From September 18th to September 25th, I have been in New York. The reason was to give a presentation on Buddhist Temple Cuisine on the 20th. I’m posting my personal diary accounts of all the food and peeps. I hope you enjoy.
I woke up around 4 a.m., and I rehearsed and tweaked my presentation until 8. I wanted to go out and get some breakfast, so I packed the camera and wandered around.
I’ve realized that I really got lucky in finding this apartment stay. The location is a foodie’s paradise. I’m just a couple blocks from Babbo. There’s Murray’s cheese shop, Gray’s Papaya, Jacques Torres and all these cool interesting restaurants.
I got a hot dog and papaya drink from Gray’s Papaya for breakfast. Checked that place off my list of places to try. I was expecting to be disappointed by them, thinking they were hyped up by nostalgic New Yorkers like The Varsity in Atlanta. I still don’t get why people like The Varsity other than for its legendary status. My dog was dressed simply with sauerkraut and mustard. It was admittedly small, which is why they their main special is two dogs and a 16 oz. drink. Wish I had ordered two. What makes it is the snappy casing. Very much a texture thing. I then did some more wandering while finishing my 16oz. papaya drink.
I then went to the venue at Skylight at around 11. This place is usually used for fashion shows. It’s a one-story space with high ceilings and white walls. It’s a blank slate for whatever event is going on there. Crews were quickly bringing platforms and tables in to set up. Monks and culinary students in their chef’s whites were preparing food. Lotus lanterns were lined up on the floor. Lots of business going on.
I met a good many people, including the Korean bigwigs. Two ladies from Chicago–readers of the site–wanted to interview me for KBS. Made good use of my newly reprinted business cards. I met up with the Silk Road Communications people, who were my contacts in Korea, and we went out for lunch. Found a restaurant called Out of the Kitchen, and it was my sandwich fantasy. I could eat there for every meal for days. I’m such a sandwich fiend. I got a flat-iron steak sandwich with fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers. When it came out, the cook said, “Why are you taking pictures of my food? It’s for eating.”
“We don’t have sandwiches like this in Seoul.”
I couldn’t finish the whole thing, and I went into a food coma afterwards. I wanted a nap. But instead I went to Starbucks and got a Pumpkin Spice Latte. That got me back to normal.
Time went quickly, and I returned to my apartment to change into my suit. When I returned to Skylight, it was much more crowded. One of the organizers put me in a special room with Korean reporters for a press conference.
I had my first press conference!
A lovely young woman interpreted for me as the Korean press asked questions that were cues for my most favorite rants.
“What foods are becoming popular in America?”
“What can Koreans do to make their food more palatable to Americans?”
“What do you think distinguishes Korean food from Japanese and Chinese food?”
Immediately after that, a man in a suit pulled me into the main hall for rehearsal. I got out my computer to get the presentation set up with the tech guys. Then they said they couldn’t do it. They could only do MOV files. I then noticed that everyone had a Mac Book.
The first big freak out. I knew this would happen.
I worked on ways to convert my Prezi presentation into a MOV file but found that it was a slightly complex bundle of files, so there was no magic bullet solution. I was a bit miffed because I had asked two weeks ago if I could do an A/V component using Prezi, and I was told it was good, so I bought a license for it. Now they’re telling me they only use MOV files?
Are we in 1998?
I was upset and went outside to find someone, likely Wendy, to bitch to and so I could think of a solution. I found Wendy and told her, and then I ran into the KBS girls, and one of them suggested that I get their computer to go online and do it from the Prezi web site. I gave her a hug, and I felt much better. Great solution. I did my interview with them. I went in to tell the tech guys my solution.
“We don’t have wireless internet capabilities on our computers.”
So–there’s wireless internet in the building. My computer can use it. But not on the computers. But one of the guys came up with a good solution. They could point a camera at my computer and project it on the screen. That worked, but I didn’t have a means to control the presentation. They’d have to control it.
“How about I give you a script marked with cues?”
“That would work.”
I checked my bag and found I didn’t have my script. They were in the apartment.
I rushed back to the apartment. On the way, I ran into Joe DiStefano, Grace Niwa, Debra Samuels–people I’d been looking forward to meeting, but I had to tell them I had to run quickly. Luckily the apartment was just a 10-minute brisk walk away. I got the scripts, returned to the venue and sat on the floor to mark them up.
I went inside and show the tech guys what to do. Quickly ran through the presentation, and I felt much better. You see, after these big technical difficulty panics, all stage fright is gone.
People started filing in. Wendy told me to seat close to the front, where I had a nametag. While waiting, this girl was asking me to move from my seat because it was reserved. I held up my nametag and said, “Yeah, it’s reserved for me.”
Wendy sat next to me. The seats got filled. Charlie Rangle was two tables over. He was the only VIP I recognized right off. Then the even started.
I was in awe of how they pulled it off. It was dark with the eerie sounds of monks chanting and woodblocks tapping on the big screens being projected in four places on the walls. A procession of children in hanboks and lit lanterns progressed to the front. Then two monks went nuts with the big drum at center stage.
Then the speeches.
They were a little dull but thankfully short. I saw that I was a lot higher on the program than I thought. Very quickly it became my turn to speak. Vivian Lee, the MC, gave a humbling introduction of me. The running around previously had killed any stage fright I had. I was very relaxed.
I went to the center stage podium and saw that my presentation wasn’t up. I stalled a bit by talking about how the tech guys deserve a reward if we can pull this off. Then I saw the presentation come up, and I started.
It was a good thing I overprepared because I had to keep track of what was going on in the presentation and give cues to the tech guys. Everything was sharply timed in my planning. I did a lot of improvising, not really to fill time but because I was feeling so energized and relaxed. I noticed Rangle leaving. I guess he didn’t like the talk.
In my mind, the laughter was lukewarm, but the feedback I got afterward was enthusiastic.
I sat back down and couldn’t believe it was over. After five months of prep, it was over. I could finally deflate and enjoy my vacation. I said that mentally, but the rest of my being was uptight, and I would be in decompression mode for a few more days.
I was not in the mood to eat, but I knew I needed to. I met a few people in line and got a little food. The food itself was better than I expected, and the people around me said they honestly liked the meal. The most common response I heard was how surprised they were that they felt full after eating. They didn’t really miss the meat.
I hung out with Joe DiStefano and Dave Cook (New York Times). I caught up quickly with everyone. Restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld wanted me to bring the ZenKimchi meet up to his restaurant, as did the people of Do Hwa–both sounded like great places. Grace Niwa was lovely, thought she was a little stressed about some looming deadlines that evening. Debra Samuels was amazingly warm. It felt like I had always known her. Grace Meng and I really connected in our bitchfest on Korean food promotion.
Things ended quickly. I was running on adrenaline. Mark Matsumoto (No Recipes), his significant other, Shin, Joe D. (“America Joe”) and I walked out to go to our own afterparty. We walked to around my apartment to Pegu Club. I finally got a chance to try some of these cocktail renaissance drinks.
Marc is a hoot! Lots of fun and great stories. And he laughs at my jokes, which scores him some points. The Earl Grey Martini there was exactly what I needed. It has a bright grapefruit flavor. We ordered some smoked fish deviled eggs–OMG!! But after two drinks the adrenaline started to crash into decompression mode, and I was starting to see two Marcs. I told them that I wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer, so we called it a night.
Did I mention how much I love this location?
Everything is within such easy walking distance. But really, many places in Manhattan are easily within walking distance.