Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Dantes, celebrities and Jumbos at the Beard House

February 2

Mario Cantone likes my wit.

I know he does because he told me so last night.

“I like your wit,” he said.

That’s right. Comedic performer Mario Cantone thinks I have wit. And he likes it.

I don’t know if he likes your wit because he didn’t say, but he likes mine.

We were at the James Beard House last night, having a dinner that had been dubbed “Battle of the Dantes” — later changed to “Dueling Dantes” which is equally Top Chef-like and not what chefs do when they cook together at the Beard House. Dual Dantes would have worked, or Dante Duo or even Dante Duet.

But when grown-up chefs cook together, they don’t fight. They collaborate, and that was clearly what Boston-based Dante de Magistris and Dante Boccuzzi, from Cleveland, were doing last night.

Mario Cantone doesn’t like Top Chef, by the way, because viewers can’t taste the food, and so they can't judge with any intelligence.

But his dining companion and former work colleague said she enjoys Top Chef. She gets into the food. She was seated between Mario and me. You might have heard of her, because she was Kim Cattrall.

She’s a nice person to have dinner with. She tells stories that are amusing and brief about travel and life experience. She graciously and politely answers questions about being a celebrity without droning on about it. She asks other people about themselves.

So we exchanged observations about restaurants. She had eaten a fair amount of Dante Boccuzzi’s food before because she lives near Aureole’s former Upper East Side location, where Dante was executive chef for a number of years.

“He’s cooked for me many times,” she said, showing an admirable awareness for the fact that it’s good to be a celebrity in a restaurant — although she later said it was a drag to go to places, particularly on Madison Avenue (who knew?) where fans are likely to harass you when you’d just like to have a meal.

Obviously, one must be grateful to fans, so she’s fine with signing autographs, but pictures are a drag because if one person sees someone having a picture taken with her then everyone wants to have a picture taken with her.

Anyway, she was nice. And she can eat.

So the celebrities were on my left. To my right: Jumbos.

Ben Bell, who does social networking at The Huffington Post, was there with Simone Press, who’s in an entry-level job at CBS (as is appropriate, since they graduated from college in, like, 2007).

We bonded quickly, because we all went to college outside of Boston.

No, we didn’t go to Harvard, we went to Tufts. Sure, I graduated 17 years before them, but we can still bond.

Especially since we didn’t just all go to Tufts, we all studied in China.

Well, sort of — they studied in Hong Kong, which was still a British colony when I was roughing it in Nanjing in 1988, but it’s certainly more adventurous then spending your junior year in London, say.

Did you know Kim Cattrall was born in Britain and grew up in British Columbia (Vancouver Island) as well as London?

She says she can totally walk around in London without anyone bothering her. New Yorkers take pride in leaving celebrities alone when they see them, but Kim says we’re not nearly as good at it as Londoners are.

Mario Cantone, a Massachusetts native, was the celebrity who was invited to the dinner, by Dante de Magistris’ publicists [or so I thought — it turns out that he was invited by Dante Boccuzzi’s people, because, like Kim, he became a fan of Dante’s at Aureole; see comment #1 below]. Kim was his guest. When the chefs came out with their crew at the end of the meal, as one does at the Beard House, Mario declared loudly — shouted, really — that he knew that the Dantes had just left their wives and were hooking up that evening in the St. Regis.

Kim bowed her head slightly, appropriately embarrassed.

“Write it up!” Mario said to me of his declaration of the Dantes' mutual love.

Sure, why not?

Consider it written up.

What we ate and drank:

by Dante Boccuzzi:
Truffled mortadella panino (the best bologna sandwich I’ve ever had).
“Caviar in a cloud” (American sturgeon roe in potato foam over cooked egg yolk)

by Dante de Magistris:
“Vitello tonnato“ (but with a piece of raw tuna instead of the traditional sauce made from canned tuna) with caluiflower giardiniera
Candied guanciale and artichoke dip
NV rosé brut Conti di Buscareto, (Ancona, Marche, Italy)
Crudo (by Dante Boccuzzi):
Long Island fluke with octopus garnish, blood oranges, extra virgin oil Toscano, mustard greens
(2009 Anima Umbria Bianco, Arnaldo Caprai, (Umbria, Italy)

Trota (by Dante de Magistris):
Mafalde pasta Alfredo, smoked trout, trout roe and black radish
2009 Grechetto, “Grecante,” Arnaldo Caprai, (still Umbria)

by Dante Boccuzzi: Black pepper seared quail, black quinoa risotto, leeks, rosemary toasted pine nuts
by Dante de Magistris: Chestnut and porcini stuffed quail Milanese with pomegranate molasses and pear mostarda
2007 Montefalco Rosso, Arnaldo Caprai (you know the drill)

by Dante Boccuzzi (who said he’d never cooked boar before): Confit boar shoulder and prosciutto, persimmon compote, green garlic chives, yuzu soy gastrique
by Dante de Magistris: Slow roasted boar loin, peperonata, vincotto, cocoa, hazelnuts
2004 Sagrantino di Montefalco, “Collepiano,” Arnaldo Caprai...

by Dante Boccuzzi: Chocolate hazelnut arancino with caramelized bananas and passion fruit syrup
by Dante de Magistris: Chocolate eggplant pasticcio, amarena cherries, cedro citrus
NV “Cardamaro,” Giovanni Bosca, Canelli (Piedmont, Italy).


Anonymous said...

Just to be correct: Mario Cantone was invited to the dinner by Chef Dante Boccuzzi.
Thank you,
Monica Ferrari

Bret Thorn said...

Well that’s what I get for assuming. Thanks for the correction, Monica. Why did Dante Boccuzzi invite him?

Anonymous said...

You are welcome, Bret.
Mario used to patron Aureole and is a fan of Boccuzzi's food. Thus the invite.

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