I should have realized we were in trouble when the line to get into the party stretched all the way down the block. There were even bouncers and velvet ropes, though they didn’t turn anyone with a ticket away. The Midnight Music & Munchies party, party of the Food & Wine Festival here in NYC, was a club scene like no other. And I hate the club scene.
Where to begin? Let’s start with the cocktails. I recognized Tony Abou-Ganim behind one of the bars from his appearance on Iron Chef America, and I thought that the fact that he was actually behind the bar was a good sign. Interestingly enough, his was the only cocktail I didn’t get to try, but I don’t have any regrets — the six cocktails I did try were all pretty bad. They ranged from drinkable (that would be the “Ruby Tuesday,” a blend of Bourbon, cherry puree, lemon juice, and Benedictine) to the truly bad (“Vanilla Ice”: Maker’s Mark, Navan, and lemon juice, I could only drink a sip of it). The other cocktails were interesting, but they seemed over-thought and over complicated — consider the “Dr. Funk”: Dark rum, grenadine, ginger beer, fruits, herbs, and Absinthe. There were too many different flavors going on in that thing, but I did manage to drink it all.
And how do you feed hundreds of tipsy party-goers? The menu looks good on paper, but of course when you have so many hungry mouths, you have to mass produce and quality inevitably suffers. Lackluster breadsticks (officially “herbed grissini”) and salty parmesan crackers awaited us at one table after a ten minute wait. At another table there were empty plates for most of the night, though later on edamame felafel arrived. The felafel themselves were pretty good, but they were drenched in a ridiculously salty lemon tahini sauce.
My favorite food of the night was the Capogiro Gelato. They had two flavors: a grapefruit and campari sorbet which was light and tasted of actual grapefruit, and a rich single malt scotch gelato. That gelato was among the richest, creamiest gelato I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten a lot of gelato.
Of course, one of the reasons we were there was to see “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio perform, and we were not disappointed. Decked out in a hat and a purple shirt, Colicchio played and sang a few songs with the band Milton. We also managed to introduce ourselves to Anne Burrell, and Donny spotted both Harold Dieterle and Spike Mendelsohn wandering around, so the food celebrities were out in force.
Maybe it’s just me, but the Midnight Music & Munchies party seemed like a waste of my money. There were too many people and there was not enough food. I did manage to drink a lot, but it definitely was not worth the $85 price tag — for that kind of money were should have been coddled, not herded. If they do this again next year, this is one event I definitely won’t be attending again.