There's a brand new sign on the brand new door of the bureau chief's office in the brand new headquarters of the Los Angeles Times on Eye Street: "Eatin', Drinkin', Smilin', and Hand Shakin' Do Not Disturb. Important Crab Leg Selection in Progress."
Just before the bureau's big bash last week (which left strawberry and red wine stains on the brand new carpet) to inaugurate its plush new location, bureau chief Jack Nelson quit worrying about Billy Carter, Libya, the Democratic convention and devoted himself to whether or not they "should cancel the crab legs and double the shrimp or double the shrimp and keep the crab legs."
"This place was kind of looney," said one editor who is used to reporting on "the perpetrators of news, not being a perpetrator."
In the end Nelson and his staff opted for doubling the shrimp and canceling the crab legs, perhaps out of a sense of frugality.
But there was nothing chintzy about the 6:30 to 9 party which went on until 1:30 in the morning to blue grass sounds. It may hold the record, not only for corraling the city's most important officials, including one president and one presidential candidate, but for having shrimp left over when the party finally closed down. No one ever has shrimp left over but Nelson says they figured on six per person, which is twice what a caterer usually figures, and it was hard to cram them in with all the other stuff: clams, oysters, steak tartar, grilled scallops, chicken and tenderloin strips, four kinds of pate, Greek spinach pies, mounds of cheese, crates of strawberries. And those were just the offerings from Ridgewells. In what is ordinarily the bureau's conference room, but was dubbed the Mexican Room for the night, Enriqueta's was dishing up guacamole, tacos, tamales and black beans.In the newsroom Samuri Sushi had created a sushi bar where the raw fish on top of rice and sashimi, just plain raw fish, were being prepared to order. Lots of people tried them but not Sen. S.I. Hayakawa, who greeted the sushi maker in Japanese but didn't try any of his wares.
Several weeks before the party, which offered up just as many famous reporters as government officials, it must have been hard concentrating on front-page stories. Before the crab legs versus shrimp resolution they had to have a wine tasting, to determine which California wines would be served.
"Boy, I bet this party cost $10,000," exclaimed one not-usually-impressionable reporter. "More. Much, much more," retorted a Timesperson with a fair amount of disdain.
If you missed the Cantonese chefs from the People's Republic of China while they were cooking at the Kowloon Restaurant last month, and you are on your way to New York for the Democratic National Convention next week, you can still catch chefs from the People's Republic of China at the Sichuan Pavilion. The restaurant, which finally opened at the end of June, after months of waiting for the chefs to arrive from the province of Sichuan, is in full swing, serving excellent food, not all of it hot and spicy by any means.
At a recent dinner we had two beautifully prepared dishes, one with the delightful name of Tinkling the Bells with Sliced Pork, pork sauteed with mushrooms and vegetables and topped with a Sichuan dumpling. The other was spicy Pan Fried Jumbo Shrimps, shrimp cooked in a tomato sauce.
You'll feel right at home: There are pandas everywhere you look in the tastefully decorated restaurant.
Sichuan Pavillion is located at 322 East 44th St., right down the street from Costello's Bar, a New York landmark where James Thurber originals hang on the walls.
For convention-goers, who have heard about the Palace for years but never went because they didn't want to spend $200 for a dinner, there is now an alternative. The restaurant, which has had some financial problems but is still considered tops in Manhattan, is offering a prix fixe dinner for $50. The luxurious surroundings are the same and so is the service; the same chef, Michel Fitoussi is still cooking so the quality of the food is unchanged but several dishes, found on the more expensive dinners have been eliminted. There are five courses instead of the eight at the $95 dinner or 10 at the $150 dinner: no Russian caviar, just American, no foie gras, no fish course, no sorbet, no fruit and cheese course. And now the least expensive wine is $15; before it was $35. There is still a 20 percent suggested gratuity added to the bill, but you don't have to tip that much if you don't want to. The Palace is at 420 E. 59th St.
If you've always wondered what to do with your old pots and pans, Kitchen Bazaar will show you how to turn them into money. . .or at least a discount.
Between July 28 and Aug 31, if you donate your worn out pots, pans, small appliances or other ready-to-be-discarded kitchen utensils to Goodwill Industries, Kitchen Bazaar will give you up to $2 off per item on some of its brown and flame French enamel on cast iron Le Creuset and Cousances cookware. There is no limit to the number of items you can buy. You can get the discount for each item you donate. All you need to do is present the receipt from Goodwill for the donated items.
Kitchen Bazaar will extend the same discount if old kitchenware items are donated to other charities as long as you bring in the receipts.
I was misled. In the story about the chefs from Canton who cooked an 18 course banquet at the Kowloon Restaurant (July 24), the custom of turning an empty toasting glass upside down over your head was attributed to Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Komer. According to a reader who spent some time in China, it is a Chinese custom. According to Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, whom Komer accompanied on the trip, it is not only a Chinese custom, it's practiced in Russia, too.