Food & Wine’s Tuesday night pre-Oscar party was oddly muted; my suspicion is the strike has robbed us of the necessary momentum required for a true Oscar-week frenzy. Everyone works too hard; you can’t give time for logic to interfere. Once that happens it’s all too easy to say screw it, I’ll go home and microwave a Trader Joe’s spring roll and wash it down with a glass of screw-top rose’.
Not that The Knife knows anything about that.
Wolfgang Puck, producer Herb Hamsher, actress Judith Light and husband-actor Robert Desiderio (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)
Anyway! F&W hosts the party at Spago. Wolfgang Puck, the patron saint/Energizer bunny of Hollywood catering, was there, of course, circulating like it was all a brand-new pleasure. Cloning? Heavy drugs? Scientology? A marvel, he is; I don’t know how he does it.
Best bites: Fried oyster with pickled red onion, the classic smoked-salmon pizza (which only shows up the copycats), black bass fritters with mint chutney and the tuna tartare cone — a Los Angeles cliche at this point, I know, but Puck’s was impressive; it dissolved on the tongue.
However, Hollywood is ruthless; such treats don’t come easily. They require stealth, cunning and and no small degree of commitment. Too much work, you say? If you prefer your prey inert, content yourself with the hummus and olives at the bar; they don’t move much. Otherwise, you have hunting to do.
Thus, here’s The Knife’s tip sheet for getting the best snacks at a crowded party. Feel free to clip out and laminate for your wallet.
- Position yourself close to the kitchen door, but not too close. Too close will earn you enmity from underpaid, overworked waitstaff who must be dying in those shirts buttoned up to the neck. Rule of thumb: Look at the sweep of the kitchen door and take a good three to five steps back.
- Watch the pathway. Take a moment to see how the waiters circulate in the crowd; you’ll soon be able to predict their personal stations of the cross and that’s where you’ll just happen to be. However, don’t confuse this with trailing after them, which makes anyone look desperate and means you run the risk of getting a backsplash of random dipping sauce should the waiter stop short.
- Sit at Army Archerd’s table. After 50-odd years he knows everyone and you can be sure that whoever he chooses to sit with will be held in the waiters’ highest favor. Last night, his booth included Tom Colicchio and
some actor who I didn’t recognizeRobert Desiderio (whoops!), but the aggregate was important enough that the group got first dibs on every snackrel that came out of the kitchen, including the all-important medium-rare lamb chops, the one that have the Frenched chine bones for easy access.
- Don’t get in the way of the waiters on their way to Army Archerd’s table.