June 26-29 marks the 33rd annual Telluride Wine Festival. At the risk of dating myself, I was a volunteer coordinator/chef wrangler at the festival from 1998-2000, when I was only a handful of years out of culinary school. Since then, the event has gone through several regimes, and this year is again under new directorship.
I lived in Telluride off-and-on from 2005 to 2010, in a stereotypical dirtbagish manner. My housing included, but wasn’t limited to: subletting a revolting, moldy basement room beneath The Buck, where I got a break on rent for tending the pot-dealing owner’s coca plant (My one next-door neighbor was a meth dealer/addict, the other an aging alcoholic with a decrepit, incontinent dog; we all shared a bathroom that is best not described.), and a historic loft with a self-professed auteur filmaker/con-man whose main occupation seemed to consist of loudly having sex with his girlfriend in our shared room.
I also slept on various couches, floors, bathrooms, at a former boyfriend’s, and in my car, and cleaned toilets and made up beds in a friend-of-a-friend’s condo in exchange for housing when the unit wasn’t rented. When I finally signed a lease on a condo for a summer, I got a pro-rate deal because I was required to move myself, my cat, and all my shit out every other weekend when it was booked for festivals. Good times.
My employment, when I could find it, ranged from waiting tables at various sketchy restaurants (Every single one screwed me out of a paycheck, which is less a commentary on my skills than it is on ski town food industry ethics); working a burrito cart; dog- and house-sitting for a millionaire; slinging coffee; working festivals; briefly serving as a food and drink correspondent for a local TV station, writing for local papers, and working at a kayaking/mountaineering shop. Often, I did most of those things in a single day.
Despite all of this, I still have a soft spot for that crazy little ski town with the big drinking problem. It’s also no small miracle that come this weekend, I’ll have kinda-sorta come full-circle, as I’ll be presenting a couple of cheese seminars at the Wine Festival. On Thursday, it’s a beer and cheese event with TJ Daley, head brewer of Smuggler’s Brewpub, and on Saturday, mixology studmuffin Bryan Dayton (the proprietor of OAK at Fourteenth, and Acorn), and I will co-host, “Distilled Knowledge: Pairing Cheese & Spirits.”
More shameless self-promo: Telluride Inside…and Out interviewed me for a podcast in which we discussed food, cheese, and returning to the scene of the crime(s). Do give it a listen, or better yet, attend the Wine Festival for yourself. Meet me at OB’s; the PBR is on me.