar-studded bliss.
· A Saturday night Riesling party got even better when Spanish chef Jose Andres paraded into the kitchen at 1am armed with two weapons: a leg of premium Jamon Iberico and a very sharp knife. An adoring crowd, which included the likes of Castagna’s Matt Lightner and San Francisco offal king Chris Cosentino, looked on as Andres carefully carved tiny rectangles of the world’s best prosciutto, placing the best parcels directly into the mouths party-goers — like a high priest of pork giving the best sacrament imaginable.
· As if being named one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs (a distinction arguably second only to a Beard Award in American gastronomy), wasn’t enough, hearing the following praise, which I overheard, from Momofuku chef and Time 100 member David Chang must have put Castagna’s Matt Lightner over the edge: “Rene [Redzepi of the world’s top-rated eatery Noma in Copenhagen] and I were talking about what you’re doing, and I want to come check it out.”
· It goes without saying that seeing Lightner shine among the country’s best new talent at the Best New Chef Party on Saturday night was a highlight for Portlanders in attendance. Each chef showcased a specialty, and Matt’s dish, the heart of a Walla Walla onion filled with smelt roe and glazed in a sauce of reduced onion, was probably the most original of the night.
· Watching the Oregon wine board’s marketing ace marketing team of Colu Henry and Stephany Boettner work the room, any room, led me to believe that Oregon Wine PR chief Colu Henry has a future in politics and that Oregon Pinot will be outselling California Cabernet by the end of next week.
· The SWAG room: Journalists and chefs were given a one-time pass to the Green Room, where each was invited to fill a bag with the most awesome free stuff imaginable. Spoils included Shun knives, premium olive oil, Kitchen Aid gear, and more (Ed note: Meet the Green Room goodies here — can we get some of that free salami, please?).