"You're the wine-and-food guy," my friend Chris said. He was sitting next to me at what has become an annual private event for those of us in Aspen who like to eat and drink the good stuff. "Why did you pick this wine?"
My Aspen friend Tom and I started the tradition a few years ago, the idea being that everyone attending be responsible for a particular dish or a wine to go with it. He has a big house with a great kitchen at the edge of town, and a big deck looking out over the Roaring Fork Valley. It has turned into a hot ticket in our crowd, largely because all of us are pretty good in the kitchen and can put our hands on wines that we all like to drink.
We start planning this a couple months in advance because everyone here seems to have a busy social calendar. The table is a mix of musicians in town for the Aspen Music Festival and onlookers like me and my wife. You never know who's going to show up. A last-minute addition to our table Sunday night was the conductor James Conlon.
My contribution was the first course. I had planned to make spaghetti with an asparagus pesto recipe I like by the New York Times writer Mark Bittman and top it with some seafood. At the local farmer's market, a pasta producer named Pappardelle was selling squid-ink fettuccine that had some basil flavor in it. I also found some wild-caught Oregon shrimp to sauté in olive oil with onions and some diced heirloom tomatoes, also from the market, to use as a garnish.
What to drink with it? I knew I wanted something creamy in texture but with enough of its own acidity to balance the lemon juice in the sauce. That sounds like Washington Chardonnay to me. I brought two bottles of Januik Chardonnay Columbia Valley Cold Creek Vineyard 2008, a wine I reviewed recently and liked a lot. Shrimp goes well with this style in my experience.
But what about the asparagus? Isn't asparagus supposed to be difficult on wine? Not, in my experience, when it has been pureed into a sauce that has pine nut, Parmigiano Reggiano and garlic flavors. It's just creamy, with a nice tang from the vegetable and lemon.
The dish went over well, and the wine lived up to expectations. Chris liked it. So did I.
Bittman's recipe for asparagus pesto is on the New York Times website. For the shrimp, I sautéed a couple tablespoons of diced red onion and a diced big red tomato in olive oil with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a squeeze or two of lime, salt and pepper.
Richard Gangel — San Francisco — July 20, 2010 4:52pm ET
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