Speakeasy, Drinkeasy, Eateasy: Jonathan Gold’s Union Station Cocktail Party

on 11/10/10 at 3:34 pm

Booze News, BoozeBlog

Random thoughts thru a cocktail haze…

Even if you don’t live in LA, you’ve probably heard of Jonathan Gold cause he won the Pulitzer for food writing, the only critic to ever do so. Eat, drink, win Pulitzer. Quite a gig. For the second year, Gold headed up Zócalo’s fundraiser with a speakeasy theme at the gorgeous Union Station. Zócalo is kind of like an ongoing local TED, a public square where compelling thinkers and ideas are exchanged and discussed in lectures, panels, magazine and so on. And the fundraiser is a terrific success for Zócalo.

But the night was really for tasting and drinking and pretending for a quick minute that you were entering a speakeasy. This was a speakeasy for the 21st century with cute flapper girls taking tickets, a gigantic room with nary a smoke curl, and certainly none of the louche debauchery of people letting loose. In fact, it was very much a pristine, rarified atmosphere of properly prepared, beautifully presented little bites and creative cocktails.  And albeit that it was a Jonathan Gold event, the restaurants participating were none of the push cart vendors or hidden mall Chinese restaurants of which he champions. These restaurants were all la-de-dah and inaccessible to all but the folks who can afford to go to them or who can pay the $185 to attend the fundraiser. So much for the little people. It would be great to have mixed up the restaurants, you know, go hi and lo, like real life. Like a speakeasy.

Here’s the list of restaurants and bars that participated: http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/union_station_event/

The first question I asked, “How am I going to pace myself?” With the stations of tantalizing tidbits and beckoning booze filling the entire room, I just started at the beginning and worked my way around the room. Servers behind the tables were frantically trying to keep up with the demand as, for example, The Lazy Ox Canteen made 1000 tiny tiny tacos filled with yellowtail crudo, avocado, crème fraiche and white soy. That’s a lot of tiny tacos, but they were worth it and mighty delicious.

Las Perlas badger

Eric Alperin, Cocktail Impressario, the Varnish

I had a chance to chat with Eric Alperin, cocktail impresario and genius behind the Varnish, and he had some enlightening things to say about the motivation behind his pursuit of the cocktail life as a metafor for theatre and the human stage. He was, too say the least, a mite busy, so we’ll delve deeper into his engrossing thoughts and analysis in a later interview. Considering his celebrity in this new world of quality imbibing, I was very impressed to see him mixing and serving the entire night. That’s a mensch. Oh, he made something called The Plymouth Fitzgerald which is a classic gin sour with Plymouth Gin, fresh lemon juice, sugar, shaken and served up and lightly drizzled with Angostura bitters. Lovely.

Ran into some terrific interesting people like Lynda of lynda.com,

Lynda of lynda.com

James Koenig, the founder/director of the Scandinavian film festival here in LA, some folks who have lived on practically every continent, and a pack of bloggers feeding their hobbies.  And more. Conversation was easy and friendly. A couple of dedicated foodies and I lamented the dearth of eggs that taste like eggs…a very, very sad state of affairs that must be rectified. Even those at farmers’ markets are insipid. This is a complete sidebar, but if anyone knows where to get real eggs, please let me know.

All of the folks managing and serving at the tables were patient and cheerful. A couple of complaints…I mean what’s a good day without a complaint? The room was so hot everyone was shvitzing and fanning themselves like a hot flash convention, and when Gold spoke, if you weren’t standing right in front of him you didn’t hear a thing so I have no idea what he said. Oh, a smarty suggested an ibuprofen station.

I love cocktails. Booze, altogether, rates right up there with watching a tiny ant lug a monstrous bug all the way home, or a narrow escape when a plane engine dies…you know, the feeling of amazement and relief to be feeling life. Tasting something complex and intriguing, caressing your taste buds as they awake in wonderment, is like savoring food – liquid food – that doesn’t get caught in your teeth. The complexity and deliciousness really slows things down, makes you linger over a drink, encourages conversation, ponder the vicissitudes of life.

Of course, as with food, people take sides…spicy vs. mild, raw vs. cooked, fast vs. sumptuous…and drinks are no different. Classic vs. inventive. There does seem to be a tendency for inventive cocktails to be victims of overkill, but that’s why it is necessary to keep researching. What’s your preference?

Filed by Boozenews reporter Patsy S.

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