Land of milk and money

Have a glass of irony with your high-end cheese
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› paulr@sfbg.com

At Gourmet magazine's recent Wine Cellar extravaganza in the Galleria, I chatted with a Kerrygold functionary about currency exchanges, having first fortified myself with a few glasses of wine and an empanada. One would not want to drift into discussions of the dollar and the euro on an empty stomach, nor in a condition of total and stony sobriety. How about renaming the dollar the bungee, incidentally? Maybe it would help bring the great plunge to a stop.

Kerrygold is an Irish dairy concern with a huge export business in butter and boutique cheeses, much of it on this side of the Atlantic, so the diverging fortunes of the dollar and the euro are of intense interest to its corporate strategists. But an even more pressing issue, I was told, is the rising global demand for milk, as people in China, a onetime land of tea now rapidly becoming citified, start developing the Western taste for coffee and piling into their local Starbucks for morning lattes. It is one of life's larger ironies at the moment that even as our drive-through way of life shows signs of collapsing, much of the rest of the world seeks to adopt it. Happiness is getting into your car and driving somewhere for a $4 cup of milky coffee. O blessed marketers!

Irony did not seem to be the evening's theme, but then, irony is seldom to the taste of swells. Groups of the well-dressed and well-off swirled about the huge hall as if at a waltz, nibbling and sipping and nibbling some more. Quite a few of the city's grandest restaurants — including Aqua, La Folie, Scott Howard, and Limón — were represented among the food stations, while off in a corner a group from Louisiana was barbecuing large prawns in spicy sauce, and a crew on the stage was dishing out low-calorie Indian food. The queues for these treats were formidable. Even swells, apparently, can stand only so much monkfish liver, or spot-prawn sashimi in apple-fennel broth with coconut marshmallow.

Back in the land of Kerrygold, I grazed musingly across a small prairie of cheeses and used toothpicks. For a moment I was alone, the herd of swells having galloped across the floor in pursuit of some new delight. I felt the crinkly dollars in my pocket and murmured reassuringly to them.

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