Ain’t we Swank! Ilan Hall and Don Julio

OK, so by now you all have a basic idea of how this blogger thing works. Sometimes I just go to a restaurant on my own dime and tell you what I think. But sometimes restaurants, liquor companies or benefits host “events” and they invite bloggers to cover them. In return, they expect us to come take pictures and tell you all about the fun.

When Don Julio invited me to try their tequilas paired with Ilan Hall’s food, I eagerly packed my camera and prepared to check out The Gorbals. Don Julio was super-responsible and super-swank by sending cars for those of us who didn’t want to risk driving drunk. Bravo!

The driver confused me by heading West.  Just like in a horror movie, I hit that suspicious point of “Hey, downtown is that way.”

The driver said, “We are going to Benedict Canyon.”

I half-joked, “As long as we aren’t going to Benedict Canyon and Cielo Drive.”

He asked, “How did you know we were going to Cielo Drive?”

Hmmmm. As we made our way up the winding road that leads to the infamous site of the Tate Manson murders, the only thing I could think was, “No way is this a road that people on LSD should have been driving on.” In fact, the winding Santa Susannah Pass is no picnic either. I’m amazed the entire Family didn’t just keep crashing into hillsides on acid before they could hurt anyone.

We turned onto a long driveway and ended up high above the little people, at a gorgeous house complete with lots of security and a view of the twinkly lights of LA. The PR people didn’t interact with me the way I expected. The mood lighting was dim and I asked if there was a place where I could photograph the bottles. They didn’t really understand why I wanted to photograph the bottles, and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t want me to photograph their product. Isn’t that what I was there to do? What we‘ve got here is failure to communicate.

I managed to make my way into the bathroom with a bottle and two PR girls following me nervously. I assured them, “Don’t worry. People will just think we’re doing blow.” They seemed to be afraid I would mess with something or start peeking in drawers.  As if half the guests weren’t already checking out the medicine cabinets.

See? The pics are WAY better

As the party filled up, I noticed it was very testosterone heavy, with just a whiff of douchebag. Then it all made sense to me. I whispered to a server, “I bet these people are bar and club owners.” This wasn’t a press event. It was a party. Like for people to have fun. Strange.

I asked the first two guys I saw, “Hi, what do you do?”

“We own the Key Club.”

Yep. It was all falling into place now.

And then the hors d’ouvres began to be passed. Swoon. Chunks of ahi tuna tartare with creme fraiche.

Something vaguely vegan-ish wrapped in a Vietnamese spring roll wrapper. I was really more impressed with the wrapper. if you have ever tried making Vietnamese spring rolls, you know those wrappers need to be dipped into water for just a second before they start tearing like parchment. They are harder to work with than filo.

My favorite app was a play on chocolate-dipped pretzels. Pate de foie gras was formed around skewers, then drizzled with a chocolate-balsamic sauce and sprinkled with crushed almonds. It pretty much freaked everyone out. For the most part, these were not foodies. They could not handle foie gras in the first place and the chocolate clinched it.

I, however,  was enamored. Although the chocolate occasionally came on strong, the pate was so buttery and rich, I didn’t want to ever stop eating them. And I didn’t have to. The servers were reluctant to return to the kitchen with full plates, so at the end of their rounds they would stop off and dump a handful of the apps on my napkin. Someone commented on the fact I was the only one dancing; I hadn’t even realized I was doing my yummy food happy dance.

There was a vibe from the PR people to stay out of the kitchen. But other than the bathroom, it was the only place with light. Growing up in my mother’s kitchen, I learned when to stay the hell out of the way, and I think hard-working chefs deserve a little appreciation, albeit appreciation bordering on psychotic cheerleading now and then. And most chefs respond to my enthusiasm. I am like the chef whisperer.

So as the drinking and crowd escalated the party, I might have wandered around a little and made friends. Ilan showed me his boo-boo on his finger and let me take his picture comically pouting about it. I noticed the light didn’t illuminate his friend, and the picture was out of focus so I asked, “May I take that shot one more time?”

Ilan was super cooperative posing again for me, so I joked, “OK, now cut your finger again.” In response, he showed me his far worse war wound, a nasty burn on his arm.

Finally I got some nice shots inDammit, PR people I am going to advertise your brand if it kills me! Oh, and BTW thanks for sending me a bottle! I’m going to make a Vampira. Or ten. The drink was actually invented pouring this Don Julio Blanco into Kerns Nectar cans on the beach in Mexico. It goes really well with peach nectar.

I was being so slick all evening, making sure the photos looked glam and did not betray my location. But after a few cocktails, I kind of reveled in it.

This is the curator of New Orleans’ Museum of Cocktails.  He let me take a crazy picture of him, because hey, he’s from N’awlins and they know how to have a good time!

Stay tuned for the dinner and the drops!

About Kiki Maraschino

I like catfish. Sure, we all like catfish, but I think for me it is somehow deeper.
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