Home at last to the beautiful gray cleveburg and have a moment to reflect on the 92nd St Y gathering, happily sold out. I find doing that kind of event something of a nightmare—four microphones, a table, and 90 minutes of dead air I’m in charge of filling, intelligently and entertainingly while staring out at a sea of blackness, an event that's more fun to be at than to do, I imagine.
Happily I had three enormously articulate chefs to grill, as it were. Tony’s agent had somehow slipped him some tranquilizers, fearing he’d offend the urbane upper east side crowd with his colorful metaphors that combine cooking and eating with sexual sadism and bestiality—in a good way!—but nevertheless diminish sales of the book we were promoting, How I Learned to Cook. (I actually find the book better than the first, Don’t Try This At Home. It’s equally entertaining, if not more so, but there’s also more useful information. I had nothing to do with this book, and I recommended for all foodies who read non-fiction.) So Tony remained docile (relative to, say, Tony at a vegan convention), Eric was enormously articulate though politically correct (remaining very quiet when the subject of Rocco came up—but as he’s said before, he doesn’t trash his colleagues in public, which is commendable, unlike the boney man in black beside him).
I have scarcely a recollection of what was said—amateurgourmet was there and has some interesting remarks on rocco, and unexpectedly earnest ones at that.
The impression that lingers for me is of Gabrielle Hamilton, chef-owner of Prune, and simply how unlikely she is in this chef world, how contrary. As Eric said, she’s kind of the anti-chef. She has no pedigree, no mentor, no real training other than for the most part, 20 years of shitty restaurants and a standard horror-story catering history; she put down her own restaurant, there on the stage, in terms of saying she was way more critical of her restaurant than any critic could possibly be, she never went to France to stage in the Michelin stars, et cetera. And yet she’s created this very cool little restaurant downtown that is a favorite of chefs like tony and eric (tony would be filming for one of his shows there later in the week, in fact). I never really knew what she was going to say, but it was sure to cut across the grain. Even in photographs she's looking the other way.
I’m eager to read her memoir, but that won’t be finished for some time yet. Until then go to Prune.
I do recall most other events on the NY trip though (unlike Baltimore apparently—my wife read the below post and said “If you weren’t in Baltimore, pumpkin, you’ve got some splainin’ to do; I referred her to Jay’s apt comment!). Great, great meal at Devi, on East 18th off Fifth; Indian food of enormous subtlety and expert craftsmanship; check out chef Suvir Saran in the video clip from the very interesting and no doubt growing restaurant site, savorynewyork. A ho-hum meal at momofuko on 2nd—but only because we went at the wrong time, decent fast food but not what was expected; wait till after ten before heading there for more esoteric Korean fare. And Ouest remains one of the few oases on the upper west side.
Eric invited Tony and me to lunch the day after the Y for what truly would be the highlight meal in this stellar group, and if I ever whine about the fate of the freelance writer, I can think of it. Tony noted upon being seated, both pleased and embarrassed, his number 19 status in the askmen.com’s 49 Men—whatever the hell it means. I suppose it means that Tony has now taken to offering Rocco-like advice on how to decant a red wine (with candle!) to impress your babe. Or perhaps it’s simply a reflection of his increasingly conventional lifestyle (at the 92nd Street event the feisty Italian said she had had enough of people telling her she ought to lay off the Krispy Kremes for a while and was setting the record straight).
Eric had invited us to try out a relatively new Surf and Turf tasting menu at Le Bernardin—meat and fish in every course. It was great to eat meat at Le Bernardin. A lot of it. A delicate white fish paired with Japanese waygu beef and pickled cabbage (the beef tasted as rich and fatty as foie gras), for instance, crispy pork belly with baby squids. A really impressive menu. If you’ve got Bernardin in your future, highly recommended.