Sometimes here in the New York food scene so many interesting-sounding events are going on that I try to make my version of commando raids — arriving, saying "hi, hi," having a drink, learning a fact and leaving for the next event.
Normally, Sundays in the summer are dead and I'm at home doing laundry or playing a computer game (Civilization IV), but the Fancy Food Show is underway, and many companies are taking the opportunity to show off their stuff.
So commando-style party attendance was in order.
That's hard to do, however, when your first event features an Italian product — Grana Padano cheese, in this case — and your host and many of the guests are in another room watching the World Cup championship between France and Italy (Italy won in a penalty-kick tie-breaker, which many people find gripping but I just think is kind of lame). That event was supposed to start at 4:30, so I had no idea that they expected us to sit down for dinner AFTER all the niceties and speaches given by representatives from the Grana Padano consorzio and various trade commissioners and so on — and then translated into English.
That was at Felidia, on the border between the Upper East Side and Midtown, and I had an event way downtown at Tribeca Grill (for Jamon Iberico) that started at 5:30. And I wasn't really at Felidia for the cheese, but for the Franciacorta they were pouring with it. Franciacorta is a sparkling wine I really like that comes, I believe, from the Italian region of Lombardy, which also is where a lot of Grana Padano comes from.
I learned at the event that Padano means "of or pertaining to the Po River," and that Grana Padano comes from several Italian regions in areas north of the Po.
Believe it or not, that will be a useful bit of information somewhere in the future. I know it will be.
My friend Arlyn Blake was at Felidia, too, and she and I finally decided to make a run for it at 5:50, when all we had eaten was three pieces of cheese, all of different ages and made in different seasons to reflect the variety in the world of Grana Padano. It was going to be a long night there.
So instead we apologized and hopped into the car of Arlyn's boyfriend, Sal, who drove us to the Tribeca Grill.
That was the see-and-be-seen party. I'm not sure why. Maybe chefs like Wylie Dufresne and Aaron Sanchez and pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini and writers like Jeffrey Steingarten and Peter Kaminsky and Kate Krader were there to sample the Jamon Iberico that was being presented by chef José Andres (Peter Kaminsky definitely was). Or maybe they were there because everyone likes José and wanted to see him. Or maybe they were there because almost everyone like's Drew Nieporent, Tribeca Grill's owner, and they wanted to see him.
It would have been a good place to hang out, but I had a dinner commitment back uptown near Columbus Circle, at San Domenico. So I walked to the 1 train and ran into Beverly Stephen of Food Arts and a friend of hers whose name didn't quite sink in. They, too, were headed to San Domenico, for a dinner by a chef from Italy's Campania region that also featured Campanian wine.
I sat down at my assigned table and the woman next to me, while doing something with her blackberry quizzed me as to who I was and what business I had being there. Was I in the industry? Did I have a culinary background?
Try not to do that when you go to a dinner party. It's, well, unbelievably bad form.
I thought of being a jerk right back, but instead introduced myself to her and then to everyone else at the table and we ended up having a very nice time exchanging amusing anecdotes. That's why you should avoid being a jerk at the beginning of dinner parties; you have to sit with those people for the rest of the night.
One person cited a "fact" she'd heard at a nutrition seminar that 33 percent of women were not interested in sex (the seminar was apparently trying to correlate bad nutrition with lack of interest in sex and a bunch of other things).
That seems like an awefully high percentage for a species that has managed to survive for even the several hundreds of thousands of years that we've been around. If you have any notion of where that statistic comes from, I'd love to hear about it.
What I ate at San Domenico:
Passato di fagioli di Controne con scuncigli e bottarga
Timbalo di bucatini, patate e provola su salsa di carote
Parmigiana di alici fresche
Filetto di maiale alla erbe con umidi di cardiofi
Fondente di cioccolato con mousse di ricotta
Caffe & piccola paticceria
and what I drank there:
Asprinio di Aversa, Fescine, Cantine Caputo, 2005
Fiano di Avellino, Campore Terredora, 2003
Aglianico Donnaluna, De Conciliiis, 2004