Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Posh Nosh - Emmy Governor's Ball Sneak Peek

The Primetime Emmy Governor's Ball Sneak Peek
Shrine Auditorium
Sept. 6, 2007

I've made a bit of noise here about my journalistic integrity. How I always pay for my meals and prefer not to let cooks and servers know that I blog about food, so that I receive no special treatment that you, my readers, wouldn't. But when I got an invitation to the Media Sneak Peek of the Emmy Awards Governor's Ball -- including tasting the food catered by Joaquim Splichal -- how could I refuse? I figured since you, my readers, can't actually buy this food, and unless you're Anthony Bourdain or Oprah Winfrey you probably won't be attending -- what could it hurt?

So Sa and I went and checked it out.

The Ball is held in the Shrine Auditorium's banquet hall adjacent to the theater itself. We stroll in the back door and within two seconds are proffered a tray of the signature martini of the event, "The Emmy." It's a mixology of Grey Goose pear vodka, a rare vanilla/hazelnut liqueur called "43," grape juice, and a twist. You know I don't generally countenance vodka tainted with fruit flavorings, and prefer my martinis dry and straight... but this drink is delightful. We have two. Okay, three, if you count all three of them.

We turn our attention to the room. It's pretty fucking fabulous. All done up in Art Deco black and white. A gigantic 100' by 40' billow of gathered white voile forms a faux ceiling. Four 10' by 10' fabric "chandeliers" in a shape suggesting a picture tube hang from the corners. (The 4x3 TV ratio is mirrored throughout the design of the room, from small hand-sewn sequins on the tablecloths to mirrored pillars).

Four silhouetted Emmy shapes --and she is the most graceful of the big awards statues -- billow languidly in fabric pedestals on the floor. Boxes of tightly bunched white roses form the centerpieces. White orchids grace Lalique vases around the hall. Calla lilies are wrapped in delicate bondage around flowing, nouveau, wrought iron stands. It's all unspeakably elegant.

After a not-dreadful amount of speechifying, the food comes out. First there are full-sized portions, meant for photography only. The press are snapping away with cameras the size of howitzers, and I feel a little out of place with my little digital Elph.

But we're soon distracted as the tasting plates go around. The appetizer is a Tower of Mango and Dungeness Crab, an architectural structure with chunks of avocado and mango on a bed of thinly sliced cucumber and topped with a lotus-root crisp. I say architectural, though you'd fire this architect as the thing falls to pieces at the first touch. It's delicious, though... with those ingredients, how could it not be?

Next came the main course and a beefy one it is: Filet Mignon AND Braised Shortrib, with Cippollini Onions, Marrow Flan, Potatoes Fondate and organic asparagus. This is all good stuff. My mignon, thin-sliced for the tasting tray, was overcooked. I doubt this will be a problem for the thick serving portion on the Big Night. The shortrib, braised in red wine, was to die for. Tender and not too slimy in the way that makes me generally avoid shank meats. The potato was a potato. But the marrow flan... oh my. As creamy and fluffy as the finest custard, with a mellow savoryness imparted by the marrow. This was a revelation. One can't help but wonder, though, why Splichal has chosen to serve asparagus, a famous wine-killer, when the bar is spilling a quite lovely BV Georges Latour 2003 reserve Cabernet (along with a less successful BV Chardonnay)?

For dessert, the Milk Chocolate Mousse with Champagne Gelee and Berries was lovely, though the Dove® Dark Chocolate Cup it came in was a bit much. (But then, Dove® is a sponsor of the event, along with Grey Goose® and BV®, so they may be forgiven.) The tiny "cherry vanilla cake" alongside was more breakfast muffin than dinner dessert.

I did wonder aloud to one of the servers if they had a vegetarian option; I was informed that not only was there a delicious butternut squash ravioli, but that the chef would be creating all manner of special requests on the spot to cater to the whims of whatever A-listers might order fussily.

Sa and I came away from our "tastes" quite thoroughly stuffed. She couldn't help wondering why they would bother serving larger portions to a group of people who, collectively, do not eat. The full size beef dinner is more than Calista Flockhart has eaten in her life.

Okay, I had one more of those "Emmy" cocktails before leaving. Which left me uncertain about much aside from this: if the food press regularly gets plied with alcohol at mid-day like this, you shouldn't believe anything they say in print, because they were drunk when they wrote it. As was, I suspect, the Emmy bigwig who announced: "The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is very excited about this Governor's Ball... in fact we're excited about BOTH the Governor's balls."

I really don't know what that means, and I'm not sure I want to.


  1. Anonymous6:23 PM

    good lord--if they caused you to like a choo choo martini then they must be working miracles aplenty over there---it sounds positively divine--thank you for giving us a voyeuristic sneak of the sneak---
    ps think you can recreate the martini for me?

  2. aaaaah, i'm so bummed i missed this. had my digital elph all ready to go, but i got stuck at the office last minute. oh well, i'm glad you posted about this--i was really curious about how it turned out. i'm also glad that you had an extra martini for me ;)