Last week, Danny Meyer, CEO of New York's Union Square Hospitality Group, introduced a roster of new contributors from his acclaimed restaurants, including Union Square Cafe, Blue Smoke, and The Modern. This week's USHG column is from The Modern's Belinda Chang.
I am a card-carrying bargain hunter. Who isn't one these days? Drop me into a department store like the labyrinthine flagship Saks Fifth Avenue here in NYC—it's just a few blocks from my restaurant. Lead me into the store blindfolded and I can find that red-dot, slashed-price, mish-mash sale rack with no assistance, with just my nose for a bargain. There is no better feeling than when the shoes/suit/gadget fits both me and my credit card limit. It is especially satisfying when it is one of those things that no one else seems to have loved but me.
The mood is the same when a wine list is placed into my waiting hands, fingers wiggling in anticipation. It's not just that I disdain the sight of an empty wine glass in front of me. I also love that type of hunt. I have managed and written over a dozen wine lists in my decade-plus as a sommelier in both casual and fancy restaurants across the United States (among them: Charlie Trotter's, Big Bowl, and Osteria Via Stato in Chicago; The Fifth Floor in San Francisco; and now The Modern in New York). This experience gives me a perspective on wine treasure hunting that is slightly different from those of most of the clientele I serve on a daily basis at our tables at 9 West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.