The Date: April 3, 2012
The Venue: The Liberty Theatre, New York
The Crowd: Food & Wine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin and VP-Publisher Christina Grdovic, sponsors American Express and Godiva, "Top Chef All Stars" contestants Carla Hall and Angelo Sosa, "Hunger Games" actor Stanley Tucci, The Roots' ?uestlove on the 1s & 2s (DJing, for those of you just joining the party) -- and Ad Age 's Freeloader.
The Food: Dishes included sea-salted cod confit, charred bread emulsion, smoked red beets from George Mendes, bone marrow with braised ox cheek and pickled walnut from Richard Blais, and Tai snapper ceviche, spring radish, cucumber, sea urchin and tapioca pearl from Daniel Boulud. Plus Origami-wrapped "Love's Drumsticks" from ?uestlove, a cheese-and-crackers station, Kona coffee from Starbucks and never-ending random passed apps.
The Drinks: A selection ranging from La Marca Prosecco and 2009 MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris to Belvedere Lemon Tea Punch and Stella Artois.
The Swag: A box of six assorted truffles from Godiva a copy of Food & Wine -- unfortunately no actual wine.
The Scene: This was a serious event, complete with Secret Service look-alikes at the main entrance to keep out Freeloader alter ego Gatecrasher. But we were on the list, so we made it through to a second round of greeters -- this time wearing neon shirts and miniature black top hats, which lightened the mood considerably.
After the media got its time with celebs and chefs on the step and repeat, doors opened to two big rooms filled with high-end food and allowed Freeloader to start, well, acting just like everyone else at the party. Soon polished power players in stilettos and suits where chowing down on ?uestlove's chicken, the kind of thing you don't see every day since there's really only one way to eat a drumstick: the messy way.
After making the rounds of the chefs' stations and tasting all the signature drinks, it was time to mingle. Stanley Tucci, spotted waiting in Chef Richard Blais' line, complimented all the chefs -- but once it was time to field a question about a sequel to "The Hunger Games," he managed to duck away, saying, "I wish I knew." We'll expect more information next time, Mr. Tucci.
We also saw Carla Hall, one of the past finalists in Bravo's "Top Chef," getting emotional with Jenn Louis, who was shedding tears of joy over being named one of Food & Wine's 2012 Best New Chefs. "Top Chef" contestant Angelo Sosa also made a cameo, somewhat randomly pronouncing the Fiji water "outstanding."
The Harlem James Gang entertained the crowd before Dana Cowin, Food & Wine editor in chief, and Christina Grdovic, the magazine's VP-publisher, presented the Best New Chefs with their framed mini chef robes.
It was all in all a very successful return for the Freeloader. We'll be back at more parties soon -- after a little time to recover from this one.