Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Peter Hoffman’s favorite color is green

October 31

Oh how I like new friends. Obviously old friends are great — you fit one another, understand each other’s patterns, operate in well-worn grooves of each other’s consciousnesses. But new friends have to stand out more or we wouldn’t bother to make them, or at least I wouldn’t. They have to break new ground, operate in different areas of interest, and so naturally they stimulate different parts of my brain. That’s fun.
My latest new friend is the fascinating and beautiful musician Kenyon Phillips, whom you might remember I met in the lobby of minor (but very nice) rock star Peter Yanowitz’s apartment, bonding over notional danger.
I’d hang out with Kenyon more, but most of my socializing goes on at restaurants, and Kenyon’s a vegetarian. I want anyone eating with me to appreciate a restaurant for all it’s worth, so for Kenyon, it must be strong in things without meat.
Peter Hoffman’s new restaurant, Back Forty, is all about using top-notch local stuff. Peter, who’s also the chef-owner of Savoy, is a former president of the Chefs Collaborative, which has the mission of supporting sustainable food, so he’d better be using top-notch local stuff, including good produce.
Kenyon and I spoke of many things over dinner, including the fact that he recently heard from Peter the minor (but very nice) rock star, who told him that he and his girlfriend Lisa Davies just got married. So, congratulations to them.
We also talked about family, and I mentioned that my eight-year-old nephew Harrison Thorn is intrigued by the fact that I know some of the Food Network stars. He tried to assess how well I knew them by approaching it from an eight-year-old’s perspective. He asked if I knew Bobby Flay’s favorite color, which to me was a brilliant question asked by the sort of shrewd journalist who knows that sometimes to get to the heart of a story you have to nibble at the edges.
“How well do you know Bobby Flay?” is easy to wiggle around. “Do you know his favorite color?” That’s a yes-or-no question. There’s no escape, and for an eight-year-old it tells you a lot, because of course eight-year-olds know their good friends’ favorite colors. If you don’t know their favorite color, then really, how good a friend could you be?
I told Harrison that grown-ups don’t actually talk much about favorite colors, but that if we did, I still wouldn’t know Bobby Flay’s.
So Kenyon and I wondered what Peter Hoffman’s favorite color was. Kenyon’s had always been blue on some level, but he wondered what that meant, since he pretty much only wears black, white and grey.
Mine is cobalt blue, although I rarely wear it (it’s a bit much) and have little of it in my life.
Peter Hoffman was wearing autumn colors — soothing greens and browns, maybe a bit of grey, including a thick cardigan sweater. Kenyon thought maybe his favorite color would be heather.
He came over to chat with us and to express pleasure at our dessert choices of seasonal pie and donuts. He said he almost named Savoy “Pie” because he loves it so much and insists that it will be on Back Forty’s menu every night. And he bought a doughnut machine for the restaurant because it seemed like the right thing to do.
I was going to ask him his favorite color but Kenyon beat me to it.
“The first thing that came to mind was green,” he said, reflecting on his reaction to the question just one second after Kenyon had asked it.
So there you have it.

What Kenyon and I ate:
Tempura battered delicata squash with smoked paprika mayo
Shaved fennel and pumpkin salad with lemon turmeric vinaigrette
Beluga lentils with tarragon mustard dressing
Green wheat with mint and yogurt sauce
Cauliflower gratin with aged Gruyère, leeks and toasted breadcrumbs
Apple pie with vanilla ice cream

What I ate but Kenyon didn’t:
Fingerling potatoes with lardo (lardo is rendered, usually seasoned, pork fat)
Whole grilled Catskill trout with cilantro salsa verde

I also drank a Concord Fizz (rum, grapes, lemon and soda) and The Back Forty (George Dickel Tennessee whisky, maple and lemon).

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