AdMarketplace Fall Dinner, Soho House, New York
October 26, 2010
I sat down in the L as the doors closed behind me. With a warm Patrón XO Café-scented sigh, I settled in for my trip to 3rd Avenue, digging deep into my sack for my phone excited to get another golden egg on Angry Birds. What the... my hand was a flurry in the bottom of my sack, unable to land on the familiar form of my phone. Worse, I couldn't find my purple Ecosystem notebook, which was nearly full of shopping lists and notes on party people. My heart sank with the revelation of two things: Potentially everyone at the adMarketplace Fall Dinner was snickering at my weird mental joggers, desire for egg whites and "fat girl breakfast sandwiches" -- but more horrifyingly, I wouldn't be playing Angry Birds for at least 12 hours.
Fresh off the boat, I wandered to Soho House with a minor amount of trepidation. Cocktail parties are one thing: I can control my interaction either by going hard at a 10 or fading into the background, just shooting, and engaging in little conversation depending on my mood and the event itself. But dinner. Dinner is a different animal. It's a whole other level of engagement with guests held conversation hostage by two seatmates and, depending on the size of the party, you cannot get away with introverted silence (the thought of one round table freaks me out). Any trepidation was wiped away by the hearty welcome delivered by Chris Hogan, adMarketplace Strategic Partnerships guy.
Hogan swept me around the room. We passed three long wood tables set with wine glasses, warmed by the amber glow of candles in chocolate brown candle tumblers. The ambience was a bit different than that of The Bad Girl's Club party. At the bar I met James Hill, Chairman & CEO of adMarketplace and Adam Epstein, President & COO at adMarketplace. I was offered a glass of pinot noir. Of course I said "I hate pinor noir." So of course, the pinot noir was from James Hill's brother's vineyard. I pulled my foot out of my mouth long enough to try it, and it was fruity goodness, just not my style. The wine is from Phillips Hill if you're curious.
People started piling in. I overheard Andries de Villiers, VP of Sales at adMarketplace say to adMarketplace's Search Marketing Analyst Ariel Beck "They speak highly of your optimizations," which made me laugh so hard I outed my eavesdropping. I also caught a great bear hug complete with copius back slapping between Hogan and new arrival straight from San Fran, Jason Kelley, founder of Ootem Advertising. I also found Neo@Olgivy's Ryu Wada, Search Manager; Sundari Prabhu, Associate Search director, and Jennifer Brunette Search Supervisor.
I recognized Mindshare's Kiana Watson, who was dining with adMarketplace with a ton of her colleagues including Jene Webster, Michaela Tschugguel, Andrew O'Connor and Simon Dang, a group I was lucky enough to share a dining table with later, but we'll get to that. Oh screw it, let's get to it right now. As table three got settled, we overheard someone refer to us at "the kids' table." Of course I wanted to bristle defensively, but get real, being mistaken for young or being seen as energetic, possibly rambunctious, and young at heart is hardly an insult. I think we all lived up to it, anyway.
Let's talk about apps, shall we. Not web apps, table apps. The first set of food was ball-themed. Hot-mozzarella-filled risotto balls lounging in marinara sauce bounced around the table. Their evil stepbrothers, fennel-crusted goat-cheese balls, lingered nearby. I enjoy fennel, I do, but grinding the seeds up into a crust formation seems to unleash a black licorice flavor that makes me flash back to Easter in Florida where I overindulged on black jelly beans and revisited them many times in a 12-hour period. I can't drink Sambuca or ouzo for that reason as well. Blech. I would not use "blech" to describe the seared scallops, however. Those soft little fellas were dreamy.
Next came the meat. Kiana and I both agreed we were going to go Charlie Sheen on the place if dinner was rubber chicken. I mean, the atmosphere, the fabulous drinks, everything was building to the dinner climax, and rubber chicken would have been heart-breaking at that point. One of my seat mates, Jonathan Kagan of Mediacom, was texting away, updating his wife on planned arrival times while waiting for the main course. The first main course was roasted chicken. But don't you worry, it was followed by fingerling potatoes, fried cauliflower (which I may have taken the majority of. SO GOOD), lobster ravioli to melt your face and the greatest dish of all: meat plate.
The meat plate had squares of spare ribs (I think?) and large bone canoes filled with oozage. I balked at the oozage. I snap judged when I saw my seat mate Simon Dang grab only a bone canoe. "What...are you doing?" I asked, making a "vlerrrp" face. Simon pshh'd me and said "you've never had bone marrow before?! Try it! It's like...it's like... meat butter." He convinced me. I forked a gooey yellow/grey blob into my mouth and nearly died with salty meat-slush happiness. You could put that on anything.
My table was boisterous, with adMarketplace's Senior Account Executive Anthony Tsigourakos arranging Ranger's game on the fly, heckling Hogan's table, and trading good-natured barbs with his end of the table. Tsigourakos is one of those people skilled at the schmooze. He doesn't sound like he's trying to get your company into his used car, he sounds like he really wants to hang out, spend some time with you, and yes, accept any form of your payment -- but it doesn't come off slimy. That's talent, people.
Our plates were cleared, we were pleasantly plumped with meats and potatoes, chatting away, when suddenly out of nowhere, shot glasses filled with dark sexy liquid appeared. I sniffed it, afraid of the jaegemeister nose assault, but it never came. What came was a rich creamy coffee scent. "This is LETHAL," Kiana warned the table as they gathered to cheers their shot glasses. "This" was Patrón XO Café, and it's a sneaky little tequila treat. It's sweet, without a hint of tequila taste, and it's caffeinated. I'm in love. "Who got the kids' table a round of shots?!" someone laughed. Jonathan Kagan texted his wife, "Soooo, going to be later than I thought..."
After dinner and shots, the bar remained open, and much to my surprise, the majority of diners hung around. It was that kind of dinner: formal setting, but informal, fun people. Everyone just wanted to keep it going. At the bar I met Rosetta's Med Yacoub, and I knew it was time for me to leave after James Hill planted another shot of Patron in my hand. One, because tequila and Kelly are not meant to be seen together in public (also I handed off my shot, which is why I'm living today), and two, I started talking politics. No one is safe in political conversation.
Home I went, not realizing I had left my phone and notebook behind. When I arrived at my apartment I called Soho House, expecting the high-falutin' brush-off, but I was wrong. Not only did they instantly hunt for my stuff, but they checked back a good three times, the third time with my notebook in hand. Hooray!
This was adMarketplace's first Fall Dinner, and according to President & COO Adam Epstein, it's a tradition they plan to continue. Good luck trying to top last evening, it was such a great night.