Aspen/Snowmass Hosts Inaugural ‘Après Ski Cocktail Classic,’ March 14-17

cocktail shakerWhat’s more fun than drinking an après ski beer at altitude? Attending a post-slopes cocktail festival at altitude. The first-annual Après Ski Cocktail Classic debuts in Aspen/Snowmass March 14-17, and will feature superstar mixologists and boozy experts such as Tony Abou-Ganim and Steve “Wine Geek” Olson, as well as chefs, sommeliers, spirit aficionados and “professional tipplers.”

Events at the Westin and Wildwood Resorts include a Grand Tasting “Village”; a private reserve room of top-shelf spirits; craft cocktails; seminars; snow parties; pop-up bars; demos; “fireside chats”; special on-mountain events; and “The Great Irish Whisky Pub Crawl.”

Pace yourselves. And get your tickets here.

[Photo credit: Flickr user RLHyde]

FOOD & WINE Classic In Aspen Tickets On Sale Now, Discount Before March 15

aspenSeems like just yesterday Gadling was announcing the 30th anniversary of the prestigious FOOD & WINE Classic at Aspen, and already the next is almost upon us. Have you scheduled your annual cholesterol screening yet?

This year, from June 14-16, Food & Wine magazine will celebrate 31 years of incredible food and drink in one of the most glorious locations in the Rockies. Join the nation’s top chefs including José Andrés, Jacques Pépin and Marcus Samuelsson, as well as internationally renowned winemakers, master sommeliers, brewmasters, mixologists and food crafters at the most legendary culinary event in the nation.

The three-day weekend also features over 80 cooking demos, wine and interactive seminars, panel discussions, tasting events and classes on food and wine pairing, as well as twice-daily Grand Tastings featuring over 300 winemakers, craft brewers, distillers and specialty food vendors.

New this year are “DIY Sausage” from offal king Chris Cosentino; a “‘Top Chef’ Leftover Challenge” with Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons; “Next Superstar Value Wine” by wine expert Mark Oldman; “Great Cocktail Party Drinks” with über-mixologist Jim Meehan and F & W editor Kate Krader, and “Dim Sum at Home,” with Andrew Zimmern.

Tickets for the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen are $1,150 before March 15, and $1,250 thereafter. There will be also be a la carte ticketed events, including the Last Bite Late Night Dessert Party; additional details will be released in March. To get your tickets (hurry, hurry; it’s always a sell-out), click here.

[Photo credit: Food & Wine magazine]

Chile’s Valle Nevado ski resort rolls out early-bird special

chile skiingDedicated pow hounds tend to hightail it to the Southern Hemisphere once summer rears its sunny head. Chile is justly famous for its snow, as well as its lack of crowds, above-timberline terrain, and epic backcountry and vertical accessible via heli-skiing.

Valle Nevado, located 20 miles east of Santiago, is already the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere. This year, during its June 22-October 2nd winter season, it has even more enticements to offer.

North American and UK guests who book and pay before March 31st, 2012, will receive up to 50% off a season-long package that includes a seven-night stay at any of Valle Nevado’s three hotels (which range from high-end to budget), and two interconnect tickets for the neighboring resorts of La Parva and El Colorado, which opens 7,400 acres of skiable terrain (that’s more than Vail, for you ski and snowboard die-hards).

The promotion also includes 25% off equipment rental, a complimentary 30-minute massage, and free attendance at the weekly Thursday Wine Festival. Look for forthcoming announcements on heli-skiing packages, as well. To book, call 1-800-669-0554 from the U.S., or email reservas@vallenevado.com.

Tips for Powder Skiing

Dropping the F-bomb: why “foodie” needs to go away

foodieLife used to be so easy. You ate to live. Then, man discovered fire and realized mastodon tastes a lot better with a nice sear on it. Around 500,000 years later, Homo foodieus evolved, and now it’s impossible to go out to eat without camera flashes going off at the tables around you.

Mercifully, there’s a Foodie Backlash taking root in America, and I feel the time is ripe (Did you see how I tossed two food puns into that sentence? Annoying, isn’t it?) to go public with my loathing for this odious word and the obnoxious behavior that too often goes with it.

I realize I’m setting myself up here. I’m a food journalist. Don’t I perpetuate all of this silliness, getting readers in a lather over the Next Big Food Thing? Don’t I eat at nice restaurants and drink expensive wine? Well, yes. And, no (and to that latter hypothetical question, less often that you’d think in this economy).

I like to think that through (most of) my work, I promote importance of understanding where food comes from, and urging localized food security. I’m concerned about protecting the environment, public health, and genetic diversity in plants and livestock; conserving natural resources, and finding more humane ways to raise and slaughter livestock.

Does that make me the culinary equivalent of Mother Theresa, or absolve me of my written transgressions that are less pure in culinary intent? Hell no; I can be a hedonist, too. But I’m trying to make a point here. I realize that my bordering-on-obsessive hatred of “foodie” is really about the culture it’s perpetuating. That said, the word itself is infantile, idiotic, and meaningless, and makes me want to poke my eyes out with a larding needle. Can’t people just say they love food?

My biggest issue with foodie as a concept is that it’s detrimental to the remarkable, burgeoning food culture we’ve finally achieved in the United States. In a mere 100 years, we went from agrarian society to culinary wasteland to possessing identifiable food regions. We established a world-class artisan food, sustainable agriculture, and fine dining scene in certain parts of the country.

What went wrong? We paid $200 (for a bottle of estate olive oil), and instead of passing “Go,” we became a cult of food elitists. It’s the antithesis of why many of us got into the food business in the first place. Yes, care about what you eat, but food shouldn’t have a sense of entitlement attached to it.

Do you really need to be on a first name basis with the person who sells you fava beans? It’s a wonderful thing to develop a relationship with local growers but the posturing and farmer name-dropping one-upmanship I’ve witnessed while working at farmers markets in recent years is over the top. Real supporters of sustainable agriculture–of real food–don’t go trolling for discounts or freebies, because they understand just how hard farmers work for a living.

In a perfect world, everyone should have access to fresh, wholesome, local, delicious food, especially children. Thanks to the good work of organizations like the Chez Panisse Foundation and the increasing number of school lunch programs, community gardens, and other food security initiatives across the country, this isn’t an impossible goal for Americans to achieve, nor is tackling our obesity epidemic in a one-two punch.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to spend disposable income, if you have it, on costly ingredients or dining out. But the fetishizing of food, the pissing contest that is the hallmark of the archetypal foodie is what I cannot abide. This is what’s at the heart of foodieism; the need to belong to a special club, with a language all its own. In our status-obsessed society, we need to separate ourselves from the plebes who think that the Olive Garden is serving “Italian” food.

Eating well (not necessarily synonymous with eating “expensively”) is one of the greatest pleasures in life, and cooking for other people and joining them at the table sustains us in ways that go beyond filling our stomachs. Every food lover (see? doesn’t sound so bad, does it?) has a deep, fundamental reason for why they’re so moved by the act of eating.

foodie
For me, it’s the cultural aspects of food, its intrinsic relationship to travel, as well as the people who grow, forage, raise, catch, and make food on a small, sustainable scale that I find captivating. These are things that I was fortunate enough to experience in childhood, and they made an indelible impression on me, as well as fostered my culinary career.

Good food–be it a ripe peach, a great street taco, or a lavish, multi-course meal–brings me joy. For what it’s worth, however, my parents aren’t “food people.” I grew up on a ranch, but I also ate a lot of frozen vegetables and TV dinners, because my mom had two kids to raise, dislikes cooking, and for her, the ’70’s with its advent of guiltless convenience foods was a godsend.

There’s also the bad manners perpetuated by foodie culture. On what planet is it okay to “just pop into the kitchen” during a packed dinner service to talk to the chef…especially when s/he’s a total stranger? Yet my boyfriend and I witnessed this scenario, while dining at a certain famous restaurant.

After three hours of listening to the ten-top beside us discourse on the merits of Brittany sea salt purchased at the source versus approximately 12 other kinds of hand-harvested salt, we were ready to clobber them. Look, if you want to spend your money on that shit and then have a debate about it, that’s your perogative. Just don’t hold a small, intimate restaurant as captive audience. Few things are more deadly boring than foodies in a feeding frenzy.

We watched their lengthy progression of courses congeal and grow cold as they scurried around the table snapping food porn. At meal’s end, the ringleader hopped up and made her foray into the kitchen. And, because it was a small, intimate restaurant and my boyfriend and I were seated nearby, we heard the following words come out of the mouth of the extremely irate sous chef who blocked her path: “Lady, we’re in the middle of fucking service. Get the hell out of here!”

Cue applause meter.
foodie
Foodies should also remember that while home cooking, traveling, and dining out most certainly give you an education about food, they don’t, in most cases, make you an expert. Yelp serves a purpose, to be sure, but it’s often a means of settling a score or self-promoting. Or, in the case of food blog reviews written by foodies (as opposed to, say, writers with actual journalism and culinary credentials, both) a way to say, “I’m a food writer too!” One food blogger I stumbled across while researching this story had written on a recent post, “I think [foodie] is a very serious title. It’s like calling yourself a writer or an artist. It means you have to have the knowledge, talent and experience to back it up.”

Um, please get over yourself. Knowing about food, winning a Pulitzer, being the greatest chef on earth…at the end of the day, it’s just effing food. Not the cure for cancer or achieving world peace.

I think esteemed food writer and author Amanda Hesser said it best when she was quoted in a Chicago Tribune article last year: “Having more people interested in good food is never a bad thing,” she said, but what she can’t abide is eating dinner with people who “only want to talk about food and every place where they ate, like, doughnuts or something, and where the best doughnuts are secretly found. Knowing a lot about food culture is a good thing. That cataloguing of food experience is becoming tiresome. I’m pro-food experts. I’m just not so sure I want to have dinner with them or have them judge me on the coffee I drink.”

Amen.

[Photo credits: mushroom cloud, Flickr user Juampe López, poster, Flicker user Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com]

Adelaide’s Central Market offers the flavors of South Australia

“This is what Adelaideans do,” Mark Gleeson explained to me, as we wandered through Adelaide’s bustling Central Market. “The Market is a part of how we live, and has been since 1869.” Gleeson, a retired chef and owner of the Providore, a market shop selling pastry and picnic items, also leads public market tours. I’d hit the market on previous visits to South Australia’s charmingly provincial capital city. This time, however, I was his willing disciple as introduced me to vendors and gave me a detailed history of the state’s ethnic culinary influences.

The indoor public market, which is owned by the city council, is far more than a tourist attraction. That much was apparent from my first visit, in 2005. It’s always thronged with hungry locals shopping for weekend barbecues and beach picnics, sipping coffee, or savoring a bowl of Malaysian beef rendang.

As we walked, Gleeson told me, “Adelaideans are pretty savvy about food- we take an interest in how it’s produced, where it’s from. Knowing the vendors who make or sell it is part of the social fabric. We’re a multi-cultural city.” Unlike the rest of the continent, South Australia wasn’t settled as a penal colony, and the market reflects that.

The first German immigrants, fleeing religious persecution in their homeland, arrived shortly after the colony was established in 1836, followed by Russians, Czechs, Poles, and Hungarians. The state (indeed, all of Australia) also has a considerable Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian population. This mash-up of ethnicities have had a significant impact upon the food of South Australia, but none more so than the Eastern Europeans (wine, beer, and charcuterie being the most obvious examples).

As we wandered the marketplace–a tantalizing cacophony of sights and smells–Gleeson brought me to some of his favorite shops so I could try some ethnic specialities. Because of him, I’m now into a half-decade-long affair with the delicate piroskhis at Taddy Kurgan. These ample, fried puffs of dough resemble yeasty, perfectly-made doughnuts, except they’re stuffed with savory fillings of ground beef and rice or braised cabbage, or spinach and feta. The original shop owners emigrated from Kazakhstan. They recently sold to a Chinese couple, after training them very carefully in the art of piroshki and pelmeni-making.

Over at Sevenhill Fine Foods, Mr. Waldeck, a Polish refugee, sells traditional tastes of his homeland, including makowiec, a poppy seed bread, and regional charcuterie like mettwurst and lachshinken. Sun Mi runs a small stall offering her Korean take on made-to-order sushi, while Tony O’Connell of O’Connell’s Quality Meats specializes in local product, such as lamb. O’Connell, 52, started in his family’s shop at 15, and treats his customers like relatives. The first time I met him, in ’05, he gently tucked a couple of extra-fatty lamb chops into the display case while we talked. “We’ve got a couple of older ladies who will be real happy with those, so we’ll keep them,” he murmured. You don’t find personalized customer service like that too often these days.

At Wild Oz, you can buy native game such as emu, kangaroo, and wallaby, and feral (aka, “environmental nuisances”) wild pig and goat. A number of shops sell regional and indigenous “bush tucker” ingredients such as lemon myrtle, wattleseed, and quandong jam, and flaky, red, Murray River salt. House of Organic sells pristine, sustainably-grown Australian produce: Mildura asparagus, Adelaide Hills beurre bosc pears, kipfler potatoes. Seafood shops display local Smoky Bay oysters, sweet, teal-hued, blue swimmer crabs, scallops in the shell glistening with neon-orange roe, octopus, and bugs, a delectable Australian slipper lobster.

At dough!, Turkish pide and Lebanese flatbread compete for space with quiche, pastry, and locally-made, whole, glaceed figs, clementines, and kumquats, and plump, dried muscatel grapes from Barossa Valley vineyards. Across the aisle, The Smelly Cheese Shop is one of Australia’s finest specialty providores, stocked to capacity with imported and Australian artisan cheeses and housemade condiments such as skordalia, oil-packed, dried tomatoes, marinated bocconcini, and other picnic and cheeseboard items.

You need to fuel up for all of this browsing. Local’s love “brekkie” at Zuma’s, a coffee house serving savory muffins and egg dishes. The first place I always head, however, is Asian Gourmet. This unassuming, somewhat dumpy restaurant inside the market is famed for its laksa, a spicy, coconut milk-thickened noodle soup (the Singapore version with egg noodle is my pick). I’ve never had a better version, and I’m not ashamed to admit I actually plan my schedule around market hours, so I can get a daily (sometimes twice daily) fix.

Speaking of Asian food, the Market is conveniently located in Adelaide’s thriving little Chinatown, also known as Gouger Street. It’s lined with cheap and upscale Asian eats, most of which have sidewalk seating. I adore Wah Hing; besides consistently excellent, deceptively simple Chinese dishes, it’s a sleek, lively place with a great regional wine list.

And that describes Adelaide in a nutshell: locals may refer to it as “just a big country town,” but that doesn’t do justice to this city of astonishing diversity and quality ethnic cuisine. The Central Market is a national treasure, and Adelaideans love of convivial, adventurous dining and their pride in regional products make it a must-visit on ever food-lover’s itinerary.

For a more in-depth South Australian food experience, put Tasting Australia on your 2012 calendar. One of Australia’s largest food and wine festivals, it’s a week-long orgy of eating and drinking. It’s held in Adelaide every other year.

The following recipe is about as simple as it gets, and is very reflective of the region. Haloumi, a mild, salty, fresh sheep’s cheese traditionally from Cyprus, is artisanally produced on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. Fried haloumi is a beloved regional treat. Serve as an appetizer, as part of a salad, or as a dessert course, drizzled with honey.

Fried Haloumi

recipe courtesy of The Market- Stories, History & Recipes from the Adelaide Central Market, by Catherine Murphy

Dust some slices of good-quality haloumi with flour. Fry quickly in olive oil until golden on both sides. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon and freshly ground black pepper.