A Feast For Bros: The Game of Thrones Season 4 Red Carpet Premiere and Cast Party

This writer, foodie, and long-time fantasy geek got the extraordinary opportunity to join the cast and crew of the HBO Original Series, Game of Thrones, for Season 4’s grand premiere screening and swanky after party. The Red Carpet was rolled out at Lincoln Center and a specially designed statue of Queen Daenerys’ pet dragon, Drogon, greeted guests with a toothy grin, as did I.

Music is the Food of Love (and Murder–at least on this show)

At Avery Fisher Hall, some of the fabulous string musicians of the New York Philharmonic performed moving renditions of the show’s opening theme along with other fan-favorites like “The Rains of Castamere” and “Mhysa” with Ramin Djawadi, the show’s composer, conducting his own masterpieces. Lucky enough to sit in the second row, the epic music wafted into my ears—each string onstage feeling like one within my own heart. I must admit, when the title credits started rolling, it saddened me that the Philharmonic’s version can’t be the main one. It was THAT awesome! At the start of the ceremonies, Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) graced us with a stern warning (really some threats) about the dire consequences of leaving one’s cellphone on or recording the show. Before the screening began, show runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss as well as HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo left us with some triumphant speeches.

The Cello solos really stood out!

The Cello solos really stood out!

Food of Thrones: Inside the Episode and Its Characters’ Stomachs

While I was thrilled to get a sneak peek of Season 4’s first episode, I won’t be going out of my way to spoil anything too specific about the episode’s plot. However, as this is a food blog, I will be happy to divulge what the main characters ate, and there was actually quite a bit of feasting going on in Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) watched her sweet dragons flambé an unlucky goat with fresh pepper breath. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) had trouble eating pigeon pie and lemon cakes after receiving some troubling news about her family. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) continued to drink red wine excessively while bossing people around. The Wilding Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and her crew watched some bloodthirsty tribesmen eat some of their enemies while thinking of better fare. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McAnn) resorted to desperate measures for some delicious roast chicken. It’s a yummy start to what Michael Lombardo promises is the best season of [one of] the greatest show[s] on television!

Everybody has those days... You know it's bad if Sansa won't even touch the lemon cakes!

Everybody has those days… You know it’s bad if Sansa won’t even touch the lemon cakes–they’re her FAVORITE!

The Feast

I found it borderline impossible to engage with the actors on the Red Carpet or at the premiere itself as they were preoccupied with the paparazzi, but the cast party sang a different song as I had the opportunity to wine and dine with several of the stars—really got the royal treatment! Held in the Hall of Biodiversity and Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History Uptown, the Season 4 Cast Party featured animated flames all across the walls and over the exhibit’s signature fiberglass whale—that’s right, we were greeted with something as outlandish and mythical as a flaming whale!

For us smallfolk, there were opportunities for some virtual reality games based on the show, costume exhibits, and a photo on the Iron Throne, but I think I had a much better time trying the delicious party food and mingling with the cast and crew!
Better than a royal wedding! And less violent :)

Better than a royal wedding! And less violent 🙂

Of the positively kingly buffet offerings, I most fondly remember the fillet of beef, arctic char in miso glaze, and gnocchi in crimini and shiitake mushroom cream sauce. There was also a kingdom of appetizers, including tuna tartare, minced chicken with peanut sauce, and asparagus wrapped in pancetta, as well as an open bar with some show-inspired cocktails—I heard The White Walker was to die for!

Fillet of Beef, Gnocchi with Mushrooms in a Cream Sauce, Arctic Char Marinated in Miso
Fillet of Beef, Gnocchi with Mushrooms in a Cream Sauce, Arctic Char Marinated in Miso

For dessert, we were offered an assortment of cupcakes, pastries, cookies, and other treats, but I settled for the tasty blueberry almond tart a la mode.

Blueberry Almond Tart a la Mode

Blueberry Almond Tart a la Mode

FOOD FOR OTT AND THE STARS

I drank wine with Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

I drank wine with Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

I jested with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)!

I jested with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)!

I met the incredible author of the books that inspired the series, George R.R. Martin. When I asked him for tips on combating writer's block, he reached for the wine glass!

I met the incredible author of the books that inspired the series, George R.R. Martin. When I asked him for tips on combating writer’s block, he reached for his wine glass… CLASSIC!

King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) showed me mercy and even allowed me a picture. He has no immediate plans to annex Manhattan to the Seven Kingdoms.

King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) showed me mercy and even allowed me a picture. He has no immediate plans to annex Manhattan to the Seven Kingdoms.

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) agreed to a photo as long as I promised to scream with her. It was a long, good scream--made me feel like a warrior!

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) agreed to a photo as long as I promised to scream with her. It was a long, good scream–made me feel like a warrior!

A Fiery Photo with Lady Melisandre, the Red Priestess (Carice Van Houten).

A Fiery Photo with Lady Melisandre, the Red Priestess (Carice Van Houten).

Sansa Stark (Sophie Wright) was kind enough to take this photo of me with Ser Loras Tyrell (William Finn). I kid you not when I say she declared us "SEXY!" Ser Loras was actually sipping an appropriately green party drink!

Sansa Stark (Sophie Wright) was kind enough to take this photo of me with Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones). I kid you not when I say she declared us “SEXY!” Ser Loras was sipping an appropriately House Tyrell-Green party drink!

I told Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) that he looks quite dapper in a suit and when he's not tied up or being tortured!

I told Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) that he looks quite dapper in a suit and when he’s not tied up or being tortured!

Schmoozing with Shae (Sibel Kikelli)!

Schmoozing with Shae (Sibel Kikelli)!

The Wilding Ygritte (Rose Leslie) looking especially demure out of fur and boots.

The Wilding Ygritte (Rose Leslie) looking especially demure out of fur and boots.

I asked Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) to do something menacing for the camera, but he doesn't take direction. Just look what happened to the King in the North... I asked Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) to do something menacing for the camera, but he told me “I don’t take direction from boys… Remember what happened to the King in the North?” Plenty menacing 🙂

Missandei (Nathaile Emmanuel) is happy to play an intelligent woman of color in a medieval fantasy drama.

Missandei (Nathaile Emmanuel) is happy to play an intelligent woman of color in a medieval fantasy drama.

HODOR!

HODOR! (Kristian Nairn)

The festivities went on until midnight. It was honestly one of the greatest experiences of my young life. These characters, experiences, and tastes will stay with me for a very long time.

If my name wasn't Otter, I'd totally take this flaming whale for my House Sigil!

If my name wasn’t Otter, I’d totally take this flaming whale for my House Sigil!
Food For Ott would like to thank the good folks at The New York Philharmonic for this exclusive invitation, the cast and crew of HBO’s Game of Thrones for being sweet and humoring a fan, and the HBO staff for hosting the perfect night.Game of Thrones comes back to HBO on Sunday, April 6th, 2014 with Season 4 playing for network subscribers at 9 PM.
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The Fiesta’s in the Family

Nothing warms the soul on a chilly February evening like authentic Mexican cuisine, and El Maguey y La Tuna offers diners an especially spicy, tasty respite in these cold times. Named after two desert plants, the agave (known for its use in the production of sweeteners and tequila) and prickly pear (an edible, fruity cactus), El Maguey Y La Tuna has nothing to do with fish and everything to do with the Mexican desert—a world more bountiful than most would imagine.

Portrait of an Agave Plant on the restaurant's wall

Portrait of an Agave Plant on the restaurant’s wall

Located along East Houston, this father-daughter run restaurant has brought an authentic Mexican experience to Manhattan’s Lower East Side for over a decade. Leonides Cortez and his daughter Maria truly know the meaning of a good family meal, and it shows in their cooking, which consists of family recipes handed down through the generations.

Our first course was the cactus salad, a light, fresh palette cleanser with an exceptional cilantro dressing. Zesty and flavorful, I actually asked our server to let me keep it around for the rest of the meal. The cactus came with a firm yet juicy texture that added a refreshing sweetness to the salad.

Cactus Salad with Lettuce, Tomato, Onion. CIlantro dressing not pictured.

Cactus Salad with Lettuce, Tomato, Onion. CIlantro dressing not pictured.

The pancita came for our second course and it was by far one of the most interesting things I’d ever tried—a spicy chili pepper soup with chunks of beef tongue. Our server let us know that pancita is a popular hangover remedy in Mexico and after having a spoonful, I knew exactly what he meant. Between the fiery broth and sinewy, savory beef tongue, the soup made for an intense experience, leaving me alert and awake for the duration of my meal.

Pancita with Cilantro

Pancita with Cilantro

I tried the Enchilada al Maguey for my first entrée and it was easily the highlight of the meal for me. The morsels of tender chicken inside the pleasantly firm and sturdy tortillas were cooked and seasoned flawlessly. Simmered and marinated in one of the restaurant’s specialty mole sauces, I can honestly give it the distinction of the tastiest enchilada I have ever tasted. It’s going to be really hard for me to stomach any Tex-Mex attempts at enchiladas from now on.

Enchiladas Al Maguey

Enchiladas Al Maguey

El Maguey Y La Tuna prides itself on its homemade mole sauces, which are also handmade without the use of a blender or a food processer—something unheard of outside of Mexico. Most Mexican restaurants either import their sauces or take the easy way out with technology. Crafted by the hands of mother and sous-chef, Manuela Cortez, each mole sauce added something extraordinary to the restaurant’s main courses.

The Mole Verde Pork and Chile Relleno in Five Chile Mole proved that El Maguey Y La Tuna deserves the distinction of International House of Mole, a title our server told us the restaurant is in the process of attaining! My bite of boneless pork melted in my mouth, though not before leaving a pleasantly peppery impression from the surrounding mole verde.  The Cortez family has truly mastered the art of crafting these mole sauces as well as pairing them with dishes.

Pork in Mole Verde

Pork in Mole Verde

Another favorite of mine, the Chile Relleno offered another authentic Mexican treat! A roasted chili pepper coated in a light batter and stuffed with fried cheese, El Maguey Y La Tuna’s version comes in a crimson mole sauce made from five different chili peppers. The mild, creamy cheese and red-hot sauce complimented each other well, making for a complex and yummy vegetarian dish.

Chile Relleno with Seven-Chilli Pepper Mole

Chile Relleno with Five-Chilli Pepper Mole

After some decidedly spicy offerings, the restaurant demonstrated an equally satisfying command over sweetness with dessert. I sampled the Mexican Hot Chocolate and Banana Pinata, a fried empanada stuffed with ripe bananas and served with ice cream. El Maguey Y La Tuna uses these adorable mugs for its hot beverages and the rich, dark chocolate made me feel like an Aztec King. Warm and crunchy on the outside but chilled and fruity on the inside, the Banana Pinata rounded out the meal in a big way. El Maguey Y La Tuna really adds an ‘s’ to the desert!

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Banana Piñata with Ice Cream

Banana Piñata with Ice Cream

Cozy and colorful, El Maguey Y La Tuna conjures the very essence of a pueblo village. Adorned with terra cotta floors and plates and all manner of desert imagery, one really feels like they have left Manhattan after sitting inside. El Maguey Y La Tuna also offers a wide selection of Mexican beers, wines, margaritas, and other specialty drinks. The Jalapeno Margarita and Maria’s Red Sangria are some customer favorites!

Fresh Cantaloupe Margarita

Fresh Cantaloupe Margarita

The experience is both casual and intimate, a popular dining spot for both families and couples. If you’re looking for some tried and true Mexican cuisine and you want the real deal, then El Maguey Y La Tuna is a budget and family friendly hot spot!

El Maguey Y La Tuna

Address: 321 East Houston Street Between Avenue B and Attorney Street

Phone: (212) 473 3919

Website: http://www.elmagueyylatunanyc.com

Lunch from 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM

Dinner from 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM