Friday, November 30, 2007

from peanuts to smoked pineapple to vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caviar

November 30

Long night last night.
It started around 5 p.m. in the private upstairs room at Felidia, where I went to a party thrown by the Peanut Advisory Board. It seems that drought in the Southeast is affecting the peanut crop again, with regard to quantity, not quality, so I'm told. There should still be enough peanuts for the major manufacturers, but the smaller guys may face some difficulties.
I was apprised of the situation by a nine-fingered farmer on the PAB’s board, and he should know.
I got lost in conversation with others and ended up closing down the party at 7:30, and from there I went to a sherry party announcing the winners of a cocktail competition. I caught up with food bon vivant Arlyn Blake and Marian Betancourt, writer of cookbooks and other things. I introduced them to Kevin Patricio, who's, well, actually I’m not sure what he is. When I met him in, like 2000, he was a marketer or event planner or something for Food & Wine. I’ve seen him listed as a chef. He was working at the sherry party last night, though I’m not sure in what capacity. I do know that I’m always glad to see him, and he said that he and bartender/cocktail maven Jim Meehan (mostly of PDT these days) are working on opening a restaurant together. It’s all in very preliminary stages. Jim kind of rolled his eyes when I mentioned it and changed the subject.
Then beverage consultant and sherry guru Steve Olson gave a speech and announced the cocktail winner (Giuseppe Gonzalez of Flatiron Lounge in New York City, for his Madroño Cobbler
3 oz. Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium Amontillado
2 Strawberries
2 cinnamon sticks
0.5 oz Torani Amer
2 barspoons of Rich Demerara Syrup
Lightly muddle one strawberry in Torani Amer. Break one cinnamon in half into shaker. Add sherry. Shake lightly with a little crushed ice. Serve in wine goblet. Top with more ice. Garnish with fanned strawberry, whole cinnamon stick & straw).
After that I went upstairs to sample cocktails, including one made with smoked pineapple — smoking’s all the rage, and you can read about that in the December 10 issue of NRN — and chatted a bit with beverage consultant Jerri Banks and Julie Reiner, who owns Flatiron Lounge. I guess I should have congratulated her.
Next I headed down to Will Goldfarb’s new place, Dessert Lounge, which is located at the back of Chocolat Michel Cluizel (and also accessible from the back of Le Pain Quotidien). I ate Will's chocolate bubbles with milk foam, and his vanilla ice cream with chocolate bits, topped with caviar, and mostly hung out with Oceana executive chef Ben Pollinger, about whom I discussed plans to make dinner for my boss, executive food editor Pam Parseghian, and her husband George Arpajian, at the home of her boss, editor-in-chief Ellen Koteff, who unlike me does not need to undertake major cleaning efforts to make her home presentable to guests.
Ben suggested that some butternut squash gnocchi would be nice "If you want to do some work." Uh-huh. It would be nice.
It’s funny, I'll bake bread, no problem. Give me some flour and yeast and I’m ready to go. But I’m not making gnocchi.
Cute idea, though.
I chatted briefly with Oceana executive pastry chef Jansen Chan, whom I don't think I’d met before, and had a nice long talk with Dave Arnold, director of culinary technology at the French Culinary Institute. He’s the cat in charge of teaching about transglutaminase and immersion circulators and various types of evaporation and distillation equipment — all the stuff that used to be called molecular gastronomy until early practitioners of it decided they didn’t like that term (Will Goldfarb, who sells various ingredients used in molecular gastronomy, refers to his own cuisine as "experiential").
Freelance writer Francine Cohen introduced me to a friend of hers named Stewart, who writes music for TV and stuff. That kind of art is beyond me. I could make up a dish, or a story, but a song? Where do you begin?
Stewart said it wasn’t really different from writing words. We agreed that the TV show Battlestar Galactica has a great soundtrack. I like how the theme song starts with a single note repeated over and over again. It's really scary. Stewart likes the dominance of percussion throughout the series. I like that too.
A propos of nothing else, let me say right here that I’m also a huge fan of the NYPD Blue theme. I think the melancholy tune underpinned by the thrumming drum beat that is the pulse of New York City sums up the show well.


Jim Doak said...

Bret - Butternut squash gnocchi is really simple - I have a recipe if you like. Come on get on the edge - baking bread yikes now that is a lot of work!


Bret Thorn said...

You make a good point, Jim. I’d love that gnocchi recipe.
I bake bread pretty much any time I cook for others, so it’s not a big deal to me. And it’s not really a lot of work, it just requires advance planning.