D'Artagnan 20th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt
My interest in all things food related got the best of me, and so I called the woman in charge of organizing this event to see if I could join in on the fun. The trouble was...I didn't have a team. I just had me. So I called and left a message saying that I was a party of one and if you had a party of three that was looking for a fourth...to call me.
Surprisingly, I got a call back within the hour, and thus I was now a member of a half French, half American team. Problem was, the French half barely spoke English, and my French is remarkably rusty. But I'm always up for a challenge so I told Danna I'd be MIA for a few hours on Saturday. She, though no change from the norm, told me I was nuts.
Here is a terrific blog about the event from one of the Gothamist. Here are some great photos that really illustrate the event from the same Gothamist who participated. All credit goes to Laren. Our experiences were relatively the same, but I'll add some highlights of ours...Our team name was dubbed TEAM USA. Which was the last thing I would have guessed these French folks would have named the team. Mais oui, it was an acronym for Tu Es Avec Modestie Une Star Ariane. We even got t-shirts with the name of the team on it. Very well done (especially on such short notice).
Also participating in the event was Hélène Darroze. M. Darroze (see below) is the youngest female French chef to be awarded 2 stars from the Michelin guide. I think her (and her husband's) team placed in the top 3 by day's end.
One of my favorite stops during the hunt was at Paradou. We were treated remarkably well by the proprieters - including plenty of wine, cheese, sausage and warm, "crustic" bread. I look forward to revisiting it with extra time. The task for this was to determine the vintage of a particular wine. We just happened to have a really difficult time deciding, thus needed several tastes of the wine...heh heh...we ended up guessing correctly. All that hard work payed off...At some point our team of four ended up being a team of seven. A truffle importer/exporter and a foie gras importer and his wife just happened to join our team. This was fine, but now we had seven talking heads and all of those heads except for mine and my Puerto Rican/New Yorker teammate Antinea (dressed to the nines mind you, for a scavenger hunt) were speaking French.
At one point, I almost lost my cool. We were at a grocery store and had to purchase the most amount of items for $5. Cans of beans were $.59 - that wouldn't do. Cracker packages were 4 for $1.00 - getting close. And then we found a special on juicing oranges - 8 for $1.00. That's 40 items. And nothing else close to that price per.
Then the French "extras" decided that a bag of rice for $3.49 had "hundreds if not thousands" of items in it, each grain being counted as an "item". You have got to be kidding me! They whined incessantly about it until I gave in and said fine. Whatever you want. Let them fall flat on their derrieres. Needless to say - the oranges were the winning item, and we didn't stand a chance. There is good to this story however.
Later on, because of my diplomacy (I think), I was given a knife (at Portico) from the foie gras importer's wife - even after personally flunking the test of cutting a very thin, perfect slice of sausage with it. Apparently these importer/exporters were using their clout to get things along the way, i.e., more wine at Paradou, more knife giveaways at Portico, etc. So I am now the new proud owner of a Laguiole folding knife - which is sweet.
My in-laws have a set of their dinner knives and I've loved them for a long time now.Also, at the end of the day we were treated to countless bottles of wine and shoebox sized buckets of foie gras pate and logs of garlicky truffle butter. All of which was as good as it gets. Truly a magnificent and obscene way to end a day. I had to have eaten at least two inches (width) of the pate and plenty of the truffle butter on bread with D'Artagnan sausage. So good. But boy did I smell like crap when I got home. The wife sent me immediately to the showers. Good thing too.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience and one I will certainly participate in next year - but this time with a team of people I can communicate with better. I actually really enjoyed the challenge and the one girl from Toulouse (that's a song, I just know it!) was awesome. She was a Physics teacher at a high school in Toulouse. Very nice person. Our other original teammates were her father and a real estate broker (the Puerto Rican/Irish woman) who was very good at many of the contests. She really pulled us through a lot of the time. I have a feeling I'll bump into her again.
A great day!