For those of you not yet hipped to the big foodie news in Denver this week, the International Association of Culinary Professionals is in town -- a kind of traveling circus show of food writers, food editors, food pimps, chefs, authors, wine gurus and associated tradesmen. And, of course, Jason Sheehan is embedded right in the middle of all the action, causing trouble, sponging up free drinks and generally comporting himself in as disreputable a way as possible. His reports from inside the convention will be running throughout the week.
One important rule for throwing a successful conference: Choose a hotel with a good bar. That's where all the real business gets done, where all the best contacts are made. A conference-goer looking to get the most out of the experience should know that staking out the long oak and appearing approachable is a sure bet for meeting people, collecting business cards and otherwise milking every possible opportunity out of those hours.
Me? I was just kinda looking for trouble. A few pints, some chat and maybe the opportunity to do something ridiculous in public. And as far as I'm concerned, the IACP hit a winner this year with their choice of the downtown Sheraton because what brand-new Irish pub just happened to have opened at the Sheraton a few weeks ago? Katie Mullen's. And Katie's is a great place for all of the above.
Day one of the conference? Tuesday the 31st. No events scheduled, but everyone would be arriving, getting settled, picking up badges and getting registered. My thought was to pick up my all-access press tags down in the basement, then stake out the Victorian bar at Katie Mullen's and hope to catch a few lonely foodies, far from home and looking for company. I am a local expert, after all. Of a sort. If they needed to know where to eat, where to grab a bus, how to navigate downtown, I could help. If they needed a fast loan, a dime bag or some no-questions-asked company? Well, I knew where to send them for that, too. I imagined myself as a sort of shady concierge and fixer -- someone along the lines of Jack Flowers from Paul Theroux's novel Saint Jack. Really, I was just trying to make myself helpful.
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Unfortunately, I'd forgotten one very important thing about food writers -- that they would no sooner knock around the hotel of a strange city on their first night in town than they would order breakfast from the McDonald's drive-thru or eat a pig who's address, genetic provenance and family history they didn't know beforehand. Within moments of collecting their room keys and convention badges, these folks were flat gone -- spreading out across the city like a plague of locusts, eating and drinking everything in sight.
Six or eight hundred hardcore gastronauts, having just dropped between $500 and $1,200 a piece for the privilege of attending the IACP conference, making good and goddamn sure they enjoyed every blessed minute. I would later hear reports of ravenous hordes descending on Bones, on the Buckhorn (where they ate the joint out of yak and quail), on Root Down (poor motherfuckers...) and Vesta and Venue. I'm surprised they weren't out there licking buildings and taking bites out of street signs. My people are omnivorous and crazed, and I'd forgotten about that in my planning -- a mistake I would not make again.
In the meantime, I spent Tuesday night getting hammered with a couple guys from the hotel, turned down an invite for floor seats at the basketball game and made my way home, sloshing with Guinness and quietly singing old Irish drinking songs to myself -- just another refugee in Hotcakesland.
Wednesday April 1st was really the first day of the festivities. I needed to be ready.