raos merlot



That $1500 Dinner. Ode to Gray Kunz. Eli's Health Crisps Mea Culpa.

Dear Friends and Family,

        I hope you read my report in Monday's New York magazine on the moral dilemma and amoral joy of the mostly obsessed foodies at Per Se's $1500 per person raos merlotdinner last week. It was an once-in-a-lifetime evening, dinner cooked side by side by two of the country's most lauded chefs - Thomas Keller and his one-time protégé, Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago, to mark the simultaneous launches of their two weighty cookbooks.

       The retired New York City school teachers so proudly confiding that their children paid for their seats were especially disarming.  And as someone who rarely buys anything that isn't on sale, I empathized with the appellate lawyer, self-styled "senior foodie" at my table who buys lobster and racks of lamb at Costco, and pointed out "we don't spend money on much of anything but food." Actually, $3000 winnings on a tennis game had paid for her night at Per Se.

      She and the one-time math teacher and principal traded diet tips.  "Of course I only use Light Wasa," said the former educator. 

       My lawyer seatmate countered with: "I don't eat anything white except cauliflower when I'm dieting."

      The divorce advice she'd given a friend gave me chills:  "If you really don't like your mate, you should stay and spammake his life miserable." Her husband, a medical examiner in Florida, certainly seemed content. "He's a disciple of Chef Keller," she told the sommolier. "He has his own sous vide setup he made from a $600 rice cooker and my vacuum sealer that he stole."  Curious about what we ate? Click here for The Truffle Economy Heats Up. This week I had a revealing confrontation with Spam, just $2.99. Click for the downside, the upside, and recipes.  


Where is Gray Kunz?  Crumbs from the Past.

        Most visitors to my web site are looking for juicy gossip or my latest restaurant critiques on "BITE: My Journal," but a few sentimentalists and scholars find their way to "Vintage" - a collection of Insatiable Critic columns from New York that are not anywhere else on the internet.

       Last week I posted "Swiss Watch", a dissection of newly-arrived Gray Kunz at Restaurant Adrienne in the grayz doorPeninsula Hotel, dated July 31, 1989.  With Café Gray shuttered and the chef abruptly decamped from Grayz without explanation and nowhere to be found, Gray fans might enjoy reading, maybe remembering, his Manhattan debut. Click here.  "The Sensualist at Table: Eight Wonderful Dinners", March 10, 1980, will bring back vivid memories for early foodies too. Click here. "Nobody Knows the Truffles I've Seen", November 12, 1973, is a diary of an amazing voyage with Danny Kaye, Screw's Al Goldstein and a lucky gaggle of more and less innocents. Click to connect.

Insatiable Cookie Chase

      Still time to win cookies and a copy of "Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess."  Click here for rules of the chase at Alexandra's Cookie


A Sorrowful Confession.

      Last week I was congratulating myself for the triumph of getting Eli Zabar and Fairway to reduce the price of Eli's raos merlotHealth Crisps, one of my modest addictions till the price soared to $5.39 (from $2.99).

      When I spied his olive rosemary crisps marked $4.49, I assumed my outrage and a drop in flour and gas prices had forced retreat. But no. A few days later a new batch of the Health Crisps arrived bearing the pre-protest price, $5.39.  I called Eli and caught him in Paris.  I begged him for a discount so I didn't have to write this mea culpa.

      "I want to make you an honest woman," he said.  "How long do I have to keep the lower price?"

      "This is not just to save face," I said.  "$5.39 for crisps that used to cost $2.99 is unacceptable. Just slash the price already. Gas is under $3.00."

      "I'll look into it when I get home," he promised.

       I'm waiting for his call. 

The photo of Eli with matzoh may not be used without permission from Steven Richter. The Per Se uni photo is by Lara Kastner

Fork Play by Gael Greene. Copyright 2008