Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The first Jägermeister and, I’m totally serious, sea urchin ceviche

June 24

Lots of interesting parties last night. I went to two of them, skipping the Donald Trump-Dubai event, which was probably off the hook, as the kids say, but not very much related to my world.
So instead I went to a party celebrating or launching or doing something with La Fée Absinthe.
If you follow the booze world at all, you’ll know that absinthe is a newly re-legalized, hot little spirit (and potent at 136 proof) that had been outlawed, ostensibly because the use of wormwood in it led to the presence of thujone, which may or may not produce psychedelic effects in those who consume it.
From what I can gather, a great mystique developed around absinthe in 19th Century Paris, when people hung around and drank it and reportedly hallucinated and did art and otherwise behaved like bohemians.
George Rowley, La Fée’s managing director, visited our offices on Friday and blamed the French wine lobby, which at the time had fairly recently covered from a phylloxera plague that had wiped out its vineyards, for getting Absinthe outlawed (in 1915). I have no idea if that’s true, but it’s a good story.
Indeed, absinthe is a good story, and like French wine (I mean, with all due respect, it’s fermented grape juice), it's a marketing story.
Because in absinthe’s heydey, George says Paris' bars had special absinthe fountains for gently watering down and sweetening the liquor (such fountains were on display at the party). Statuettes spewing cool water were installed at bar posts for the same purpose.
Just like those Jägermeister chilling machines found in bars that are conducive to doing Jäger shots.
Drinking is very, very much about marketing and has been for a long time. At turn-of-the-century American Taverns, local breweries sponsored free lunch for anyone who bought a $0.05 beer.
If marketing weren't important, vodka wouldn't come in all those fancy bottles.
Neither would grappa.
But it seemed like a pretty good party. I caught up with food writer Jay Cheshes and editor (at Gourmet) James Rodewald. And I ran into Paul Tanguay, former beverage director of the SushiSamba world, who now has teamed up with cocktail maker Tad Carducci to form their own consulting company. So good for them.
Meanwhile, I learned today, the new beverage director for Simon Oren et al in SushiSamba land is Arik Torren. I’ll be learning more about that soon.
Okay, so that was enough of that party, which was held at Openhouse Gallery in SoHo. I walked a few blocks to Moss, a fancy design store which had been rented out by people celebrating the launch of SLS Hotels, the first of which opened in Los Angeles and where José Andrés is doing the food.
It was a cool party, with a mixture of designers and journalists and kool katz. My new friend Allison Held, who works for David Rockwell and whom I just met in Aspen, was there, much to my delight. So were the always excellent Greg Lindsay and wife Sophie Donelson, who were on their way to that Trump party.
Greg noted that that Philippe Starck was at the other end of the bar, surrounded by groupies, which is why it was so crowded down there. He was also the second person that evening to tell me about the invitation to that party, which I didn't get (although an e-mail invitation was forwarded to me; it's okay — I don't have to be on everyone’s A-list), and the second person to quote the cost of the postage, which was, I believe, just over $7. It was a lacquer box containing a little metal (possible brass) invitation to the gala. The blogs are now reporting on the event with some vigor, in case you’re curious.
Instead, I ended up talking with one of Allison’s colleagues about design things, as José swung by and stuck in my mouth a morsel of serrano ham wrapped in a cone that was filled with caviar.
Mmm, salty.
Cones topped with salmon roe were also being served and, much to my delight, sea urchin ceviche.
This is why I was so psyched to see sea urchin ceviche.
Oh, I also had a really nice chat with Will Blunt from Star Chefs. I hadn’t had one of those with him before, so that was nice.

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