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The day before I left on the Great Caribbean Escape, I was invited to attend Day 4 of the 2012 LUCKYRICE Festival, an annual coming together of hundreds of chefs and restaurants, bringing Asian culinary culture to North America. Translation: A room full of swank cosmopolitans chowing down on haute Asian cuisine, sakes, wines and beers. Second translation: Happy Meagan.
This year’s New York events kicked off May 1 with an Epicurean Cocktail Feast, followed with a Sunset Luau, Chinese Wedding Banquet, Grand Feast, Night Market and a Talk + Taste. I was fortunate enough to attend the Grand Feast, held at the Mandarin Oriental, New York. What could be better than wandering around an open banquet hall sampling Macanese chicken, sashimi and dumplings with gorgeous views of New York’s skyline? I implore you to find me something better…I mean, besides Anthony Bourdain feeding me sushi while Mumford and Sons plays a gentle melody in the background…
Some of the restaurants showcasing their talents at this year’s Grand Feast were nahm, Perry Street, Buddakan and PUBLIC. Celeb chefs on hand were Masaharu Morimoto, Ming Tsai, Todd English and others. It was the place to see and be seen eating.
Don’t live in New York? Fret not. LUCKYRICE is coming to Las Vegas on June 23 and Los Angeles on August 10.
For more information visit www.luckyrice.com.
Well, if yesterday wasn’t enough to thrill you (thank you all for the record number of hits, by the way), let us continue with what you really want to see: the down-and-dirty details of yesterday’s visit. That’s right. I have it on video (courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board). Enjoy.
Yesterday, friends, was a very special day for yours truly. You always remember milestones in your life. My first job (this one), my first press trip (Dusseldorf), and the first time you meet your hero. Yesterday I was lucky enough to meet Anthony Bourdain, and while I won’t pretend that we had a deep, meaningful moment together, I did shake the man’s hand and babble incoherently about being some kind of big fan. Happy Valentine’s Day to me, indeed!
So the good stuff. Why was I meeting Anthony Bourdain? The Singapore Tourism Board hosted a luncheon yesterday for select members of the media at New York’s Michelin-starred Laut restaurant for a private meet and greet with the man himself.
Bourdain tantalized us with tales about his travels throughout Singapore, along with some personal anecdotes about his daughter, and of course, a cutting comment or two about the Kardashians. (Would you expect anything less?)
The chefs at Laut served up a specially-created menu with favorite dishes hand-picked by the Singapore Tourism Board and Tony, including Singapore laksa and Hainanese chicken rice. Bourdain described the food of Singapore as only you could imagine he would – going off into some of the most evocative prose about boiled chicken and rice. Tears to my eyes! (No, but seriously, it was impressive.)
I did manage to learn some intimate details about Tony, including why he does not weight 350 pounds. “I eat and drink for a living,” he tells an audience that is stuffing its faces with beef rendang (a tender coconut-based beef stew) and kuih dada (a crepe flavored with pandan juice and stuffed with grated coconut). “Everything you see on camera I eat. I often go back for seconds. But when I’m off camera, I’m not really eating.”
When it came time to break and I had not yet told Tony that I had made reservations for the two of us at this quaint little Italian restaurant on Valentine’s Day, I realized that I needed to make a break for it.
“Mr. Bourdain?,” I heard myself say.
The man, all 6’4 of him, turned around and smiled at me and shook my hand. I tried to play it cool, remembering that on each of his episodes of No Reservations or The Layover he likes to tell his audience about the indigenous beverage of each destination.
So I asked him, “What is the indigenous beverage of Singapore?” (Ignore the fact that I was so nervous that I mucked up the word indigenous.)
“Beer,” he said, without elaboration.
Well, there you have it folks. Beer is the indigenous beverage of Singapore.
I can die happy now. Happy Valentine’s Day, all! May yours be as good as mine is today! (Oh and we decided to just stay friends.)
Any cruise fans out there? Anyone? Bueller? I’m not a big fan of the all-you-can-eat, kids-at-every-corner concept. But when I get to meet Guy Fieri at an event for Carnival Cruise Lines, sure, cruising gets a little cooler. (Note: I’m a Travel Channel fan through and through. I bleed Bourdain. But something about this frosted tip, burger guzzling, California dude makes me smile.)
I’ve taken one cruise in my entire life. It was a three day shindig from San Francisco up to Vancouver and it was aboard Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony. I’m told that’s the way to go. It’s luxury cruising at its finest. So believe me when I say I am no cruise connoisseur.
But for all my cruise fans out there, let me tell you that yesterday I attended an event for Carnival Cruise Lines at Manhattan’s very swank Hudson Terrace (probably the only time I will ever see what’s beyond those velvet ropes). Sitting among members of the media (I’m talking real members here, like USA Today and Fox), I learned about Carnival’s Fun Ship 2.0, which includes a host of new offerings centered around dining, entertainment and bars & lounges (complete with some celebrity partnerships – enter Guy Fieri. Oh, and George Lopez. He was there, too.)
Fieri will be overseeing Guy’s Burger Joint, a “straightforward, real deal, quality burger,” according to Fieri. Lopez will take on Carnival’s signature The Punchliner Comedy Club as the new “curator of comedy.”
I apologize that this post is so industry-related. I’ll have some more tales from my weekend jaunt to Philly sometime tomorrow. If you really care about Carnival Cruise Lines’ announcement, you can read the post I did for my actual job here.
Smoky barbecue goodness wafting out of a small alley off Union Ave. between Second and Third streets can only mean one thing. It’s time for a Rendezvous, arguably the most famous (and best) barbecue joint in Memphis. Our night started with a full order of pork ribs, cole slaw, chicken nachos and Heinekens and it only got better from there. By the way, the wait at Rendezvous is very, very long. We waited about an hour, but it was very much worth it.
Feeling sleepy from full bellies we were about to call it a night. Yes, we were sleepy and were considering passing out in our very comfortable beds at The Westin Memphis Beale Street. (Guests should ask for Joan, the concierge, who is a fountain of Memphis knowledge.) But first we wanted to see what all the fuss was on Beale Street. Oh my. The cop-guarded street is closed to cars and revelers are stopped on their way in for a quick ID check. That’s right. We got carded to walk on a street. Why? No open container laws on Beale Street. I knew we were in for an adventure.
We donned the Beale Street badge – a giant cup of Bud Lite (there are beer carts all along the street and most giant beers cost $5). From there we walked up the block as the soulful sound of Blues poured out from every venue. If you’re thinking Beale Street is just for tourists, think again. Packed with locals. And everyone wants to hear who is performing. To play on Beale Street is really to have made it.
We were lured to a small stage in a small pavilion. After watching the guitarists and sax player jam for a while one of the two guitarists motioned to me…to come up on stage. Now, I am not into being in front of people, but I thought ‘what the hell’ and headed up the steps. The guitarist handed me his instrument and I held it flat out in front me as he proceeded to pick and play it while it was in my hands. Probably one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Saskia and I waited around after the show to say hello to him. Turns out his name is Johnny Holiday (not his real name, but I promised I would keep his real identity a secret). Why Holiday? “Because I’m always on vacation,” he told us. He is the unofficial mayor of Beale Street. Everywhere we went with him folks were calling out ‘Hey Johnny! How you doing?’ We felt like Memphis royalty to be in his company.
Slipping past cover charges (I was introduced as his wife) we made our way into Ground Zero, a club on Beale Street owned by Morgan Freeman. This was to be our hangout for most of the night, as Johnny was to play there at midnight. A voluptuous woman belted out the Blues on stage as we knocked back beer after beer (and maybe a shot or two of Jim Beam, after Saskia opted for that over tequila).
As the night got fuzzier and we all got friendlier it was revealed that Johnny actually held a role in the 2005 movie, Walk the Line. He plays Carl Perkins, if anyone is interested.
The night ended in haze of dancing, singing and some killer solos by Johnny. Memphis, you may have climbed your way into my Top 5 Places in the U.S.
Check out the videos of Johnny at Ground Zero
A typical morning for me usually involves hauling my ass out of bed at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m., rushing through a less-than-satisfying breakfast of scrambled eggs (I throw a little hot sauce on there for excitement) and making my way to the office where I will hunker down in my cube for eight hours.
But yesterday was no typical morning. Instead I found myself sitting at Daniel Boulud‘s DB Bistro Moderne, dining on congee soup with egg emulsion, french toast with bacon and coconut sauce and a yam cake with mushrooms and gorgonzola and listening to his Frenchness talk about his upcoming projects in Singapore.
Now yes, I am a morning person. I get more done before noon than most and I am officially useless after 3 p.m. But this was an experience to wake up any morning narcoleptic. The breakfast was hosted by the Singapore Tourism Board, who was informing the media about Singapore’s brand new culinary campaign called A Taste of Singapore.
This breakfast was the final New York event in a series of tastings that kicked off April 29 at New York‘s Double Crown. Over the next two years, Singapore will be rolling out a series of initiatives globally that will help position it as a culinary capital in Asia.
Where does Boulud fit in? For the past few years Singapore has been in the process of building a monstrous integrated resort, Marina Bay Sands (officially opening in June), which will forever change the skyline of Singapore. Boulud will be opening a Singapore location of DB Bistro Moderne in the resort complex. He will be joined by five other celebrity chefs who are also opening restaurants at the complex, including Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Santi Santamaria, Guy Savoy and Tetsuya Wakuda.
For all you New Yorkers out there who can’t take the trek to Singapore, I suggest you check out the LUCKYRICE Festival, which is an 11-day celebration of Asian food and culture that kicks off this spring. You will definitely be seeing me there.
For those of you who have never been to Sundance Film Festival, you might have had the same picture that I had: Strolling into movie after movie, unlimited access to VIP parties, making out with celebs. Pretty much living like an A-lister.
So I donned my Ray-Bans and headed out to Park City, Utah….only to find out I was a little misguided.
Saturday: After Friday night’s welcome (I used my womanly ways to get myself and three of my male companions into a Stoli vodka party – Dudes, if you’re not on the list then always lead with a chick. Ladies, it helps to be slightly bitchy) I was ready to see movies. And here is where my fantasies of celebrity living came to a halt. Picture this: 200 people crammed like cattle into tiny waiting rooms for up to four hours per movie, hoping that enough people with advance tickets don’t show up so that you can get in. Odds of that happening on opening weekend? Not very good. I spent a good eight hours in lines and the only movies I saw were the ones I played in my head to pass the time (I know every line of Wet Hot American Summer by heart). By the time 6 p.m. rolled around I hated the name Robert Redford and didn’t feel like going out in his city.
Sunday: Trying to make the best of things I decided not to see movies until after the weekend. Instead, my group decided to go to Village at the Yard, a tent full of luxury-brand freebees. A day of drinking free vodka tonics and rummaging Sephora products? Yes, please!
Not so fast, Meagan…Being a newly employed member of society I don’t have any business cards, and when attending an event designed strictly for media professionals proof is necessary. Basically no cards, no entry.
I had just about given up on Sundance when I decided that I was going to get in somewhere. Anywhere. I jumped on a line snaking out of Harryo’s bar and lounge on Main Street. It was the line to get into the ESPN party for NFL playoffs and you had to be on the list. Now I couldn’t care less about football, but I HAD to get in. So I asked the guy in front of me if he was on the list and if I could be his plus one. And finally my luck had changed. I strolled in to Harryo’s, pink wristband firmly secured, and grabbed myself a complimentary Bud Lite. Bud Lite never tasted so much like Champagne.
I spent the afternoon shmoozing (a great Sundance past time) and eyeing Terrell Owens and Aaron Rogers (apparently they are big deals…). As I headed out on my way to my condo I heard a man say, “Those are nice,” referring to my black tights. I smiled and said thank you and it took me all of half a second to realize who it was.
“Excuse me, are you Ian Ziering?” (Being a HUGE 90210 fan I knew immediately that this was Steve Sanders.)
“Yes, I am.”
Now I was at Sundance. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Ian Ziering is a C-lister, at best. But after two whole days of nothing but denials, he may as well have been Brad Pitt.
I spent the next hour wrapped up in a one-on-one conversation with Ian (we’re on a first-name basis). I taught him some writing tricks, he showed me an acting exercise. I briefly asked him about 90210. Tacky, but I had to ask. (By the way, those were the best 10 years of his life.)
And Monday? I saw two movies and a third on Tuesday.
So was it the red-carpet trip I envisioned? Not really. But I did get to see my movies, I hit up a few VIP parties, and as for making out with celebs? I never kiss and tell.