Friday, January 18, 2008


January 18

I did what I thought was impossible last night. I went to parties on the Upper East Side, Astor Place and Times Square, all in one evening, and was home before 11.
I wasn't even going to try to make it to all three, but by 5:30 I realized that my productivity in the office had come to an end for the day, so I hopped uptown on the 6 train and made it to 2nd Avenue and 84th by a little after 6 to witness the opening of Cafe Notte, a cafe by day, wine bar at night kind of place, with a focus on local, seasonal stuff and using recycled furniture and so on.
Just so you know, I’m sick and tired of all the green rhetoric. I was raised by dyed-in-the-wool (using environmentally safe dye, of course) environmentalists and I find many of the people jumping onto the green bandwagon (hybrid bandwagon, acoustic guitars, or perhaps solar-powered electric ones) over the past couple of years, without really knowing what they’re talking about, to be venal, insipid and kind of gross.
But Steven Salsberg seems serious about his mission at Cafe Notte. A representative from the Greenmarket was there to chat about the food, and to hand out a list of farms whose stuff was being served that evening. The soup recipes come from Steven’s wife, and so does the challah recipe. The young beverage manager seemed genuinely excited to be sharing his wine discoveries. It was really very sweet, and I was sorry to have to cut my visit short, but the Astor Center awaited. I rushed to the 6 train.
I was not actually interested in seeing the opening of a new event space, not really. But it was definitely the see-and-be-seen party of the evening. So I went, I saw, I was seen. Publicist Jesse Gerstein, the only male I know of to have worked for Philip Baltz for an extended period of time, was bragging about all the cocktail experts who were there that evening (basically, all of the New York-based ones were there except for Jerri Banks). I gave him a bored look just to be a jerk, because it was an impressive turnout. I wandered over to Dave Wondrich’s bar to drink his Manhattan, which I sipped, appreciating the lemon twist, while circulating through the party.
And then who do you think stopped me but Elizabeth Andoh?
Elizabeth is probably the most knowledgeable native English speaker about Japanese food on Earth. She enchanted the audience at NRN’s Culinary R&D conference last year when she broke down the fundamentals of the cuisine for them, and in general she is a fascinating and charming person, and I was very glad to see her. We spoke of weather and the quality of fish and what makes Japanese food so expensive in Japan (she contends that it’s the labor and serving accoutrements, not the ingredients).
So that was fun, but it was time to hop on the N train to Times Square for the opening party of Chop Suey.
Chop Suey is the really bad name for Zak Pelaccio‘s latest venture. It’s supposed to be a Koreanish restaurant and I have no idea why it’s called what it is, as chop suey is a Chinese-American dish and has nothing to do with China, let alone Korea. But it’s in the Renaissance Hotel in Times Square, so what do you want, authenticity?
I have no idea what the food is like because they had stopped serving savory food and were only passing around dessert. I guess the desserts were developed by Will Goldfarb, but I really wasn’t in the mood.
I did have a nice chat with Zak, though, and he advised me of a new Thai restaurant in Astoria to try, which I’ll have to do.
Apart from Zak, the only person I knew at the party was Tara Mastrelli of Hospitality Design magazine, so I sipped red wine and hung out with her and other design people, who didn’t seem to mind the space.
Meeting Tara late at night is potentially dangerous, as it can lead to a long night of karaoke and other things, but tonight it did not. We headed home early and, as I said, I crossed the threshold of my home before 11.

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