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Food & Wine sell-out marks rising economy

By Dave Buchanan

ASPEN – In case you were wondering:

A hint the economy is on an (ever-so-slight) upswing is the latest version of the food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen which sold out this year for the first time in three years.

However, it’s not time to get your hopes for a full recovery.

The Aspen Daily Times reported that Christina Grdovic, publisher and vice president of Food & Wine magazine, told the June 15 Aspen Business Luncheon that the 5,000 Classic attendees are, on average, five times more affluent than the already well-to-do readers of the magazine.

Which means the trickle-down may take a while to get to you.

Grdovic’s presentation was titled “Food and Wine and Aspen: A perfect pairing.”

According to the Aspen Daily Times’ story, Grdovic said that the success of the Food & Wine in Aspen, this year celebrating its 29th season, has spawned other similar events, including the South Beach Food and Wine Festival in Miami and festivals in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Pebble Beach, Atlanta and the Caribbean.

“The reason people wanted to do these was because they saw the success in Aspen,” Grdovic said.

And anyone who spends that second weekend in June finds the place bustling with happy and successful people.

Sure, Aspen may be a bit of a bubble when it comes to much of western Colorado, but it's an attractive bubble.

Another perfect pairing, or at least one more in line with our economics, is something to match with what’s getting hot on that summer grill.

With the Fourth of July headed our way, nothing says summer cook out more than hotdogs.

That and a decent wine, says New York restaurateur Danny Meyer, whose entertaining seminar, “Sauce on the Side: Wine, Wieners and the Works,” was a sell-out during last week’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

Meyer, CEO of the restaurant group behind Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café in New York City, has long been a fan of pork and barbecue and everything that goes with it.

One of his delights is telling stories about being a judge at the annual Jack Daniel’s barbecue championship in Lynchburg, Tenn.

For a man of so many tastes, he’s also is a fan of keeping wine drinking simple.

“When someone tells you what you should like, they are wrong. Wine is no more than a condiment,” he told his appreciative audience gathered under the white tent in Aspen’s Peapcke Park. “The only relevant factor is what you think is yummy and what you think is disgusting.”

These weren’t overly expensive custom hot dogs Meyer had the audience tasting but all-beef Vienna-style dogs, similar to those Meyer serves in his wildly popular Shake Shack restaurant in New York City. Who said Aspen can't be unpretentious?

Along with the dogs were some typical Fourth of July condiments, including ketchup, mustard, cheese sauce, and one of his personal specialities, the relish-and-mayonnaise based sauce served at the Shake Shack.

While the audience noshed away conducting their own taste tests, Meyer continued to take some shots at those who make wine and food pairing more difficult than it should be.

The idea of adding wine to a barbecue is to liven up the party, he said, not put everyone to sleep with profound discussions of tannin, balance, fruit and acidity.

“Wine (should be) no more mysterious than mayo, mustard, and pickles,” he said. “It’s just another condiment that we enjoy with our food.”

The point of the unique tasting, Meyer said, was to discover our individual preferences and what each one of personally looked for when it comes to finding a balance between the flavors typical of hot dogs, including salty, smoky,sweet, sour, spicy and fatty.

The pairings included Anchor Steam beer, an S.A. Prum 2009 Riesling Kabinett (Germany); a Domaine Serene 2008 Walla Walla Pinot Noir from Oregon; and the Jean-Luc Colombo 2009 “Les Fees Brunes” Syrah.

Meyer said another good paring with hot dogs is a sweet and floral ice wine, such as a Muscat since most people drink sodas with their hot dog and hamburgers.

Mesa County winemaker’s competition: Closer to home, the second-annual Mesa County Fair Commercial Winemaker’s competition is accepting entries with winners to be announced the week of July 16.

Mesa County produces 86 percent of the grapes grown in Colorado and this competition showcases that grape industry, said Debbie Hoey, Fair Board treasurer and wine competition committee member.

Last year’s contest drew 46 entries.

The contest is open to any commercial winemaker and entries must contain at least 75 percent Mesa County grapes or fruit.

Any wine entered in the competition must be currently available for sale. The categories include: red, white, rose, fortified fruit, honey/mead and other standard wines.

Award winners will be displayed in the Fairgrounds Community Building during the fair, July 19-23.

More information is available online at www.mesacountyfair.com.

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