Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tales is still months away, but I celebrated it with Saveur

Jan. 2

Interesting facts gleaned from the evening.

1) Punch is delicious. (more of a restatement rather than a discovery)
2) Eben Freeman listens to T.I.

I usually sneak into Tailor right when it opens and run out way before the night really begins for people with real lives, so I'd never really been in the place when there's lots of people in it.

The event was in anticipation of Tales of the Cocktail (coming to a New Orleans near you, June 2009), and to say, "Hey, we're partnered with Saveur now." So it wasn't all bartenders, but a mix of bar folks, brand folks and media types. Don Lee and John Deragon were there, but bailed out early to my indignant cries of "Weeeeeeeeeeak saaaaaaaauuuce." As I squeezed my way to and fro in the crowd I spotted other familiar faces. I was pleased to see that Allen Katz was still sporting his a la souvarov and there was also Tony Conigliaro, whom I hadn't seen since Tales. Even Camper English from the West Coast was in attendance.

I'd brought my friend Marc Almendarez along to take photos for me. Longtime readers may recognize his work from our previous collaboration at a Rhum Clement contest a little while back. The lighting in Tailor is very tricky and I've always had terrible luck taking photographs there and on a more personal level Eben Freeman has been poking fun at my not so stellar photo work. So I decided to prove him wrong...by having a friend take photos for me. Hey, it's a solution of sorts. That place is like expert level, and I am not an expert, so why not borrow the expertise of a friend. And for the record, I am totally capable of taking decent photos. Sometimes.

There were two punches being served for the first part of the evening. The first was Captain Radcliffe's Punch. The recipe comes from a 17th century poem written by and English army captain and as Dave Wondrich called him, a "rake," Alexander Radcliffe. It's made with Ansac VSOP Cognac, Sauternes, freshly grated nutmeg and lemon. The second was the Regent's Punch. Dave explained the punch's origin to the crowd. It was named for George the IV, the 19th century prince regent. While George III was busy being mad, George IV was busy running the country, and this particular punch was his favorite tipple. I don't blame the guy. First, because ruling a country instead of your nutty dad is a tough job that could drive anyone to drink and second, this stuff was delicious.

The plan for the latter half of the evening was a time for folks to talk to Ann Tuennerman about Tales and what to look forward to. Since this portion of the event was to be sponsored by Hendrick's Gin, a gin drink would be necessary. As people were still dipping into the punchbowls I watched Eben at the other end of the bar vigorously shake a small container. I was curious but went back to busily filling my glass with what punch was left before they swapped out drinks. I chatted a bit with Jordana Rothman from Time Out New York who was telling me how she read my blog. I know, I was surprised too. Apparently, people actually read this thing.

I turned around to the bar again after talking with Jordana to see if there was any more of that punch. Troy, who was working behind the bar with Ashley that evening, pushed a small beaker-type vessel in front of me with liquid that looked kind of like beer.

"What's this?" I asked.

Troy said it was the Pimm's Pony. A drink of Eben's from back in the WD-50 days. It was Pimm's, gin, Sprite and a bit of cucumber foam made by shaking some cucumber juice. Cucumber juice? Well, I don't know if extract is the word. That makes it sound like it's from concentrate or something. Juice works, right? I mean, it's just liquid from cucumber. Cucumber water? Anyhow, I then figured out that that's what I saw Eben shaking a couple of minutes before. I also realized that this was supposed to be the gin drink for the "after" party and I'd unofficially started the after party 10 minutes before everyone else. Not that I'm complaining.

I offered Simon Ford a sip from my scientific chalice as I talked to him about his vacation in South America. He couldn't be at the Beard Off because of the trip, but his beard was able to make an appearance sans him, thanks to modern container technology. Just then Eben passed by and overheard Simon ask what was in the Pimm's Pony and Eben gave the list of ingredients and said that the cucumber foam was there to fool you into think it'd be a smooth, soothing drink, only to have it punch you in the gut.

I joked to our food editor Mr. Bret Thorn and his friend Blain Howard that at some point in my life getting handed strange drinks that a lot of times just sort of magically appear at the ready became part of my job. As if to drive this point home, as soon as I finished what was left in the beaker-glass I was nursing, Ashley set down a full-on wine goblet of more Pimm's Pony in front of me.

"Oh, dear," I thought. I was hoping to make an early escape, but as Tony Abou-Ganim once told me, wasting alcohol is a terrible thing. I tried to soldier on through a couple of sips. I ultimately gave up the fight and walked away. If I continued, I would've risked stumbling into work in a disreputable state the next day because the Pimm's Pony definitely had a healthy kick to it not unlike an irate, er, pony.