Tuesday, February 10, 2009

“I worked with Marc’s dad”

February 10

Last night Forge restaurant celebrated its renaming as restaurant Marc Forgione. The name change had to do with some sort of trademark or copyright dispute that I didn’t follow due to lack of interest.
At any rate, it was a good party, with ham (described as prosciutto, but I don’t think it was) from what someone called Marc’s own pig, as well as duck sliders, other little passed hors d’oeuvre and a selection of artisan cheeses whose producers or distributors were there to tell us about them.
One of them, an American whose relatives in the Italian region of Abruzzo made farmstead sheep milk cheese from their homes and hired him as their distributor, said what I used as the title of this blog entry. Because Marc’s dad is Larry Forgione (the e is silent), one of the founders of the American cuisine movement and one of the most respected chefs in the country. He is not normally called Marc’s dad. Marc is referred to as his son.
But times do change, and I don’t think I’d ever seen most of the people who were at the party. I did know some of them, though. I caught up with Arlyn Blake, social networking maven of the traditional sort, in which people are introduced personally to one another and might become actual friends rather than the Facebook variety. And I hung out with Food & Beverage editor Francine Cohen and Restaurant Business food editor Pat Cobe.
Someone asked if Pat and I weren’t competitors, and we are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun at parties together. You can be a competitor without being a jerk.
The always-engaging Chris Shott from the New York Observer was there. His birthday was yesterday, or maybe today. He’s 33, the same age as Jesus when he was crucified. Chris said some of his friends said they hoped this Easter was better for him than it had been for Jesus when he was 33, and I pointed out that, in fact, Jesus had a terrific Easter as that’s when he rose from the dead (if you believe such things).
Good Friday was the problem.
I caught up with photographer Michael Harlan Turkell, too, who says he has been photographing Bushwick taquerias.
Of course, there was talk of the economy. One person, who is in the unfortunate position of running a company that provides temporary catering staff when companies need them — needless to say, business is down a lot — was complaining that it was no longer socially acceptable to have any sort of gathering that might require the spending of money so guests can sit down to a meal.
It’s true that such behavior is out of fashion, but if your company has just been the recipient of bailout money, it’s understandable that they would be disinclined to be ostentatious about their spending. It’s too bad they hadn’t thought about that before handing out huge bonuses.
I know the economy is stimulated by spending money, but spending money you don’t have is how we got here in the first place (among other things, I know).
Earlier in the evening I was extremely politically incorrect when I asked when we could start referring to the current situation as a depression.

Wow, that’s a gloomy way to end a blog entry, so let’s bring the situation into perspective.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a party at the New York Palace hotel, at which members of the Dorchester Collection — a group of hotels to which the Palace belongs — presented cocktails and mocktails for us to sample. You’ll have to ask someone else about the mocktails, but the cocktails were all distinctive and interesting, ranging from a Prickly Pear Margarita from The Beverly Hills Hotel to a fairly classical Martinez from The Dorchester in London, to the Palace’s Bourbon Smash (Bourbon, mint, lemon, simple syrup).
My favorite, owing to my weakness for spicy things, was the Chile and Passion Fruit Martini from the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan.
Anyway, among the people I met at the party was a young Dorchester representative from Moscow. She expressed cynical mirth at our fretting over this economic downturn. Having a memory that goes back before 1999, I knew what she was talking about. Russia’s economy was thrown into absolute chaos in the early 1990s, when the formerly controlled economy was thrown open, destroying the currency and in general causing economic turmoil the likes of which I don’t think we’ve ever seen in the West.
I mean, in the United States we had 25 percent unemployment during the Great Depression, but I don’t think it compared to the Wild West-style chaos of Russia in the early 1990s.
And that was a piece of cake for them in the grand scheme of things. Russians resorted to cannibalism both during the World War II siege of Leningrad and during the Soviet civil war of the 1920s. I recounted this to the Russian, who didn’t contradict me, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that I got it right.
You think you got it bad? Just remember, your neighbors aren’t trying to eat you yet.

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