Read ‘em and Weep: One Night Hard at WORK
Reader, put yourself in my shoes. You’re at a wine dinner at Crabtree’s Kittle House and, per usual, it’s a lavish meal punctuated by exquisite wines, so you’re really suffering. Now, on this late summer evening, the wines were furnished by Anderson’s Conn Valley River and they were presented by the vineyard’s winemaker, Todd Anderson, a tall, very funny man who wears cowboy boots and an oval cowboy belt buckle. He’s a charmer. As he held us enthralled with crackly campfire tales of his spooky secret wine society (called “Ghost Horse”), I sensed some static at one end of our table. A man, sitting next to another man — who was a dead ringer for the young Jerry Lewis — was giving the evening’s wine seller some grief. He was declaring, rather loudly, that he was no longer a customer of that seller. Reader, sensing intrigue, I was all ears.
Our tablemate let it be known that he is quite the important wine buyer. In fact, three at our table belonged to a group of serious wine collectors who regularly met at restaurants to share and discuss fine wine. (Drift, yawn, snore.) My attention was snapped back to the table when Ross, the talkative guy, mentioned the former name of his all-male wine group. It was an acronym, NO WOMEN: New Order of Westchester’s Oenophilic Meat Eating Nimrods.
And there I was, fork stranded halfway to my lips, staring down the table at Ross, Gerald (the Jerry Lewis ringer), and John, feeling like I was just beamed into an episode of The Little Rascals. To my amazement, Ross went further and extended an invitation for me to attend their next meeting. If I were free, would I like to go?
Well, what would you do?
I consulted my genitals and (because they were okay with it) I accepted. I wondered, would they dance around, waving money, boasting about the depth of their collections, compensating for a lack of taste by dropping mega bank on universally acclaimed, big-ticket bottles? Could it be that NO WOMEN is the place where the infamous Barclay’s Four retired after they were terminated for spending the equivalent of $62,700 on wines during a single meal at London’s Petrus Restaurant (and then, amazingly, trying to expense it)? A girl could hope!
Over a leisurely and delicious meal at 42, I got to know NO WOMEN, who, PS, now go by the acronym WORK (Westchester Oenophiles Requiring Knowledge) because—according to Ross—the guys in the group like to tell their wives they going out at for WORK dinners. It’s true; this dinner’s conversation made almost constant reference to sexual identity, but this is something that, after over a decade in pro kitchens, I’m essentially and regrettably deaf to. Unlike the Barclay’s Four, WORK is avowedly not interested in excessive spending. Though Ross admitted that the members’ wine choices are generally a “big d*** contest,” WORK meets only in restaurants that don’t charge the group corkage, a fee of about $20 to $25 per bottle (a perfectly reasonable charge for the quality of glassware provided, plus, all the decanting, precise chilling, pouring, and general fussing that these wines require). In fact, one WORK member claimed to rarely purchases wine at restaurants. He prefers to bring his own wine and pay the corkage fee rather than the usual 200% to 300% markup charged by restaurants—which, in defense of the restaurant industry, is so high to offset the slim profits in selling food.
At one point, 42’s august wine director, Ernani Silva, who was at Windows on the World before joining forces with Chef Anthony Goncalves, took polite exception to some points being made in the conversation. He defended the pricing at 42, citing specific vintages, though, amazingly, WORK is not unliked by the food and wine community of Westchester (even with their policy of not paying corkage). In private conversation with me, Chef Goncalves expressed his admiration for WORK’s ability to stay together over the years when similar groups have drifted apart. Also, he confessed delight that WORK’s members stuck with him from Trotters, through Peniche, and, finally, up to 42. I later spoke with that maligned wine seller from the Crabtree’s dinner. He admitted a respect for the taste level in WORK. Of course, he also admitted that several of the group members were still his customers.
My tablemates from WORK
- Partner Content -
The conversation at the table mysteriously (and relentlessly) circled back to the abuse of Gerald, the Jerry Lewis circa 1960 lookalike, who, from where I was sitting, seemed like a quiet, precise man content with taking tasting notes. To be honest, I found Gerald to be the most wholly likeable in the group. He endured the relentless Gerald-bashing with the kind of vague, good-natured inattention that Buddha might have shown to a group of brain-damaged children. Admittedly, I might also have liked him because he had been forbidden from contributing Champagne to the WORK dinners—but, knowing that I liked it, brought a very delicious ’96 Dom Perignon, anyway.
Not surprisingly, there were many stunning wines poured, including Ross’s contribution, a 1997 Domaine Meo-Camuzet Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru. This was a big, sexy, five-star wine that was just about as opulent as liquid gets. Two of the evening’s wines were deemed to be “corked,” spurring some unpleasantness with Ernani—but, happily, on this occasion, those who brought these wines were not thrown out of the group. “Dr. Love” (a pseudonym) had not been so lucky. To a Burgundy themed dinner, “Dr. Love” brought a magnum of inexpensive Chianti that had become hot in the trunk of his car. He was not asked back.
In all, the dinner with WORK was at once a little tedious and very enlightening. The relentless Gerald- and gay-bashing definitely got old, but it also felt like a smokescreen. Basically, WORK is a bunch of guys who choose to spend some evenings selecting and then discussing wines free from the bored, here-we-go-again eye-rolls of their non-wine-freak spouses and friends. Sure, they’re defensive, but they also share a strange warmth. Near the end of the meal (after spending much of the previous three hours calling Gerald various insulting words for gay), Ross blurted out,“There are some wines that I just wouldn’t think of opening without Gerald.”
HotLink: Manga for Table Manners
Want to know the correct way to use chopsticks (or eat yakitori, sushi, and ramen), but not much of a reader? Check out this site, which uses the Japanese comic book/art form manga to teach basic Japanese table manners.
OCTOBER 27, 7:30 pm
$45 adults, $25 Children (5 to 12 years old)
Look for a DJ, open bar, and large buffet at this celebration of the Indian festival of lights. To reserve, call Navjot (646-645-9511) or Anu (917-325-7926) or email email@example.com.
DOH! Donuts at Beascakes in Armonk
Pop Quiz: How do you feel about Dunkin’ Donuts, those puffy, corporate death bullets of pastel-colored carbs, fat, and sugar? Okay, now think about some cute, handmade donuts served by a sweet little independent bakery in Armonk. Thought so…by the way, these from Beascakes are utterly delicious.
The Biodynamic Wines of Clemens Lageder at Crabtree’s Kittle House
October 23, 7 pm
$110 per person inclusive: six courses, six wines by Clemens Lageder From the Kittle House’s announcement: “Join us for a very special evening of naturally made wine and naturally grown and raised food as we celebrate sustainability and biodynamics with one of the world’s foremost practitioners of biodynamic farming and winemaking, Clemens Lageder, and the delicious wines from his famous family estate located in the spectacular Alto Adige region of Italy. The Alois Lageder winery was founded in 1823 and Clemens represents the fifth generation of the Lageder family to own and operate this prestigious estate located near the city of Bolzano. Sited in one of the most dramatic and beautiful settings for wine-growing and -making in the world, the Lageders are consistently recognized as the quality leaders in the region. They raised the bar even higher when they decided to practice sustainability and incorporate the philosophy of biodynamics into their winemaking business and company culture.
Biodynamic farming and viticulture is a form of sustainable, natural agriculture with many interesting and complex facets, some easy to understand and others that are a little mysterious and require a deeper
faith and understanding. But ultimately, they all add up to one simple goal and that is to make the earth healthier after each harvest cycle by creating a self-sustaining ecology to ensure a long, healthy, and productive future for the vineyard.” To book, call Crabtree’s Kittle House at (914) 666-8044