the fish story

We’re back in Denver from the Roaring Fork Valley after four days, a pop-up dinner, some potential property visits, and many inspiring meetings with new friends and collaborators.  I could write a multi-chapter book about the last ninety-six hours, but instead have chosen to report back on just one story of the weekend.

We had known for a few weeks that one of our beloved guests for the Roaring Fork dinner only ate fish and the entire menu was based around a whole lamb primal roast.  Commitment to bringing the same quality and connection to the land for the fish as we were to the rest of the meal and the lamb was important to us so we immediately began a search for a local Roaring Fork valley fish and hopefully one that sourced from someone that shared connection to our work and ethos.  A couple of weeks of long-distance searching revealed no good sourcing and we forged on believing that the right fish would reveal itself to us once we were in the valley. 

Joe and I arrived in the valley on Saturday and had a full day of foraging for our center table platters, meeting with some new farmer friends, checking out Meat & Cheese in Aspen for lunch, and meeting the land of the valley.  We decided on our way back to Kathryn’s (TGH home-base for the weekend) to stop into Marble Distillery to say hi to our buddy John Paul and ask about some fish connections.  He immediately pointed to two groups of people in the room who were fly-fisherman. 

I understand that its not the generally accepted social way to strike up a conversation, but never being one for small-talk I marched over to those groups of unsuspecting fisherwo/men and introduced myself as “Seth, I’m looking for a fish.”  The distillery bar room lit up with fish-brainstorming, firestorm education about fishing rights & rules in the various waters of the Roaring Fork, local fisherman’s schedules and ideas of who could get one for us in the next twenty-four hours, surprising (not surprising) connections of each of those fisherwo/men to staff of The Guest House and a lot of laughter about local bar fish haggling.  One of the fisherman said the whole scene reminded him of the Foghorn Leghorn episode where the cat asks the dog who asks the chicken who asks the mouse….We left with four potential fish leads, three phone numbers, and a lot of hope & joy. 

Sunday found us welcoming the rest of The Guest House crew to the valley, sewing table linens, prepping food & lamb primals, setting up the frame for the open fire, and meeting Chris & Jody who were our gracious venue hosts.  Every hour or so I would call out “Has anyone heard anything about the fish?” with no hopeful reply.  We believed we believed we believed a fish would come to us.

Monday morning we had to be at the other end of the valley early to set up the fire and I knew that we’d have to have the fish in hand before we headed there.  Resigned and sad I decided to stop at the grocery store to pick up a fish and as I was pulling up to the stoplight next to the grocery store my phone rang with a local number I didn’t recognize. 

-      Hello this is Seth

-      Seth!  Its Foghorn Leghorn!  I just pulled a beautiful brown trout out of the Frying Pan River for your dinner!  Where are you??

Overjoyed with faith restored we agreed to meet in the grocery store parking lot to exchange the fish.  Foghorn Leghorn it turns out was Derek – a professor at Colorado Mountain College and local fisherman.  He told me he had continued to think about my pleas for an honest fish in the bar and our story about the way we want to feed our guests and our foraging & gathering spirits and he felt a connection with all of that.  And he came through and saved the day and our dinner and was the conduit for us being able to serve the most beautiful fish to our guest.

It might be our favorite part of the development of this project: building surprising connections with people who in their souls & spirits want a new way that is connected to our old ways and know that we can all do better – by each other, by the land, and by the animals with whom we share this land (and these waters).  Any way we inspire each other to live into that spirit more is a way that we know we are successful. 

All of the gratitude to everyone involved in this story for the bravery to live into this spirit with us. 

seth o'donovan