Where the party never stops

“There are two types of people here: People who are someone and people who aren’t.”
– overheard in Aspen

It’s 1am on Sunday morning, and I think I’m quite possibly the only person in Aspen sitting at my computer, watching E! entertainment television in my pajamas. Here, the party never stops, especially during four days in June as the Food & Wine Classic rolls into town.

Okay, it stopped for me (burp), but I can hear the revelers outside, stumbling in after three days of non-stop eating, drinking and schmoozing. Clearly, I neglected the requisite advance party-training memo. It’s a sad day when Jacques Pepin, the ever-present senior statesman of food, can outlast you. By a mile.

It’s been three days of all-out sensory assault. From celebrity chef stalking and riding a ski gondola to the top of a mountain for a buffet of the gods (elk, crab legs stacked to the sky, all the artisan salumi you can eat, wine flowing like water and Giada pushing her way past in search of a cookie), to discovering that honey mead (a fermented honey beer) is the hottest drink for summer or racing up and down three flights of stairs (repeatedly) to snatch up all ten of the Best Chef’s creations before the mob descended (see the photo gallery) on Saturday’s walk-around dinner. (After which, I was left wondering where I could get a good burger.)

But that’s just the start. Outside of the cooking programs by culinary showmen like Emeril and Mario, there are grand tastings where thousands happily pack into giant tents for sole privilege of eating and drinking into oblivion. There are major deals being struck poolside, at after-hours parties and in Lexus shuttles driving attendees the four blocks back to their hotels. Come on, three-inch heels are a bitch to walk in.

If it all sounds a little over the top, it is. Blissfully so.

“People are so star struck by this industry right now,” Sean O’Brien, chef of San Francisco’s Myth restaurant told me yesterday. As one of the Top 10 Chefs selected by Food & Wine magazine, he’s fairly unfazed by all the attention lavished on the young superstars singled out for national media attention, not to mention having to serve thousands at Saturday night’s dinner (O’Brien served up a cold salad of octopus and chick peas). At least that’s his story for the moment.

“There’s a glamorizing of the industry. Every kid in culinary school is thinking they can be a celebrity. It can happen. But for the most part it isn’t going to,” he says.

Maybe. But here in Aspen O’Brien and, well, pretty much anyone wearing a toque and chef’s whites are guaranteed their 15 minutes of fame from rabid foodies who’ve flocked to Aspen to pray feverishly at the temple of gastronomy. At least for a few days each June.

Check out the photo gallery. You owe my poor, blistering feet that much.

Oh, and about those Beer Milkshakes–who knew? Sam Adams beer plus ice cream equals a little bit of booze heaven.