I was recently invited by FoodBuzz to attend a “VIP Cocktail Party” hosted by Planters as a correspondent. The party was to announce the fact that they are now using sea salt in all of their products, and featured special guest Tyler Florence. It was a fun, strange, and almost surreal experience. I took notes throughout the night, and you will find them after the jump. They have been edited only for the sake of clarity.
5:15pm I’m waiting in a subway platform for a train to take me to a product release party for Planters Peanuts. I was supposed to be in the back of a car being chauffeured to the event; I knew I should have turned down the offer of a car service. The fact that my address is in Brooklyn somehow did not make it to the car service dispatch, although I clearly wrote it in the email I sent out. So when I exited my apartment after getting the call that my car was waiting outside, I found no car waiting. I called the dispatcher back, and we discovered the error — too late, alas. So now I sit on the train.
5:37pm As often happens, when you are having trouble getting somewhere the MTA finds a way to make it worse. My F train (which was actually an E train, btw), got diverted to the G line. I’m now awaiting another transfer. It has occurred to me that all of this nonsense about getting to a “peanut party” is a bit ridiculous. I should also note that the car service offered to send my driver to Brooklyn to pick me up, but it would have been about a 1/2 hour before he could get to me and then another 1/2 hour to get to the party. I thought I could make it faster on the train [Note: The party was set to begin at 6pm].
5:54pm There is a woman on this train who is also writing in a spiral notebook, albeit haltingly. Perhaps taking notes. She has a faint blue-green tattoo on the back of her right hand just at the base of her ring finger, maybe a star or a cross. She also has a large red bow in her hair and red glitter on her eyelids and -lashes.
6:19pm Arrived about 15 minutes ago. Train was faster after all. Entered the main lobby of the Maritime Hotel, directed through the restaurant to “the North Cabana.” Given a magnetic name tag (“Won’t damage your clothes!”), a pen and a notebook (both with the Planters logo on them), and a Sea Breeze. Told “Welcome Aboard!” Got my photo taken with Mr. Peanut [Note: Not the first time I’ve been photographed with a corporate mascot].
6:44pm Mingling is not my strong suit, but I did manage to meet a few interesting people, after gulping down my Sea Breeze. Two young women from the PR firm Weber Shandwick, who put this event together and whose employees seem to make up the bulk of the attendees, in from Chicago. Two men from TyFood, TF’s company, one in charge of the food aspects, the other of the business. Also met fellow blogger Marc from NoRecipes.com. The hors d’ouvres circling the bar quite good: shitakes stuffed with cream cheese, mini-pizzas with ricotta and truffle oil. Also Planters nuts throughout the cabana.
We are herded to a row of couches for the presentation. Some people from Planters speak. Sea salt in all of their products, across the board. Buzzwords: “trends in salty snacking,” “nut-rition.”
6:48 Tyler takes the stage. Excited bout working with Kraft and Planters. Sea salt has a better flavor. He doesn’t say much. Opens the floor to questions.
6:53pm Someone asks about managing your salt intake. TF doesn’t really answer the question, so a Planters rep steps in to say that they offer unsalted and low-salt products (though “of course” the unsalted nuts contain no sea salt). Another person asks for a nutritious trail mix recipe, TF suggests salted cashews, dried cranberries, yogurt-covered pretzels. Salty-sweet combination is really great. Any more questions? There are none. They show us the newest Planters commercial, without sound, on a screen that’s basically above and behind me. More mingling. I introduce myself to a woman from Essence, and later to three women from Prevention. All seem impressed that I am there as a food blogger. Strange. Also meet TF himself, a handshake and a signed copy of his newest book. I ask him if they flew him in just for this, but no, he’s been in NYC for a week. Also in attendance: Rachael Ray Everyday, Men’s Fitness. After speaking to many people it becomes clear that no one is really there to write about this, it’s more of a PR thing. One person tells me they came just because of the offered car service.
7:42pm Gin & tonic (I’ve been neglecting the open bar). I leave a $1 on the bar when the bartender has his back turned to avoid any awkward tip conversation. Dan from Weber Shandwick approaches me and apologizes for the mix-up with the car service, he had the info on Brooklyn. The car is available to take me home. I swallow the gin & tonic and decide to head home. I also tip the coat check guy $1, but of course I have to hand it directly to him. I am bad in these situations.
7:52pm In the back of the admittedly nice town car: black leather interior, GPS navigation. My last name spelled wrong on the sign on the car. I confirm with the driver that my address is in Brooklyn. I ask him if he was waiting long at the wrong address. He says the address doesn’t exist in Manhattan, and he called dispatch to tell them. They told him to wait there for me. 15-20 minutes later they called him to just wait for me at the Maritime Hotel.
8:17pm Home. Strange to think that only 3 hours have passed. Check my gift bag: handmade coral reef peanut bowl. 1 can Planters cocktail peanuts, 1 can Planters deluxe mixed nuts (both with sea salt, naturally). 1 bag Planters cocktail napkins, 1 folder containing press release and product fact sheet. And of course, the framed photo of myself with Mr. Peanut.
Thank you to all of the people at FoodBuzz, Planters, and Weber Shandwick for making this night possible!