I had an 11-Champagne lunch recently. I was not being indulgent, but doing work at a press luncheon for Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck. I love the bubbly wine, but it was interesting to be able to have several at a time to really compare and contrast. To divine which ones are truly the favorites.
Back in the day of Louis and Marie Antoinette there was one Heidsieck, Florens-Louis. When he passed in 1828 two cousins, Charles Heidsieck and Henri Guillaume Piper, each decided to take over the internationally renowned brand and thus the two houses were born. In the 1980's the two were reunited in the Remy Cointreau stable of wine and spirits.
Charles is described as "generous and voluptuous" and Piper as "radiant and crisp." Piper is also the fashonista in the family, starting trends like the mini-champagne bottles for models and designer bottles by Van Clef and Arpel and the like.
This summer Piper's introducing La Piscine, French for swimming pool. So the story goes, at the original Nikki Beach in St. Tropez (there are outposts in South Beach, Cabo, Marrakesh, you know places where it's chaud.) they drink beaucoup Champagne. But it's hot down there, even in the wee hours. So how to keep the bubbles chill? Make Champagne ice cubes to keep you glass cold, and as they melt they will not dilute the wine.
The vino purists may be wincing at the decidedly non-flute style of the glass, but not to worry. Champagne flutes were brought into vogue by caterers, wanting to pre-pour champagne and keep it bubbly for a long time. Fact: they use white burgundy glasses to taste the Champagne at the Heidsieck caves in Reims. I was thrilled to learn this as it gives further justification to my quest and desire for the Marie Antoinette coupe-style glasses. (In case anyone wants to send a gift for Snack's 2nd birthday in August.)
If you've ever read any of Tony Bourdain's books (Kitchen Confidential in particular) you know a career in cooking is is good way to get a kid off the streets. Good logic not just stateside, but worldwide. Koto is a "social enterprise" that teaches kids culinary skills for a restaurant career - in Vietnam. Full press release and Thursday night's party info after the jump.
As I walked down 22nd street last night, up to the door of Borough Food & Drink , I admit I was bracing for a maelstrom. I'd heard Tuesday night's party for the neighbors turned into a 700-plus crazy full house. I'd seen Wednesday night's invite posted online. I was surprised to see a very low key crowd, comfortably dispersed through the space. Jeffrey Chodorow and Terry Zarikian were standing on the outdoor terrace, discussing the money tree the manicurists next-door had given them as a house warming gift and when was the best time to go over and say thank you.
The space is a lot of wood, industrial light fixtures, shelves of potables and open kitchen. I kept asking who designed it? It seems Avroko derivative. But with the rocking background music people looked at me quizzically "A who? what? I don't know." While it is exactly the same footprint as restaurants past, design-wise they have erased all trace of them.
Food and drink were passed and served a plenty. Flat breads with various meaty toppings, the pork burger (Josh Ozersky's favorite), brisket and kim chee in steamed Chinese buns (my favorite), and deep fried pickles (Will Goldfarb's favorite). Beers on tap, red or white wine? Or that Brooklyn cocktail described as gin and juice (orange) which reminded me of those easily drinkable fruity concoctions you made in high school college.
Consulting has been treating Zac Pelaccio well. Things are good on both sides of the pond , and he was happy with this latest project and the talent of chef Paul Williams in the kitchen.
So what's the verdict? Why it is far too early for a verdict I say. Restaurants need time. It has potential to be a comfy spot in the 'hood. But we'll have to wait a few months and see if that money tree blooms.
Last Thursday I was feeling a tad despondent. With everyoneaway in Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic, my dance card seemed a bit empty. Then I got a call from a friend, we'll call him D, who needed a plus-one for the premier of Entourage season four. In ten minutes my Thursday went from "What should I do tonight?" to "What do I wear?" (I find it helpful to pick out your bling footwear first, then work from there.)
We started with a pre-premier warm-up at the Gramercy Park Hotel. A glass of Champagne in the Rose Bar is always a good way to get the party started. We arrived at the Ziegfield Theater just in time to see the end of the red carpet, pick up some popcorn and take our seats. It was open seating by section, we were in the blue seats in the orchestra. Once we'd settled in I look around and saw Jeremy Piven a few seats to the left. And to his left, Mark Wahlberg. (Note: It is game over if you call him Marky or mention the Funky Bunch. An error someone else made and I could have made as well because I do rock Good Vibrations on my ipod. Feel it baby? ) We watched episodes one and two of the new mini-season. Fabulous.
We then decamped to Roseland, for my first premier after-party. It was a bit like a wedding, with a hot buffet, decorated tables, open bar and passed hors d'oeuvres. The Entourage boys are exactly the same in person as they are on the show. Save for Jeremy Piven, who was much more relaxed in a t-shirt and jeans, with a tan and a little stubble. Much more charming (nay TV premier-hot?) than Ari. They dutifully signed autographs and posed for pictures. I remarked to Kevin Dillon how nice he was diligently glad handing the throngs for 45 minutes. He agreed. When you encounter celebrities, there are two ways to play it. Either gush and ask to pose for the camera phone or be casual, chat and say hi because we're all just people at the same party. I opt for the latter.
I was told the next venue was Marquee for the after-after party. So D and I decided to head downtown for some sustenance first. We pulled up to the Waverly Inn, where John Cusack was having a bite outside. Inside, Mariah Carey was having a private fiesta in the back room, but we found a nice table in the front, ordered up some burgers, mac 'n cheese and a bottle of rosé.
The door at Marquee was a crazy scrum of people pressing to get in, but we waited patiently in the line of cars to pull up in front. (D likes to roll in black SUV with his driver Mr. K.) I hopped out of the car and asked the bouncer "Entourage in the red room?" to which he replied "Turtle told us you were coming." I love Thursdays in New York.
Yesterday I stopped by Union Square where Bravo TV and NYC & Co co-hosted a media event to simultaneously launch both Top Chef Season Three and NYC Restaurant Week. Under a tent in the north end of the square a mash-up of contestant from all three seasons, press, and fans milled about watching a "quick-fire challenge" and waiting patiently for their opportunity to get a photo or autograph from one of the cast. Season three chefs seemed to roam the crowd unfettered by fan adoration as they're still moments away from their TV celebrity.
I'd guess that for a large number of fans the big news is Sam Talbot shaved his head. And while we're on hair, what's with all the faux-hawks on season three contestants?
Season Three start tonight. I plan to watch. I feel a professional obligation to be aware of all TV happenings.
What can we expect from said season? If you run the numbers, along with the bits and pieces of intel picked up along the way, it goes something like this:
Top Chef is actually more like being in the witness protection program than being a celebrated cook. Apparently they're completely sequestered together for the duration (save sanctioned time off, like to go to a promotional event in New York mid-taping.), with minimal contact with the outside world. There is also a lot more time spent waiting to cook than actually cooking.
To prevent a leak in the results, which is always possible given the hundreds of people involved in the production, they will be going with a live finale. They also have a very hardcore non-disclosure agreement. Good luck with that.
We'll see some faces from last season as guest judges and some new faces. (Maybe even from the blogosphere. But more on that later.) It's not that hard to figure out. Like chef Michelle Bernstein and Jeffrey Chodorow. Both appeared in past seasons. Both much loved by production. Both in business in Miami. You'll see them soon. Like I said - run the numbers.
The big questions is this: so far New York City is two for two on winners. Do I hear three?
Last night I went to watch the "Date Night" auction, in which the French Culinary Institute pimped the chefs of today to raise funds to educate the chefs of tomorrow. What is the going rate for a date with a chef these days? According to the Friends of the French Culinary, it's $1000 to $6100. Good to know.
I was also curious to see who would buy the chefs? Turns out it was a pretty even split between men and women. Okay, there were actually a few more women, with a few people buying the dates as gifts for someone else. Honey, guess what I got you for your birthday!
There were 15 chefs on the auction block, each offering an activity-specific date (as opposed to buying a Friday night where anything goes). Each chef walked down a sort of runway through the crowd of potential buyers and up to the podium where auctioneer George Duran (from TVFN's Ham on the Street) and emcee James Oliver Cury (Epicurious.com) were waiting to get it started.
The complete recap on dates and dollars after the jump.
Today I introduce a new category: unsnack. A blogger could live on food alone, but I do have thoughts and interests beyond the restaurant world. Unsnack is la carte blanche for all things non-culinary.
Admittedly I spend a great deal of time online and at the computer. In spite of the fact I'm web 2.0 and all, I no longer have a Blackberry. I decided to go Victorian-retro. I traded-in the Blackberry for a basic cell phone, paper calender and notebooks (the books by Moleskine are quite lovely), fountain pen, and calling cards. When I hand someone a card, they usually remark at how small and elegant it is, with its raised script and creamy card stock. Then they flip it over, expecting to see all the emails, addresses and phone numbers. Non. There is no contact information whatsoever. I'm web 2.0. Google has made me easy to find. The card is just to remind you to call me.