Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I don’t like standing in line

June 21

Summer is upon us here in New York, and I don't like it one bit. Being outside sort of makes me feel like I'm being poached.
And yet last night and the night before I went to events that required me to stand in line to get into parties whose hosts seemed disinclined to use their air conditioning.
I think it stands to reason that the first few minutes of any event can make or break it. A seemingly minor thing like the ability of list checkers to do their job efficiently can cause a major attitude shift, especially if sweat beads have started to form on your forehead.
Monday’s event wasn’t bad. It was Pastry Arts & Designs' 10 Best Pastry Chefs party, held at the Institute of Culinary Education.
But the hallway leading to the school's entrance, which is on the 5th floor of a building in Chelsea across from Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, was untreated by air conditioning, and a bunch of us were standing there waiting to get into the school.
As my hair (of which I have very little) started to moisten I entered the lobby to see a table strewn with nametags in vaguely alphabetical order. Approximately three young women were sorting through them as they tried to check people in. It seemed like an odd way to do it.
The crowd, which was ample, but not insanely so, nonetheless seemed to overstretch the air-conditioner, which just managed to keep the place below sweltering as we tried, at least for a few minutes, to listen to the speeches being made using audio equipment that sounded like it had been swiped from the nearby subway station.
Some people left early, others wandered off to less crowded rooms where wine was being poured and the packaged cookies of one of the awards' sponsors were out on plates. Considering that we were about to sample desserts from actual pastry chefs, it seemed like an uninspired move on the part of the sponsors.
But I had a nice time, anyway, and in the course of several conversations I was reminded of some restaurant-industry rumors that I was supposed to follow up on. I made note of them as I sampled mostly overwrought, excessively complicated desserts, two (2!) of which featured basil seeds.
Then last night I stood in line on East 48th Street as I waited to be let in to the opening party of Alma Grill, a restaurant owned by music mogul Ralph Mercado and Union Telecard Alliance multi-millionaire Carlos Gomez (I thought it was character actor Carlos Gomez, but apparently not).
The party was hosted by Lisa Lisa, which would have been really excellent if this were 1983. But in 2006, if the best a music mogul and telecom mogul can scare up in Midtown Manhattan is a 1980s pop-star, it's a red flag.
The line was slow-moving and people were being turned away. Apparently, they had only been invited to the afterparty.
That's interesting because many of the regular restaurant-party crashers got in: Weird Shaggy Haired Guy was sitting at a table, and Slightly Creepy Italian Guy was wandering around the cramped space. I didn't see Eccentric Cookbook Thief, but she might have been there, too.
They poured so-so Chardonnay and Chianti. I drank the former because I was wearing my cream-colored sports coat, and sweating in it — it wasn't that hot out, so I'm not sure why the air conditioner couldn't handle the crowd.
My colleague, Molly Gise, came to the party, too, so we had fun chatting, otherwise I would have left. As at most bad parties, they seemed unaware of how to pass hors d'oeuvres efficiently, so I had a good time watching guests, who surely had $1.50 to buy a slice of pizza if they needed to, pounce on the food as if they'd just been let out of concentration camps.
I got a couple of slices from my favorite neighborhood pizza place in Park Slope, Antonio's, on Flatbush, just outside the 7th Avenue B/Q subway station.

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