“I’m on the wagon,” declared domestic diva Martha Stewart with a laugh, clutching a glass of flat
Sporting chocolate-colored Capri pants and a tan cardigan, the Kmart spokeswoman and former federal inmate clearly stood out from the largely pastel-clad and far less temperate crowd attending the beleaguered James Beard Foundation’s annual Chefs & Champagne tasting party at Mr. Wölffer’s vineyard.
There were several Manhattanites among the 30-odd chefs cooking for the event, including Franklin Becker of Brasserie and Amanda Freitag of Gusto. But it was Damon Baehrel of the tiny Basement Bistro in Earlton, N.Y. who most tickled Ms. Stewart’s taste buds, with a peachwood-smoked savory. “I loved the salmon bacon!” she trilled. (Enough to devour two samples, as Mr. Baehrel proudly pointed out.)
The salty seafood must have made the homemaking maven pretty thirsty. Less than five minutes after she announced her sobriety, The Transom spotted her at the wine stand. A handler laughed and Ms. Stewart promptly clarified: “I have to try the rosé because I’m making a rosé.” (She also tasted the winery’s hallowed 2002 Premier Cru Merlot.) “See how much I took?” she added, barely wetting her lips with the stuff.
The day’s official guest of honor was Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, who’s apparently too much of a perfectionist to step out of his Windy City comfort zone and open an eatery in New York. “When we get the Chicago restaurant right, then maybe we’ll go and do another city,” he said.
Where does a reputed foie-gras-hater like Mr. Trotter choose to dine when he’s in town? “Well, let me quote James Beard: ‘Where they know me,’” he said. “I like to visit my culinary friends: Le Bernardin, because I love Eric [Ripert], and Jean Georges and Daniel and Nobu….”
Mr. Trotter, a chubby-cheeked charmer who blushed when off-duty WPIX-TV traffic reporter and one-time Playboy pictorial model Jill Nicolini plopped down in his lap during a photo op, said he had yet to visit The London, Gordon Ramsay’s reportedly struggling midtown venture.
“He’s a great chef,” Mr. Trotter said generously. “I’m sure, if anyone can pull it off, he can.”