international

#haikureview: Leiti Hsu's Roving Omakase at the American Irish Historical Society in NYC

Beautiful photos by Dave Krugman + Lucas Hoeffel

I went to see young lady
I've been there before
She put me out of an old big strump
& I ain't going back no more
Champagne Charlie is my name
Champagne Charlie is my name
Champagne Charlie is my name by golly
And rogueing n' stealing is a game

I got drunk last night
All the the night before
Ain't gonna get drunk no more
Ain't gonna...
Champagne Charlie is my name
Champagne Charlie is my name
Champagne Charlie is my name by golly
And rogueing n' stealing is a game

-Champagne Charlie, 19th century music hall song

I’m gonna be honest, folks. I was hungover the day after this event, and it is Champagne Charlie’s fault.

But I have no regrets!

When Leiti Hsu texted me asking if I could write haiku at her mysterious Roving Omakase in a historic mansion on the Upper East Side, I did not hesitate for a second in responding, YEP. She is the mistress of exuberant cool, so I trust her an all her undertakings completely, and I was not disappointed.

I arrived at the address at 6:30 in the evening, and found it was not just any old mansion, it was in fact the American Irish Historical Society, directly across from the Met. I was swept up a marble staircase and deposited on a beautiful armchair to make Haiku Omakase magic for the evening. Turns out the event was being hosted in partnership with The Uncommon, whose founder, Neil Carty, warmly greeted me. An impeccably dressed man named Phillippe immediately poured Charles Heidsieck (Abraham Lincoln’s favorite champagne, I kid you not) in my glass, and I was off to the poetic races.

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I always ask for a topic or theme when I’m writing custom poems on-demand at events, but as this was a Japanese tasting menu experience, I asked guests to give me their “secret ingredient” so I could cook up their custom poems. The crowd was mostly extremely well-dressed and attractive international types, and the topics were lovely. I got everything from “starting over” to “heartbreak” to “I’m left handed and I love to tell dirty jokes.” The very welcoming Director of the venue, Chris Cahill, warmly introduced himself, got a poem on the topic “rebirth” then came back to me to give me a poem he had handwritten himself. What a joy.

Suddenly, a man I recognized in chef’s whites approached me and said “Hey! Didn’t you write haiku at my restaurant??” I did a double take and realized that CHEF DAVID BOUHADANA himself was standing in front of me, recognizing ME. I am an enormous fan of his and had in fact done his hotel room omakase with my dad a few months back, and had written poems for the chef and staff while there. And they apparently now keep them on display in the restaurant! I died.

But back to the Roving Omakase.

Chef David requested a haiku on “rice” - classic - then disappeared, only to immediately reappear with the biggest and most beautiful piece of tuna I have ever seen in my life. (I am a pescetarian, people, I know it’s annoying but deal with it) The crowd gathered around his table while he and his collaborators proceeded to artfully carve three types of tuna into to most graceful morsels imaginable. Honestly, people were losing their minds during this process, it was quite moving.

I had to get back to work typing. Luckily somehow my champagne (a perfect pairing to sushi might I add) kept refilling itself, and servers brought me various bites to nibble on while I wrote dozens of #rovingomakase haiku.

There were two handrolls as well that I must mention, spearheaded by the deeply charming and hospitable Chef Samuel Clonts. First was a wild mushroom melange that transported me to a fairytale forest, then there was his infamous uni and caviar roll, that honestly is probably illegal in some states it is that decadent. *chef’s kiss*

Towards the end of the evening, Leiti (who by the way was dressed in a red sequined power suit and looked like a hybrid between Samantha from Sex and the City and Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers) gathered all the attendees to honor the contributors and say a few words about the mission and meaning of the Roving Omakase project and her love of food culture overall. Something in specific that she said struck me and resonated so deeply. She spoke of the end of her mother’s life, when she was no longer able to eat of drink. That experience of mortality helped her realize that hunger is not just a function of existence, but a deep honor, in fact a privilege, and that we should cherish our appetites and feed them well. A beautiful sentiment, especially as we had very much indulged our appetites that evening.

We ended with a delightful dessert presented by Chef Salil Mehta of Laut Singapura - something new that he had never even tried before??? It was a very cool feeling to watch these starry chefs get to experiment and play together, with no ego or pretension.

And, an honor to contribute my own small artworks to the whole experience.

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PS Did I mention there were drinks?

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Interested in having poetry on-demand at your next event, dinner party, wedding, festival, conference, or holiday party? Email me at lamarks@arspoetica.us or have me give you a call on my calendar here.