Michelin Presents: Diner en Rouge, The Wooly, New York
October 6, 2010
Filled up with fancy meat pieces and slabs of spread-covered crostinis from the Food Network Magazine Lounge, I headed over on foot to The Wooly. The Wooly is in The Woolworth Building and up until the invitation to celebrate the 2011 release of The Michelin Guide New York City, I had never heard of it. In my mind I saw that roundabout café thing they had in the Detroit Nordstrom that was always too tightly packed with warm bodies in red sweaters - probably because my Detroit shopping memories revolve around the holidays. At the Wooly, there were warm bodies alright, but replace red sweaters with skinny hipster ties and crafty facial hair and you're on the money.
The Wooly smelled of truffle oil the minute I walked in. My tongue became coated in "gimme that truffle oil!" salivary excitement. Immediately AttentionUSA's Karen Ram scooped me up and said "That's in the most amazing soup ever, I'll show you." She led me to a table in a dark corner where a young bespectacled man in a cabbie hat gracefully tucked a large spoon into an off-white, almost-pale-green mixture. Whipping through it was a luscious toasty ribbon and plopped on top of the warm oozy mass were meaty-looking croutons. "Oh, it's more than just truffle oil..." the fellow said with a proud sideways smile. If soup can be a gateway food drug, this soup was it. To achieve the same high or better, I'm going to have to keep going up.
I weaved through the dark speakeasy feeling of The Wooly, pausing to admire a framed oil painting of a wooly mammoth. I stepped back from it and almost tumbled into the dancing CK Swett. From his Grimace-purple-rimmed glasses to his argyle pants of purple, yellow, and... some other dark color, to the smile of his bow tie, this guy was head to toe in sync as he shuffled around the floor, probably dancing with happiness over what was behind him....
...It was a severed leg.
But not just any severed leg, this was a Mosefund Farm Mangalitsa pig. And this wasn't just any meat table, there were slices of cool green apple, sweet little candied walnuts, and not-too-stinky cheeses. I popped a walnut into my mouth while Ben Walmer sliced me off a piece of salty meaty goodness straight from the leg. While I chewed happily, Karen flashed me her new plate of heaven: Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits from City Grit.
I found Danny Brown of Danny Brown Wine Bar and Kitchen, one of the only outer borough restaurants to receive a Michelin Guide 1-star rating. His place is in Forest Hills, which is merely a hop, skip, and a jump from any fine convenient underground and overpriced MTA locations! As I was about to snap a photo of Danny and Restaurant Manager Audrey Brand, Hagan Blount, "The Wandering Foodie ," popped into the picture. I shouldn't have been surprised to see him; if you cook it, he will come.
I also ran into the lovely Annie Scott, Editor In Chief of PureHappyTravel.com. I met her at the BLBL launch and haven't forgotten her name since. It has that girl-next-door, superhero ring to it. Annie Scott Saves The Reservoir! Like that.
I also found Mario Tolentino of Can Cook Cuisines. Despite winning Food Network's "Chopped" competition, appearing on "Chopped Champions," and being Mr. Cheffypants all over the world, Mario wasn't exploding with ego (gasp!). He was with the curly-blond-haired Julie Babin, an interior decorator that you can find at JulieBabinDesign.com. She was an amalgam of punk rock and a flapper girl. Both were fantastic humans.
Behind the bar were possibly-even-more-energetic-than-the party stragglers who had been soaking in champagne cocktails and other fancy mixings for three hours. One fellow reminded me of a young Al Capone of the "Boardwalk Empire" variety. "I get that a lot!" he smiled. Those dastardly devils eventually brought out the dry ice, creating burbling beverages that mesmerized even the stiffest upper lip. Seriously, we're all just a bunch of kids who still giggle and clap over Mr. Wizard entertainment.
Hey, speaking of dastardly, I spied some similarly dressed dudes at the bar. "I have to take a picture of you guys, you look like some sort of hipster band," I ordered. The one in the vest laughed, "We are a hipster band!" Turns out they were Arms, the band slated to play the after party. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the other photog emerge, beginning to raise his camera. I told Arms to stay put while I leapt over the half wall to allow more space for them all to fit in the frame. As I leapt over the wall, the other photog stepped up and shot my shot. I may have called him a sneaky bastard.
Everyone tells me I should be flattered, but I think that's a load of crap. Eighty percent of being a decent photog is being able to connect with the subjects of your photo - and, if those subjects are people, it's about convincing them to do what you want them to do without making them hate you. And that ability is called a skill. I'm not saying "OMG I'M SO AWESOME THAT'S WHY IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME." What I am saying is, I work really hard not to freak people out, so when someone swoops in without doing the work themselves, I want to kick butterflies.
The Wooly was a wild end to a food-filled dream. I had the pleasure of meeting Jean-Luc Naret, Director of Michelin Guides and Mike Cirino of A Razor, A Shiny Knife. I also got a quick chat in with BBDO's Kristin Maverick, who was in the lower level (where the Forking Tasty Suppers' Chicken Cacciatore sandwich was hiding!) with Charlie O'Donnell from First Round Capital.
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