Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sake, cocktails and Spanish food

March 3

Full day. It started with, you know, work, but by 2pm Sonya Moore and I were at the residence of the Japanese consul general for a seminar on sake, followed by a trade-show style tasting event.
The seminar was to-the-point and straightforward — appropriate, since it was called Saké 101 — highlighting the rice, water, yeast and mold that make up Japan's national beverage. One thing I learned: After rice is steamed, it is mechanically cooled and picked a part in such a way that the outside of the polished kernels dry while the inside stays wet. This is essential, as mold, speaker Michael John Simkin pointed out, is water-seeking, and making sure that the grain is moist only in the middle ensures that the mold penetrates the grain.
I love stuff like that.
The seminar had a good turnout. Of course, Sonya and I were there, which should have been enough, as was our boss's boss's boss's boss's son, Lebhar-Friedman heir Randall Friedman, who speaks Japanese and has displayed a fondness for sake. USA Today’s Jerry Shriver was there, too. So was Alain Sailhac, dean emeritus of the French Culinary Institute. Cocktail maven Audrey Saunders was there, so were Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab, Chop Suey etc., and Michael Schulson, formerly of Buddakan, currently, I guess, of the reality TV show Pantry Raid, and very soon of an as-yet-unnamed Japanese restaurant at Borgata in Atlantic City. Nice guy.
Rita Jammet was there, which was interesting. She might have just been there to drink sake, but she says that she is doing some restaurant consulting, so who knows? Rita, who with her husband André owned La Caravelle for many years until it closed, actually had an early hand at subtly introducing Japanese influence into American cuisine as she hired Tadashi Ono as chef of La Caravelle in the early 1990s.
(The Jammets and Tadashi also teamed up, along with Union Square Hospitality Group veteran Larry Goldenberg, in the ill-fated Sono, which was replaced by the worse-fated pAZo, in the space now occupied by BLT Steak — the first restaurant in Laurent Tourondel’s empire — so much for cursed spaces).
I had a nice chat, as I always do, with Steve Mumford, who sells ads for Gourmet. He's now the magazine’s wine and spirits director.
Randall noticed at the tasting that the sakes were set up according to the trading company that imported them. That’s confusing for tasters, but Randall pointed out that it was logical for the potential buyers who were the target market for the event.
Sonya and I found ourselves at the same event later that evening, a jam-packed Tales of the Cocktail preview at Flatiron Lounge. I never made it to the actual bar, because I'm no longer interested in fighting through a crowd just for a free drink. Besides, servers were passing drinks around with some frequency. If people wanted to talk to me, they could find me closer to the door.
I caught up with Jay Cheshes and Darrell Hartman. I think maybe Darrell has gotten even taller.
Perhaps the treat of the party was running into Colleen Curtis, former managing editor for features at the New York Daily News. Colleen was the first person, lo these many years ago, to tell me after William Grimes' departure as The New York Times' restaurant critic, that his replacement would be a political reporter by the name of Frank Bruni, then based in Rome.
Anyway, she has just started working at AOL. Good for her.
Erica Duecy and her husband Jono Pandolfi were there, too, and she insisted that we must eat at Terroir, once it opens. So I suppose we will.
Of course it was a treat to see Erica and Jono (you might recall that I attended their wedding and wrote about it at some length). But I’ve seen them in the past few months. I hadn’t seen Colleen in years.
That party was followed by dinner at Pamplona with the restaurant’s publicist, Gail Schoenberg, at which we ate the following:

Chickpea fries with guindilla pepper emulsuion
Braised duck leg bocadillos (grilled sandwiches) with crema de cabra
Crab lasagna (spelled “lasaña” because Pamplona’s a Spanish restaurant) with salsa verde
Chicken stuffed with chciken-cauliflower purée and morcilla
Paella with braised short ribs, chicken, crayfish, fresh cilantro and mussels
Bouillabaisse (called “sopa de marisco”) with salmon, cod, mussels, shrimp, fish sausage, purple potatoes and savoy cabbage

No comments: