When meeting a famous person, even a slightly famous person, I have to struggle not to make an idiot of myself. I'm not particularly starstruck, but I do want to make a good impression; I want to be remembered.
Fortunately, the side of me that would rather leave no impression than a bad one wins out more often than not, so I didn’t utter the title of this blog entry when meeting Joe Piscopo at the Beard House last night. Instead I just told him my name and he said that it was nice to see me, which is safer than “nice to meet you,” a phrase you don’t want to say to someone you’ve met before.
The former Saturday Night Live cast member (really former; he left in 1985) is friends with Barry Gutin, who owns Cuba Libre, Brûlée and other places in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.
Cuba Libre chef Guillermo Veloso was in charge of dinner at the Beard House last night, and pastry chef Jemal Edwards from Brûlée made dessert.
Mr. Gutin came up with his staff and friends, and I ate with him, his GM, his publicist, his beverage guy, a journalist from South Jersey, some other PR people and Joe Piscopo.
He looks trim and kind of stately these days, and sort of like he has internalized a bit of the Frank Sinatra impersonation he used to do.
He shared a few polite tales of the SNL days, reminiscing about getting Eddie Murphy out of his dressing room two minutes before showtime, but not going into detail about what he was doing in there. But mostly everyone talked about their kids. I don’t have any, so I talked about my nieces and nephew instead.
When the chefs were introduced, Jemal Edwards made a big deal out of the fact that we had been served a three-course dessert. But, excessive as it may seem, three-course desserts aren’t that uncommon at the Beard House or at other high-end food events. A fruit "pre-dessert," often is followed by something heavier, often containing chocolate, and then petits fours are served with coffee. It’s a bit grand to pair the pre-dessert and the dessert with different wines, but it’s not unheard of.
Edwards did something I like, though. He started with a small chocolate dessert and followed it with a fruity one. That makes more sense than the other way around. The higher acid content of fruit desserts can really clean up the chocolate-coated palate. Finish up with a high-tannin tea and you're golden.
The wines were selected by the staff of Vino Noir, Gutin's soon-to-open Atlantic City wine bar. The wine-list will be all-electronic with web-browsing ability, a concept speerheaded by Aureole in Las Vegas. But Vino Noir offers the added option, if you really like a particular wine that you're drinking, to order a case of it instantly online.
What I ate and drank:
Chino-Latino Summer Rolls
Cuba Libre Signature Mojitos
Roasted Squab Breast and Tasajo of Squab Leg with Herb and Aromatic–Infused Squab Broth
Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2003
10 Cane Tuna — Toro Marinated in Soy, Guava, and 10 Cane Rum, and Braised Pork Belly with King Crab, Calabaza, Coconut Calasparra Rice Tian, and Guava Gastrique
Nautilus Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Guinea Boliche — Braised Guinea Hen Leg Stuffed with Foie Gras, Sweet Plantains, Olives, and Rum-Soaked Raisins and Roasted Guinea Hen Breast with Garlic Flan, Quail Egg, and Serrano Crisps
Numanthia Tinta de Toro 2003
Lamb en Tres Actos — Lamb Picadillo Empanadita; Crispy Lamb Frita; and Roasted Lamb Rib Chop with Roncal and Malanga Mash, Served with Baby Arugula in Porcini Mojo and Cilantro Essence
Bell Wine Cellars Big Guy Red 2002
Petite Chocolate–Hazelnut Cream Cone with Caramelized Hazelnuts and Frangelico Crème Anglaise
Broadbent 10-Year-Old Malmsey Madeira
Summer Strawberry Fantasy > Honey Financier with Tahitian Vanilla Panna Cotta, Strawberry Gelée, Strawberry-Basil Foam, Navan Vanilla–Cognac Sautéed Wild Strawberries, and Almond-Strawberry Croquant
Prager Sweet Claire Riesling 2003
Truffles, Bonbons, and Petits Fours