In case you participated in the New York Wine & Food festival for the Illy swag and Curtis Stone sightings and didn't learn a damn thing, Grub got some tips from Alton Brown over at the Welch's/Zagat HQ on how to pretend to be half as smart as him. Incidentally, Brown says he's not such a brainiac: "There are people who know butt-loads more than me; I work very hard to make my job look hard." He also says that he has no close Food Network friends, other than "maybe" Bobby Flay, who "was nice to me back when I was the world's biggest nobody, a nothing little pip squeak, nine years ago, and still hasn't changed, and has amazingly kept all his hair."
How to fake it as a wine connoisseur:
Look at the wine list and narrow in on something like the Brunellos. Then look for a year that's missing, and say, "Do you have the '84?" And the waiter will say "no." And then they might recommend a different year, but you should reply, "Yeah but that year was too 'wet'" and they'll agree because they won't know the difference. And soon the conversation will get going and you're safe.
How to fake it with fancy cheese:
If you're trying to impress people at a dinner party, buy by animal. Buy some cow, buy some sheep, buy some goat. With cheese, serving an odd number, like five cheeses, looks much better. Make sure the fifth one is wrapped in something funny, like ash or grape leaves. And always, always serve cheese with fruit, like quince paste or a little bundle of grapes. Honey can be nice if you're serving something hard, or blue. Truffle oil sucks, don't offer that.
How to fake seasonal ingredient knowledge:
Remember, ramps are one of the few truly seasonal foods. They're a very big deal. Sure, it's a green onion in a lot of ways, but I will always go more ga-ga for them than Vidalia onions. I love kale. I'm very fastidious in my diet, but mostly with my breakfast, which is always a smoothie of Welch's grape juice, banana, and kale.
How to fake being a great home cook:
Experiment with pumpkins — different varieties, not your average jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but move into cooler, smaller varieties like Sugar Pie pumpkin. Genetically, there's not a whole lot of difference between a butternut squash and a pumpkin, you know.