During my hedonistic 20s, when I lived in hedonistic Bangkok, my upstairs neighbor, friend and work colleague was visited, for an extended stay, by a friend of his. She was a drunk. Nice enough, but she seemed psychologically trapped at a frat party. We would be sitting around, and suddenly she would raise her plastic cup of vodka and yell "Social!" This meant that we were all supposed to drink, not as part of a drinking game, which apparently was when most of her people drank, but just to be friendly with one another, as if that were a novelty, as if we had to be told when to drink and had to do it together.
I was reminded of that at the Beard House on Saturday. Martial Noguier, the chef of One Sixtyblue in Chicago, was cooking food that was all to be paired with wines from the Pacific Northwest. A publicist from one of One Sixtyblue's sister properties was at my table, although she had to socialize with other tables as well. That was her job and completely inoffensive. But whenever she returned to the table and a new wine had been poured — and there was of course a different wine for each course — she raised a glass and said "Cheers!" as if we had not already been drinking wine and politely socializing with others at the table. I suppose that’s a minor social infraction not worth blogging about, even if it did remind me of the aforementioned drunk twentysomething eternal frat party girl. What really annoyed me was that no one at the table seemed to understand the rules of toasting. If you raise your glass, you must clink glasses with everyone at the table or, barring that, at least make eye contact with each of them.
This is especially important among Germans and Scandinavians, for whom failing to make eye contact when clinking glasses is a social affront that, according to some people, curses you with seven years of bad sex — and I don’t think that includes time served.
I still remember one dinner several years ago at the New York residence of the Swedish Consul General. We were seated at a long, long table at which, before taking our first sip, we raised our glasses and looked each person in the eye, in turn, before drinking and then returning our glasses to the table. It was fun.
Of course, with someone basically shouting "Social!" each time a new wine is poured, that would have proven tedious.
I was at the Beard House with my friend Birdman. We are both in our hedonistic late 30s in hedonistic New York and decided that our consumption of roughly one glass of wine per course was insufficient and continued to enjoy New York night life until very late. That included a stop at Gin Lane, whose cocktails I have enjoyed in the past. The low-key bouncer at the door asked us to remove our hats upon entering. We were delighted.
Not only do we think that people should clink glasses and make eye contact, we think that gentlemen should remove their hats when indoors.
What we ate:
Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert on brioche with artisanal honey and truffle oil
Peekytoe crab with radishes, basil, chives and lemon vinaigrette
The Four Graces Pinot Blanc 2005
Diver sea scallop with smoked sturgeon, broccoli purée, roasted hazelnuts, wild watercress salad, and lemon-honey emulsion
Adelsheim Pinot Gris 2005
Roasted partridge with homemade boudin blanc, Savoy cabbage, partridge leg confit, duxelles, and truffle juice reduction
J.K. Carriere Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2001
Cervena venison loin with celery root purée, Seedling Farm apple doughnuts, mizuna, apple-celeriac salad and black peppercorn xauce
Spring Valley Vineyards Uriah Meritage 2003
Brillat-Savarin with Dried Pear Purée, Candied Walnuts, Endive Salad, and Brioche Croutons
Argyle Brut 2001
Lemon tart with navel orange, satsuma, mandarins, kumquat confit and mint
King Estate Signature Vin Glacé 2003
Petits Fours: bittersweet chocolate truffles, almond-lemon Madeleines and vanilla bean macaroons with raspberry confiture
Francis Tannahill Passito Gewürtzraminer 2004