Friday, February 22, 2008

It's About the People, not the Wine

Last night I met Alice Feiring! I had no idea this was going to happen, but it did. BrooklynLady and I met fellow blogger David the WineBaer and his wife for a glass and who knew? The place I picked to meet sort of sucked (The Monday Room) and we went up to another restaurant called Alta where David and his wife Abby were meeting a friend for dinner. That friend, it turned out, had invited a mutual friend, Alice Feiring (as in squad) to join.

First of all, no matter what else you might hear, The Monday Room does, in fact, suck. It's not the wine that's the problem - the wines are thoughtfully chosen and really interesting. The prices are very high. A half glass costs minimum $8 and usually more. Yeah, the wine list is really good. But still, c'mon - $9 for a half glass, and a small half glass at that, of 2004 white Bandol? $16 for a glass of Cava? That's crazy talk. They wisely omit the prices of the wine on their website. I wouldn't have suggested the spot if I knew the prices, that's for sure.

But in the end the real problem with The Monday Room is the atmosphere. The place is set up to be such a hipster paradise, with thumping music and low lighting and plenty of pretense (men in suits ceremoniously bring your wine glasses to the table on silver trays before a server pours the wine). Impossible to have a conversation cause we couldn't hear each other. Do the folks who like thumping reggae and a style scene at their wine bar care about the interesting and off beat wines on the list?

I guess I shouldn't say that it sucks. If you like to pay way too much for wine in an an environment that prevents you from speaking with your companions, you might like it. And it's in a super cool neighborhood in a beautiful space. And none other than Alice Feiring, who I was destined to meet later that evening, suggested in her piece from a year ago that The Monday Room is the best wine bar in the city. So what do I know?

Alta had an impressive wine list too, but the bottle we selected, with the owner's help, was so disappointing. One of those green and reductive Burgundy 2004's, in this case the Bachelet Côte de Nuits Villages. At least at $54 it didn't feel like we were horse-tied and robbed. But sub-par wine is sub-par wine. Not a great wine night...but it's not always about the wine.

The upshot of all of this is the people - it's about the people, baby! David and his wife Abby were just excellent people and full of interesting talk about their coming move to the west coast. And their pal Lisa was a riot - sarcastic and sincere and smart and fun to talk to. And then there was Alice. Although we were risking pissing off my parents the babysitters again by being late, I insisted upon staying to meet Alice. Imagine that you're a huge baseball fan and you find out that Pedro Martinez is coming to join your party for dinner. You're staying, even if you piss off the baby sitter. Why compare Alice to Pedro, specifically? Because Pedro can stand by his numbers. He did it without the chemicals, on his own, au natural. And even though not everyone agrees with him, there's no denying that he makes a big impact.

I spent 2 minutes and 37 seconds with Alice, but teach of those moments was quite nice, and a thrill for me. And what a taster she is, what a nose! Alice knew before she entered the restaurant, just by sniffing the air in the entry hall, that we were drinking an 04 Côte de Nuits Villages. She didn't know that it was Bachelet, but still, that's pretty impressive.


Anonymous said...

Seriously? Alice called an 04 Côte de Nuits Villages? I *adore* Alice (and you've been closer to her than you think, as your blogs sit right next to each other in my reader for over a year now), but sometimes the mythical nose/palate stories stretch the limits of my poetic faith fuse. I'd really love to see a truly blind wine tasting of the bigshot palates and see what they come up with. Anyone else have any of these types stories? Of course they all pale in comparison to your deft "blind bottle" calls ;)

Brooklynguy said...

hi paul - thanks for putting me in such an honored spot on your reader. i think that kind of bigshot tasting would be a blast. they should do it iron chef style. Alice called the 04 CdNV the same way I can blind ID wine by handling it.

Drink, Memory said...

I agree with you completely about the Monday Room. It is overpriced and pretentious and loud. I went last year to meet an old friend I hadn't seen in years, and of course we had too much wine, so at the time it seemed like a great place-but fully sober, not so much. I haven't been back.

Justin S. said...

Thanks for calling a spade a spade when it comes to Blue Monday. While I have not been (I live in DC after all), that sounds like exactly the wrong atmosphere for a winebar. I would have thought that the increasing popularity of winebars nationwide had very much to do, among other things, with the fact that few have atmospheres such as that.

If I like someone enough to go out on the town with them, it entails that I would enjoy talking with them without our having to yell to make ourselves heard.


As a friend 'o' de grape you may dig moi's lill' YouTube version of an ooooooooooold drinkin' song, you'll know the tune.

Stay on groovin' safari,

Marcus said...

Aghhh! Their website is annoyingly pretentious too. I wanted to see what cool neighbourhood it was in and saw they're listing their address as "New York City, United States of America."

I really wanted to meet Alice my last NYC visits. In Dec 2006, she was so nice when we were looking for guidance in the downtown drinking scene -- and even extended an invitation, though a day late, to a New Year's Day Party. It's the thought that counts. Wanted desperately to extend my visit three months ago to go to her reading but sadly could not.

And is the common friend Lisa not the one that Alice blogged about last year -- in fact an entry that featured your heavy involvement in the comments?

Do Bianchi said...

I love it: Alice Feiring and Pedro Martinez.

Brooklynguy, you are so right. It's about the people...

Digging your blog as always... J

Brooklynguy said...

hey drink memory - you must have dropped a fortune if you got drunk at that place. thanks for your comments.

hi justin - agreed, agreed, agreed. i'm trying to get better about saying confidently when i don't like something. not so easy, as it turns out.

hi tor - wow, you are just so weird, in a great way. i'd be curious to know how you found my blog, or are you plastering this on every and any blog?

Hey Dok! - long time no see you 'round here. it's on Elizabeth street in what would have been called the Lower East Side 10 years ago. I don't know what they call it now - east SOHO? it is a great area, though. And yes, that is the Lisa - she runs the Portland Indie Wine Festival, I believe.

Hey Jeremy - i like juxtapositions like that one. although i think there are certain similarities there, as i mentioned in the post. so glad you're dinnin' it. see you around.