“An AIG employee walks into Death & Company...”
Or should it be: “An AIG employee walks into Death & Company and orders vodka...”?
I know there’s a joke in there somewhere. There just has to be. Ben Schmerler thought so, too. If only we could figure out the punch line.
He and his business partner, Michael Gitter, threw a little gathering on behalf of Champagne Delamotte last Friday at the Thompson LES hotel. They held it on the 15th floor, in two suites, at twilight (6-8 p.m.), affording really lovely pink-hued views of the New York City skyline that I didn't even attempt to capture with my camera. I think unless you’re a really great photographer (which I most certainly am not), beautiful views just have to be enjoyed in the moment.
It was very elegant, very tasteful, very much in line with what Ben and Michael usually do.
And topping it off, chef Susur Lee was serving food — possibly for the first time, ever, to the public at the Thompson LES hotel. He didn’t actually come to the party, but Ben and I saw him in the hallway, unmistakable signature ponytail dangling from the back of his head, looking after some detail or other. His first restaurant in the United States, Shang, is scheduled to open in that very hotel soon. Maybe this month. The food at the party was Southeast Asian-influenced Chinese, sort of: Duck confit nibbles with Asian aromatics; shrimp and lobster croquettes; tofu skewers with Thai basil, pineapple and "Phuket peanut" sauce and “Singapore Slaw” with apricot ume dressing all were passed around.
I caught up with the folks at Eater and Grub Street.
By the way, Daniel Maurer tells me Grub Street is still looking for a replacement for Josh Ozersky (who is of course now at Citysearch). It would be quite a sweet, potentially high-profile job for someone who likes following the New York City food scene.
I also caught up with Ben, and told him the story about the AIG guy who tried to drink vodka at Death & Company. He was the one who thought it was a great setup for a joke.
I also chatted with the always chatty Akiko Katayama, who gave me suggestions for Japanese food in the East Village.
I thought I had a late-night party to go to at 5 Ninth that evening, but in fact I had read the invitation wrong. Thinking I had time to kill, I wandered the East Village in search of a place to sit, and maybe to try some food I hadn’t had before, or, barring that, walk over to Rhong-Tiam for Thai food, because the food at Thompson LES was delicious, but one should not try to fill up on party food if a long night lies ahead. Long hours of drinking benefit from a full belly, if you ask me (although it depends).
I walked by Kurve, the crazy restaurant of Rhong-Tiam chef-owner Andy Yang, designed by the, oh, let’s call him mercurial Karim Rashid.
At a little after 8pm on a Friday night, Kurve was almost completely empty, and didn’t look particularly inviting, but I do like Andy’s food a lot at Rhong-Tiam, so I popped in.
I feel like describing the place in some detail. Click here if you’d like to read about that.
Otherwise, let me finish up with my other weekend activity.
Thinking I was supposed to be at 5 Ninth and realizing I was mistaken, I ended up strolling back nearby Fatty Crab and who was outside eating dinner but Allen Katz of Slow Food (and the snail pin on his lapel proved it), and Laren Spirer, soon to be formerly of Gothamist (the 15th is her last day). So we caught up, I offered my setup for the punch line, and Allen called Death & Company the best bar in the country. I’m going to go ahead and assume that Allen’s been to every bar in the country. He does get around.
Cocktail maven and all around excellent person Audrey Saunders did not think it was funny at all. Being a small-business owner herself, she doesn’t think business calamities are funny. And she’s right.
But the joke still could be.
I ran into Audrey at the after party of Sweet, the gigantic dessert event of the New York Wine & Food Festival. I mostly avoided the festival, stopping into the eater.com blogger lounge to say hi, and then wandering off to the Grill Club, a periodic gathering of friends who like to grill competitively with one another. Michael Park, who's a friend of my friend Sara Bonisteel and sometime writer for Epicurious, asked me to be a judge, and I agreed.
To the left is a picture of me judging along with Annie Kim (on the right) and Judy Kim (no relation to Annie, both are simply Korean-Americans). On the left is our moderator and MC, "Tater" Read.
After the judging (Sara’s team won for her ribs, served with cherry compote and a nice barbecue sauce she made for us, along with a shot of bourbon), I was going to leave for Sweet, but instead went with them to Mars Bar, the worst-smelling bar I have ever been in, and I’ve lived in China. But for six bucks I got nearly a tumbler full of bourbon, which drove away the really unacceptable urine smell that dominated the place.
Then I took my leave and attended the tail-end of Sweet, catching up with Oceana pastry chef Jansen Chan, John Fraser of Dovetail, Pichet Ong of P*ONG and various others in quick succession, before heading upstairs for much drinking and hilarity.
Jean Georges pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini tried to introduce me to Audrey Saunders, but we already knew each other. That's when I tried my setup on her, and it didn’t work at all, but we still had a nice time.
I met the wife of French Culinary Institute dean of technology Dave Arnold. He introduced her as Jen, and she reintroduced herself as Jennifer, so Jennifer it is. The two met in college at Yale. She went on to be an architect and Dave didn’t go on to be a stock broker or investment banker or whatever. Instead he became one of the coolest food-tinkerers in the world. His folks should be really proud.
A highlight of the party was my brief chat with Travel + Leisure bigwig Nilou Motamed, because it is always a highlight to chat with her. She’s without a doubt my favorite Iranian Jew, and she recently became an American citizen and will be voting for president for the first time.
Oh, what else? Dancing with liquor publicist Ana Jovancicevic and others, catching up with the representative from a chef uniform company. You know, typical Saturday night post-dessert after party stuff.