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Sunday night, the Upper East Side of Manhattan. That’s not a confluence of time and place that generally means much to me. (I find myself uptown almost never; my definition of the UES is 2nd Avenue and 13th Street, the location of Momofuku Ssäm Bar.) But Mario Batali was having an unmissable party at the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute to launch his amazing new TV series, Spain…On the Road Again on that night, in that hood. For anyone who didn’t see our big story in Food & Wine in September and the roadblock other coverage in places like People, Mario’s new PBS show is based on his road trip around Spain with his friends Gwyneth Paltrow, food writer Mark Bittman and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols in search of as much food and wine as they could get their hands on. (The New York Times called the series “a game changer for public television in terms of attention. Even Ken Burns, PBS’s biggest star, didn’t get a segment on Oprah.”) The party sounded crazy—red carpet, rumors of Jerry Seinfeld attending—and, when I got there, the street was wall-to-wall black Escalades.
Inside, the party’s full attention was focused on one part of the building: the corner where Bono was standing. Just when I got close enough to talk to him (Was he in town for the UN General Assembly? And/or to meet with the presidential candidates for the ONE campaign? And/or a surprise guest on Batali’s show, like Michael Stipe from REM?), the speeches started. Gwyneth, looking gorgeous, recounted the first day of shooting in Madrid, when she accidentally pushed the wrong button on her new Mercedes and activated the self-massaging seat (Mario radio edfor help that her seat was freaking out, but they finally got it sorted out). Mario talked about how 100 tourists go to Tuscany for every one tourist that goes to Spain, and convinced me to book my next vacation to Galicia. Then the serious after-party planning began. There was talk of the Spotted Pig, and also Lupa, where I knew Bono had gone to have dinner. But since I was on the Upper East Side on a Sunday night, in very unfamiliar territory, I went home to watch my DVRed On the Road Again (for anyone who wants to watch/record it, it airs WNET at 3 p.m. on Sundays; 10 p.m. Mondays on WLIW in New York City).