Polo Hats and Polo Cheese
I've sat through a lot of sports press conferences in my life. Today's polo press conference was the first I've ever attended that offered a cheese plate featuring, among other selections, Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog (a creamy, delicate, sometimes oozingly drippy California goat cheese centered with a thin layer of vegetable ash) and Parmigiano Reggiano (which, I don't care if you can get it in Giant nowadays, is still the greatest cheese in the world). Of course, this was also the first sports press conference I've ever attended in which I was greeted with a cheek kiss.
Anyhow, Market Salamander is the official caterer of the America's Cup of Polo, and Equinox's Todd Gray is the executive Chef of Market Salamander; he was at today's pre-polo press conference, although I never got a chance to interview him about polo and cheese. Thankfully, Equinox co-owner Ellen Kassoff Gray stuck around for the part of the day during which media members were mercilessly pressured to put down their notebooks and mount polo ponies and potentially break their necks whilst swinging large mallets, and so I got to ask Ellen about the proper cheeses for polo watching.
"How sophisticated are your blog readers?" she asked? "Should I talk cheddar?"
Unclear. My immediate editors have quite sophisticated palates. My typical reader likely uses leftover pretzel shards to scoop cheez dip directly out of the can. Ellen decided to recommend Drunken Goat cheese (a fairly sturdy Spanish goat soaked in red wine and now widely available), Mahon (a cow's milk cheese from the Spanish island of Menorca; if you like older Gouda you'll love it) and maybe some Brie, although she worried that was too pedestrian for my readership. I don't think she needs to worry about that. Also, perhaps some d'Artagnan pate. For your general polo eating needs, think picnic fare; sandwiches and such.
For the record, the organizers are saying this venue (Historic Morven Park in Leesburg) is now the premiere facility for polo spectating in the world.
"The very best viewing in the world, there's no question," Chairman Tareq Salahi told me.
Both sides of the field can hold up to 10,000 spectators with clear views of the field, although this year's event is zoned for a crowd of just 5,000. And behind one goal, of course, is the stage that will host Journey, and yeah I've mentioned Journey about 38 times in my polo writing career, but I just can't get over the fact that Journey is playing a postgame polo show in Leesburg this weekend.
In any case, while I talked with Tareq, he was actually on his Argentine polo pony "Miami," a horse which cost about $100,000, which is about 53 times what my car is worth, which is cool. Also, U.S. team member Charlie Muldoon just pointed out that his polo horses spent the last two months in Palm Beach, getting fit for Saturday. And that they regularly get massages and acupuncture. My car's lucky to get a yearly oil change.
In other spectator developments, if you're a lady, bring a fancy hat this weekend. Tareq's wife, Michaele (she of the cheek kisses), has a very playful number for Saturday that was designed by Amanda Zeil, a hat designer from Bath.
And in the most important news of the day, the America's Cup of Polo Official Cocktail ($10 each) is no longer called the CasaRita, in honor of Casa Noble tequila. It's now called the PoloRita, in honor of Marco. No, no, in honor of polo, I mean. The ingredients are 1 oz. Orange Juice, 2 oz. Casa Noble Crystal tequila, 3 oz. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, and a splash of lime juice. If this whole polo/Journey/fancy hat thing seems magically mystical now, imagine what it will look like after seven or eight PoloRitas.
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