When you have Andrew Knowlton from Bon Appétit on your left and Laurie Woolever from Art Culinaire on your right, it's going to be a fun meal. Precede it with two-and-a-half caipirinhas with flashing cubes in them, and what could you complain about? And when the food’s coming from E. Michael Reidt, well.
Actually, I’d never had E. Michael's food before, much to the shock of his publicist, because he and I go way back. We bonded at the Food & Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen several years ago, when he, Northern-California-based chef Randy Lewis, and I, drank the night away, ending up at the only late-night Gyros stand I know of in Aspen, where we nearly got into a fight with a belligerent drunk.
That would have been a great story wouldn’t it, getting into a brawl at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, maybe getting arrested?
Didn’t happen, but E. Michael and I have been friendly ever since. He now has a restaurant in Santa Barbara named Sevilla, and I was psyched to finally try his food.
I was invited to the Beard House to celebrate Mardi Gras, but once I got there I realized that we were more precisely celebrating Carnaval, which made sense. E. Michael had a Brazilian wife and now has a Brazilian girlfriend, and his food has for years been classified as French-Brazilian, which it’s not really. It’s more simply the food of E. Michael Reidt.
Pino Maffeo from Restaurant L in Boston, the city where E. Michael got his start, was in town to help him, along with a number of other Boston chefs, and I made the horrible gaffe of not recognizing the guy. I’ve interviewed him a lot, but I hadn’t seen him in several years, since he was cooking in New York with Patricia Yeo at Pazo and AZ. She’s the chef at Sapa now, and was also at the Beard House tonight, watching E. Michael’s back.
Anyway, I talked to Pino, finally realized who he was, and introduced him to a Beard Foundation member who’s into molecular gastronomy, which Pino practices with great enthusiasm.
Dinner was fun and delicious, and as I went downstairs to chat with the chefs I was greeted by the CEO of a food web site, who looked at me and said, “Hello, Josh.”
My name’s not Josh, but people slip from time to time, so I didn’t mind until I realized that, although she had tapped me on the shoulder and greeted me, she was now talking into a mouthpiece that was hanging from her ear and plugged into some sort of complex mobile phone/computer gizmo. I wondered aloud if she didn‘t know that she was in a public place with other living people, actually in front of her, making eye contact and speaking with one another.
Oh well, some people have no couth.
What I ate and drank:
crispy bacalhau with West Coast sea urchin
grilled shrimp with squid ink and linguiça
Kobe beef ceviche with banana and rice crisps
sweet potato soup with foie gras and saba vinegar
truffled goat cheese pao de quiju and coconut
multiple “electric” Aguá Luca caipirinhas
smoked scallop tartare with caramelized cauliflower, pineapple, truffle salt and osetra caviar
Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne, NV
salt cod crusted black bass with black-eyed pea mousseline, baby beets, Maine shrimp escabeche and acaraje cracker
Emrich-Schonleber Monzinger Halbtroken, Riesling Nahe, 2004
a spontaneous extra course of truffled gnocchi
Maine lobster with poached lobster moqueca, grilled lobster sausage, kabocha squash and hen of the woods mushrooms
Kistler "Les Noisetiers" Chardonnay, Russian River, 2003
Confit cheek churrasca, Serrano wrapped loin, braised osso-bucco and celery root
Ambullneo “Bulldog Reserve” Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, 2003
Carnaval: Doce de leite cake, caramel mousse tower, lil' doughnut and passion fruit marshmallow
Dr. Loosen “Blue Slate” Riesling Eiswein, 2003