|Posted on September 29, 2011 at 4:15 PM|
Made it back last night from Manhattan where I attended KEF’s 50th anniversary event.
So, why did I attend KEF’s 50th anniversary event, you ask. Quite simple, really. They invited me. And I think that their PR rep, Stephanie Scola, is super cool. And it was being held at the private residence of Danny Lopez (surprisingly NOT Hispanic as his name may lead you to believe), Her Majesty’s Consul General, New York. And Darryl Wilkinson was going to be there, and I knew that the American press corps needed me there to allay any potential International incidents caused by a Darryl Wilkinson on the loose.
If I were to sum up the evening in three words they would be: Drinking, laughing and drinking.
Let’s recap, shall we?
KEF put us up in a hotel right in the heart of Times Square. Irony of ironies, my room looked down onto 1633 Broadway, the building that Sound & Vision was housed in when they were owned by Hachette Filipacchi Media (before they changed the & to a more hip and meta + and were purchased by Bonnier.)
So I arrived at the hotel close to 5, which gave me just enough time to unpack, iron my clothes and decide whether I wanted to go with the “Never mind the Bollocks! Here come the Sex Pistols!” t-shirt in honor of Her Majesty, or perhaps something a tad more formal. (Darryl, ever the fashionable one, suggested assless chaps with a prominently displayed Union Jack.) While I’m struggling with this decision, Darryl – who is also in the same hotel, though down on floor 7 which I was told was reserved for buggers, tossers and wankers and not on the “Yes, I’m a Starwood Gold Preferred Member” 21st floor – was looking up all manner of British slang to prepare for any eventuality the evening might present. Some words from his texting session: Munter, Nancy, Bugger, Pikey, and Uphill Gardener. None of them are very positive, so feel free to use them as you see fit, ya nancy!
We get to the event, and cross the threshold and leave behind American soil and step into Old Mother England! From here forth, I shall honour my hosts and the spirit of Britannia and be a good and proper neighbour by using only Queen's English spelling from henceforth while we are in country. (I’d also like to say that any pictures from this point on are courtesy Kristen Somody Whalen, the professional photographer that KEF retained for the evening. Thank you for the rights to use them.)
We get our fancy name badges from the girl at reception and then step into the lift. However there is some secret cypher to punch in to whisk us to the penthouse level and we end up going down and up a couple of times before the proper up-down-up-down-left-right-left-right Contra code is input. We step into the main parlour and are immediately handed a beverage. As I’m with Darryl, we accept the drink and immediately start drinking it with nary a question asked. We're in England; it would be right bloody rude to do any less! And it tastes…a bit off. Orange rind? Tamarind? Nutmeg or cinnamon mayhaps? It tastes a bit like Angostura bitters.
I go to the server. “What is this?”
“It's Pimms, sir.”
“What am I drinking?”
“A Pimms number one cup, sir.”
“What’s IN it?”
“Pimms, sir. And an apple slice. And ice. Sir.”
Ahh! Of course! A Pimms number one cup! That explains everything! Except, what the hell is a Pimms?! Clearly Darryl’s preparation of British slang – and his obsession with obscure liquors – has done little to prepare us. Apparently Pimms is a very popular drink across the pond and was nearly unthinkable that we hadn’t heard of it. “Haven’t you heard that old saying? ‘The sun’s up over the yardarm, it’s time for a Pimms cup!’?” Quite frankly, my Pimms knowledge was woefully behind the times.
As guests start gathering, I notice several familiar faces. From Sound + Vision is Mike Mettler, Michael Berk, and all-around journalist extraordinaire, Brent Butterworth. I see Arlen Schweiger from EH, Nancy Klosek from Dealerscope, Steve Guttenberg from C-Net (and more), Andrew Jones (one of my favourite speaker designers), and Lindsey Snyder/Adler from Resi. (There were bunches of other people there, and I apologize if I missed you. But, then again, hey, you didn’t come up to me either!)
I took a meander around the place. Look, it's not every day that I'm on English soil and maybe Keira Knightley was in another room, just sitting there all alone, waiting for a dashing American to talk to. Like a reverse Notting Hill or something. Luck favors the prepared! At one end is a pretty large, formal dining area. It had some (what I’m guessing would be original and valuable, very rare, very expensive) paintings. Here is a picture of KEF America’s President, Alec Chanin, admiring a work of art. Or maybe just trying to sort out all the unusual flavours of a Pimms Cup. It could really go either way:
As is the case with any alcoholic beverage – even a Pimms – we soon found ourselves perilously short on imbibement. So Darryl, Arlen and I head to the bar, conveniently located in the centre of the room. After a quick reconnoitre of the selection, it is clear that choices are limited to: Scotch, Gin, Vodka, red or white wine. And Pimms. That’s when Arlen proposes pure and diabolical genius: the creation of a new drink!
He steps up to the barman and says, “I need a couple of drinks. Equal parts Pimms, Scotch, Gin, Vodka, and tonic water. Garnish with a lemon. AND a lime.” It was a total Bond move. If Bond told the barman to make a drink with literally every liquor at his disposal. And wanted to be too plastered to go after SPECTRE and help Queen and Country. Keeping a proper stiff upper lip, the barman never flinched, but merely went about creating the concoction, working diligently until there was simply no more room in the glass to add even a single extra droplet of anything else. Arlen -- a true wordsmith -- then christened the drink: The Consulate. (Swoon!) (I had a Johnny Walker Red. I would have thought the Consul would spring for at least Gold and hopefully Blue, but then I decided what better Johnny Walker would a Red Coat serve, than a Red label? But, my good man behind the bar, kept a heavy hand, giving me probably four fingers worth in my glass. But, as they say in Britain, “Make it one drink. Just make it a damn good one, sir!” OK, I’m not sure if they actually say that in Britain or not.)
The Consulate is essentially a full pint glass of liquor. And, it is initially served with just enough ice to cause the cubes to mingle separately in the glass as if they are teenagers at their first co-ed mixer. So, it is a tall glass of room temperature booze of different colours, flavours and calibres. I would describe the flavour as a cacophony of competing and not totally complementary tastes that assault the mouth and senses like a Harrier taking down the Falklands. It is a quick, violent assault that leaves no question as to the outcome. The Consulate is not to be engaged lightly and if not handled with respect, can result in a rather embarrassing deportation. Both Darryl and Arlen agreed that future Consultates would require a more American approach to ice.
Not so abundant in Her Majesty’s kingdom was food. There was some pastry-wrapped-meat going around, but the greyish meat colour and texture were suspect to my American sense and sensibilities. Was it the notorious Spotted Dick? Kidney Pie? Liver pudding? Not sure. The unusual mouth feel and flavour convinced me that one was pa-lenty. There was some delicious lamb and I made sure to manoeuvre close and hit up lamb guy whenever he was in range. Another house servant had a quiche thing, but after three requests for an explanation of what it was, I abandoned ship, lay back and thought of my stomach, and simply ate.
One of the big deals of the event was a cake from Carlo’s Bakery, from TLC’s show Cake Boss. Here’s a picture of the cake:
I am not really a big cake person. And I figured that these specialty cakes would be long on looks, and short on taste. Seriously, I can’t imagine fondant tasting like anything more than creamed sugar-fat. But, it was a Cake Boss cake and when is the next chance I'm gonna get to try it? Plus, I was frickin' starving at this point, having traveled all day and had a single bag of chips. So I at least had to try it. And, surprisingly, it was really good. Moist and chocolatey and you wouldn’t have known it was anything other than just a good piece of cake once it was on your plate.
So, if you’ll recall from my CEDIA Audio Wrap post, I mentioned how Johan Coorg gave this brilliant presentation of KEF’s new Blade speaker. “I implore you; come, touch the Blade!” And I included a little graphic that was kind of similar to this one, where he is presenting the Blade to Danny Lopez, Her Majesty’s Consul General. Presumably this will be the centrepiece of the Consul’s Home Theatre.
So, after a couple of metric hours, we left the Consul’s home – back on American soil. Free! Free at last! – and headed to a bar across the street. Since everyone in the bar is drinking red wine, Darryl of course orders me a Harvey Wallbanger or Sex Against the Wall or some other drink that has a name that can barely conceal Darryl’s homo-erotic desires for me. (To be fair, earlier in the evening, I did hand Darryl a teabag and say, “I just teabagged you.” So, you know what they say about coming around...) So while I’ve drinking my orange creamsicle flavored thing, Johan comes up to me. And while I’ve talked to Johan in the past, I never really TALKED to him. So we do the old Japanese handshake (business card exchange) and he looks at my card, and when he sees my name, he gets this big smile and glint in his eye. “You! It’s YOU! You’re the one! You had that post about the Blade!”
There is a brief moment when I’m not sure if he was totally in on the fun of it, and I didn’t want some kind of Krav Maga neck and genital punch, but then he quickly said, “I LOVED IT! I texted it to my wife. She read it. She texted back: HA…HA…HA…HA!” He also sent it around to his staff and they also thought it was great. (Which, of course, it was.) Turns out that Johan is *brilliant* to talk to and has an awesome sense of humor. (We’re back in America. No more ou.)
At some point in the evening I meet Chris Boylan, from Big Picture Big Sound. Chris has a wonderful sense of humour, occasionally slips into a rich Scottish brogue with just the right bit of filth and flavor and fit right into the Sciacca-Wilkinson clique. So we all drank there for a bit, and then decided to head to ANOTHER bar. This one a “proper bar for a proper Belgian pint” according to Johan. So we make it to Bar #2 and they indeed have terrific beer. So Darryl and Chris and I are clustered talking and Johan walks over and starts calling Chris Ginger and Gingy because of his red hair. Because Darryl was thinking it, Johan asked if the pubes match the beard. This quickly turned his nickname into Copper Top which then turns into what shall be Chris’ name for the rest of the days that I know him: Copper Nob. (Then there is quite a bit of ribaldry where “Here! Come touch MY Blade!” is the punchline.)
After a few pints, we do what any proper New Yorker would do on a Tuesday night at 12:30 AM. We head to a THIRD bar. (Well MOST of us do. There was one guy there who shall remain nameless who had had WAYYYY too much to drink. Perhaps he was not properly vetted on the full effects of The Consulate. But after spending the majority of time at the first and second bars leaning on Stephanie, grabbing on Stephanie's arm, draping himself over Stephanie's shoulders, walking up behind and smelling Stephanie’s hair, (and even asking me, “So. How much money do you make?") he forgot what hotel he was staying at and had to be taxi’d around NY for a bit by a KEF minder before they decided where to dump him off. Stephanie handled it all with grace and aplomb, never spilling her drink and wanting me to assure you not only how awesome she is but also how cute her leopard flats were as well. Plus she plays the cello in a rock band and has driven a Lamborghini, both of which are pretty awesome.)
On the way to the third bar, I ask Johan what he thinks of American beer. “Rubbish. The lot of it. Pure rubbish! Except there is this ONE beer. Yuengling.” Sure, I could have told him that Yuengling is like $4.99 a 6-pack at Wal-mart, but what kind of guest would that make me? At the third bar I get a Bass to stay in the British way and as we’re drinking pretty soon Johan comes around with a proper Hendrick’s Gin and tonic and lime. He explains the difference between a wanker and a tosser (you don’t want to be the latter...) and we all commence on what is – thankfully – the final drink of the evening.
Back in bed around 2 AM. Not a bad night’s work for a single evening in Manhattan.
KEF, my sincere thanks for including me in the event. I hope we’re all around to see your 100th Anniversary!