Diana, SuSu, MaceVindaloo, Jools, MostlyIrish
To some people who live in this arm of the world, the New York Times is a beacon of what a civilized newspaper should be it's even referred to as "the gray lady" for its respectability and authoritativeness. They don't run comics; even having an erudite and often perplexing crossword puzzle was deemed "too common" at one time (but they do run one now, and some days, it'll hurt you). It's a substantial paper and it really does have news and views which actually are edited and written well, and are generally well-balanced.
The Sunday edition of the paper is huge it has many, many sections, each individual sections bigger than most city papers (even though it doesn't have cartoons, not even on Sunday, and the OpEd cartoons don't count). What they do have on Sundays is the New York Times Magazine, which comes with the Sunday paper and is a coveted summary of everything to know not only about New York's sports, styles, ideas, travel, real estate, etc., but also those of the world.
The intellectual property is such big business for the paper that T: Style magazine was launched specifically for style and culinary considerations. To celebrate it, a nosh-fest was created, housed in the Architects & Designers Building in midtown Manhattan, which is like a decorator's professional source for kitchen and leisure areas of the home. It's across the street from the newly constructed glass-and-steel Bloomberg building.
The idea is that you travel from station to station, upstairs and downstairs, to sample the decorating materials and displays, amongst which are distributed chefs and authors who offer a specialty for noshing. This is a popular fundraising idea; an entry fee is charged, a portion of which goes to charity. There is usually a "VIP" rate, which includes things like gift bags and earlier access to the chefs.
The plan was for 800 to show up; and yet, we learned from the chefs that they were told to bring 200 portions! That meant that there were some hungry, angry people ... every time a waiter came with nibbles, he or she was swarmed by elegantly dressed and voraciously aggressive mobbies.
The chefs and food were distributed throughout seven floors, and they were not necessarily easy to get to; remember this is a display space for decorating professionals. Stairways were available as were elevators, but the corridors were narrow, making access problematic, even before the bars were set up in the hallways. There were bottlenecks everywhere, and chefs have become such celebrities that some were swarmed by groupies. In particular, 70+ year old Jacques Pepin was pawed by women young and old!
Much of the food was really good; especially noteworthy was Alain Sailhac's mushrooms in puff pastry; Dan Barber's organic pork roast with salad; Kerry Heffernan's sautéed squid with salad; Frank Stitt's roast pork with sweet potato crostini (what was he doing in NYC, his restaurants are in Alabama! But we're glad he came); Lisa Yockelson's almond cake; Odette Fada's broccoli rabe with puréed fava beans. Many gave out recipes, what good ideas for Thanksgiving, eh?
The French Culinary Institute sent three venerable chefs (Pepin, Sailhac, and André Soltner) and a small army of fourth-level students (the ones doing their required apprenticeships before they can graduate). SuSu spoke to several, of course, and we overheard the foodgeek joking with them how the school's restaurant, L'Ecole, must've been closed that night.
Other chefs had less staff; some seemed poorly prepared and were forced to wash up in the bathrooms. Like we said, the food ran out rather early, so we didn't get to try everything, which was really too bad. Even the non-descript sushi bar was good, and some of the food had promised to be really delicious.
Tyler Florence was doing a book signing on street-level, so we bought his latest tome as souvenirs and had him autograph them. Other chefs were too pressed to do signings on the spot, though we did ask if they would and they promised to later (though in truth, things were too frenetic as they scrambled to feed the rather over-hungry masses). Florence wisely offered little cups of cauliflower soup with shaved white truffles over the top (but we like Susu's better) instead of some of the more work-intense offerings of his fellows.
The chefs were mostly all gracious and friendly under fire; we'd seen many of them before on television and at other events. These were folks seemingly groomed for charm. The ones who were snippy were people from the Candy Bar, who were simply giving away candies. However, you were expected to bring your own cup! They were located in a room of bathroom displays, and we noted that some of the sinks qualified as very glamorous salad bowls.
It was a rainy night, too, and it was so warm inside with so many people and so much cooking going on that we willingly stood out in the rain. We were illuminated by the glow of the newly built Bloomberg building across the street; one of us commented that we just elected a man so wealthy as the mayor of NYC. Of course, Mayor Bloomberg draws a token salary of $1 per annum, so who are we to complain of his wealth? He might, after all, be able to afford the kitchens in the building we had been stuffed into!
There were some really beautiful kitchens and interiors, and some thought these might be jsut showy and impractical. They do appear impractical in the photos, but in person, they had tons of storage incorporated into the designs, lots of "appliance garage" type rollup doors, and space-efficient appliances. It gave us some really interesting ideas for new kitchens and living rooms, stuff we could live with! Of course, in New York apartments, space is at a premium, so those ideas were the ones we appreciated the most.
But of course, our favorite kitchen set-up was the "Max Rebo" kitchen! You can play your food from inside a circular counter! It's not as impractical as it seems one or more can also cook from outside the circle, too. It's a great kitchen if you're a foodie show-off! (Not naming any names, you understand!) And if you have a stool with wheels you can scoot your way in every-quickening circles as you perform "Lapti Nek" and braise something.
Actually, if you think about it ... if you spent thousands of dollars on pots or knives, shouldn't you create customized storage for them? Thus the drawer with cut-outs for said pots. We wondered if you had to specify what brand you owned before they installed the thing (and would you be too embarassed to admit you didn't own a "name" brand?).
We also enjoyed the impractical kitchens, too! Like the place with four-concentric rows of gas jets for high-butane output for a wok. Or the "chandelier" rooms which are obviously not meant to be simply kitchens. Come to think of it, these rooms combined kitchen, dining, and living rooms, even family rooms. So they aren't as space-guzzling as they might appear, and let's face it, everyone prefers the kitchen to the living room anyway.
There were also huge espresso machines on display that made beautiful crema and froth and the coffee made was superb. But mostly we coveted expensive refrigerators and convection ovens, mounted at eye-height one after another. We also enjoyed complaining about the "impractical" space layouts for bedrooms on display we don't think New Yorkers ever had as much space as these displays implied. Or if they did, they sure didn't have any clothes to clutter up the bedrooms.
The widely-spaced "chef's stations" and the required walking around and the many comfortable couches and chairs everywhere made this a very surreal picnic, and not the type Georges Serrat might have painted! You potentially got a lot of portable food, an open bar, it was crowded, and you saw many celebrities, unless you got to a station too late when the food had run out. Hmn, it was kind of like an odd wedding, too, where you don't know the bride or the groom, but you nibbled and guzzled with impunity.
It was entertaining, but because of all the walking and running around from showroom to showroom for tiny tasting portions of one thing or another, we ended up walking uptown for a hotdog and milkshake. ;) Well, we did mention that we were hungry and angry! We also got to see some buildings had started putting up their Christmas decorations. Weird and annoying, as it's not yet Thanksgiving. A hotdog soothes many an ill, and wrapped up the oddest picnic quite nicely, so that we didn't go to bed cranky.
All in all, it's an interesting way to do a promotion and fundraiser; and we learned that you have be aggressive about getting a sample of what's on offer! It was a cheesy to make us pass through showrooms in search of food and the chefs who made the fare, and it was rather mean of them to instruct chefs to prepare 200 servings when 800 people were expected.
Additionally, the chefs and their crews simply cleaned up and left when they were done they had retaurants to tend to, after all. This event was held on a Wednesday, which is not a rush night, but restaurants are certainly open (Monday is the traditional day for restaurants to close, due in part to the fact that Broadway shows tend to not play on Mondays). But it would have been nice to have more signings, and to have books available for sale by the chefs (the only one who did this was Tyler Florence; he had a credit card machine and a supply of books set up by his publisher).
The event started at 6:30pm (if you bought a $125 VIP ticket, the event started at 5:30pm) and went till about 8pm. Maybe they short-changed the portions so that people would leave by 8pm? For our $50, it would have been nice to get a chance to talk to the chefs, don't you think?
Maybe the event was a failure, in that it didn't inspire us to buy T:Style Magazine. There was no information about the magazine itself, so we don't even know how to buy it: is it part of the Sunday Times? Or do we have to buy it like any other magazine by subscription or newsstand? We're confused, but it was an amusing evening.
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