Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mr. Niceguy

sherry-societyI’ve been invited to a lot of A-list food events of late. So has Mr. Niceguy.

Over the past two years I’ve been posting on my blog at least once weekly, but it’s only in the past two months that I’ve been awarded entry at several hob-knobby foodie fêtes round town. Sometimes I’m directed to the press table, inevitably somewhere in the back of the room, close to a cranky kitchen door that constantly whines its way through the keynote address. On those occasions, I’m happy for the free booze and to be spared from cavorting with crusty oncologist types who seem as dry as matzo meal.

On other occasions I’ve been treated to experiences that seem nothing short of miraculous. This divine intervention is almost enough to make a believer out me, as it seems I’ve done nothing short of will myself into attendance at fabulous food fests I once regarded as mere myth. I’m here to tell ya fairytales do come true, because lately, me, the girl who spontaneously applauds a perfectly plated entrée and has quit a tenure-track professorship (in this economy no less!) to follow her food passions full-time, is being asked to join the New York City culinary gods at tables across the universe (okay, across Manhattan…same dif)! If this isn’t akin to seeing a portrait of the Virgin Mary cry salt tears, it’s at least my glass slipper.

A little over a month ago I was in for the surprise of my eating life, when what I thought was a simple sherry tasting turned out to be a 12 course dinner and sherry pairing hosted by The Secret Sherry Society and prepared by none other than Chef Wylie Dufresne, in the private wine cellar of his lauded WD-50. I say “surprise” not only because the dinner ended up being 12 courses long with just as few guests at the table, but also because the meal itself offered a plethora of culinary bombshells. It’s not often that I’m astounded by what I eat (or drink), but Wylie’s passionfruit filled foie gras paired with Chinese celery and Palo Cortado “Apostoles” Gonzales Byass sherry was a revelation, second only to the vanilla gelato intermezzo course. And I don’t even like ice cream! Filled with a balsamic reduction that oozed from the center of the quenelle of vanilla gelato covered in dehydrated raspberry dust, I washed down this treat with an equally sweet Pedro Ximenez Bodegas El Maestro Sierra dessert sherry that was as rich as chocolate fudge and as bright as sun-ripened raisins. To be sure, this sherry could be a sundae topping in and of itself. Just warm a few shots of Pedro Ximenez on the stovetop and pour over ice cream…you won’t be disappointed.

All told, I’ve collected many highlights (and hangovers) over the past few months of gallivanting for free; there was the Samuel Tilden birthday dinner at The National Arts Club, in which we celebrated this lauded New Yorker’s 194th year with a commemorative menu from 1882 a la Sam Ward; a lunch at newly closed Atria, to taste the Murray family’s Chateau Routas wines, that I swear to you, smelled like the leather upholstery inside a vintage Aston Martin and were just as smooth going down; a Supper Club dinner in the private dining room of the gorgeous but cuisine-challenged Soho spot, Delicatessen, at which I was seated next to former Top Chef contestant Sam Talbot of Surf Lodge fame; I dragged my Mamma along to a “Wines from Greece” tasting hosted by none other that Mr. Michael Pislaksi’s himself (my Dad and I ate at Anthos the week prior as a sort of taste test…so delish!); and though I did not get invited to the James Beard Awards themselves, I did score entry to the after-parties at Bar Boulud, The Modern and Pegu Club later that night; then there was the Solex-turned-Veloce-Pizzeria friends & family pizza party to introduce their new rustic Italian menu from rustic Italian chef-goddess, Sara Jenkins; a champagne and roast beef pleasure pairing at The Box; and the DBGB Preview Party, at which Daniel Boulud asked for my phone number…to collaborate on a catering venture, of course!

And on almost all of these occasions, I’ve bumped into, and awkwardly chatted up, Mr. Niceguy. You know the type; he’s ambiguously “older”, absurdly short, has chronic halitosis (and is a bit of close-talker to boot, which makes him nearly impossible to bear), but he is also the absolute nicest foodie on the planet and someone I can count on for conversation when my invite does not include a +1. Generous to a fault, always ready with a compliment or a clever quip about the latest cocktail craze, Mr. Niceguy is just that, a nice guy…not my next love affair.

Though I suppose it was only a matter of time until he grew the cojones to think otherwise. Last week Mr. Niceguy asked me out to dinner at Minetta Tavern, and because I like to think of myself as a nice girl, I couldn’t say no; and hey, Bruni just gave Keith McNally’s most recent foray into trendy comfort food 3 stars, a detail deserving of 3 more fun facts I discovered about my “date” while dining:

Mr. Niceguy doesn’t drink red.

Mr. Niceguy has a bald, er – I mean, shaved, head.

Mr. Niceguy will never get into my bed!

Because Mr. Niceguy doesn’t drink red wine, we were forced to order our vino by the glass, something akin to heresy for the sommelier on the floor that night.  The minute I informed said sommelier we’d be ordering individually, “We have very different tastes…you understand,” it was clear that he didn’t.  I literally watched the enthusiasm drip out of his smile like a slow leak in a flat tire, and this was only the beginning of the evening.

By the end of the meal, we had devoured 2 bloody New York strips, 2 orders of potatoes Anna, and 2 glasses of wine each (me, a California Zin; he, an Austrian Riesling…with steak!); even if he weren’t so goddamn nice, it could never work. White wine with steak is a deal-breaker for me, and Rieslings, well let’s just say I didn’t like grape juice as a kid, and I still don’t.

Walking home, I told Mr. Niceguy that Minetta Tavern reminded me of a poor man’s Waverly Inn; the food was solid, the crowd was über trendy, the décor was Old New York revived, the atmosphere was brilliantly alive, but the bill was a hell of a lot cheaper. Mr. Niceguy agreed. He suggested I blog about it. I thanked him for dinner and told him I’d best head straight home to start writing.

He responded, “Nice.”

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5 Responses to “Mr. Niceguy”

  1. Gill Murray

    Hi there….this all sounds like a lot of fun! The Atria afternoon was so good – any excuse for enjoying fine wines in the afternoon!! Is Atria really closed already? Gosh :-0

  2. Bells & family

    Belle – you sure do have a lot going on! I love your blog and your stories. I had heard great things about the Wines from Greece that you wrote about with your mamma.

    Congratulations on all your dreams coming true!!!

    I also want you to know that my favorite wine is a nice glass of Reisling — and I can eat it with (gasp) steak, though the more taste testing of wine I do, I prefer red wine with steak.

    With all our love,
    Bells, Big Bell & Lil Southern Bell

  3. Svetlana


    Just went from your Facebook FOOD MAVENS post “A Calamity Over Cocktails” to your website and read this blog. Dewd… “Mr. Niceguy doesn’t drink red” is ALWAYS a deal-breaker for me too!! Freakin hilarious.

    Thanks for Sunday morning coffee entertainment, as I’m sipping on my Black Cat Intelligentsia espresso — — check it out.

    Ciao, bella!

  4. Kimberly Belle

    Bells, I’ve got to tell you that I had a wine pairing last week at what is oft considered the “best” restaurant in the country, The French Laundry, and they served me Foie Gras with Riesling…and what’s more, I loved it! LOVED it! I take back my Riesling rant, sort of. I now think Rieslings do have a place on my table, if in fact my table includes a piece of the very best foie gras au torchon I’ve ever tasted! So even if all my dreams haven’t come true just yet, at least that’s one I can check off the list. XO

  5. Kimberly Belle

    Ciao Svetlana, Intelligentsia is SO amazing!!! I’m there every time I visit Chicags. You from those parts? Just back from San Fran I’ve been spoiled by Blue Bottle Coffee for the past week. I must admit, I think they are my all time fave.

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