Friday, July 31, 2009

Hanging out with Some Really Happy Stars

On the 230 Fifth Rooftop Garden for Starlight's Night Under the Stars benefit. Photo courtesy of Starlight Children's Foundation.
WHAT
a pleasant breeze that was the other night on the roof garden off the swank lounge, 230 Fifth. What a pleasant evening it was! And if there were few or no stars in the sky, there were plenty on the roof.

In giddy progress, “Night Under the Stars,” a $$$$-raiser of the Friends of Starlight committee, a group of young professionals (24-39) doing something to make the world a better place for some of society’s most vulnerable members (not Wall Street bankers).

Here I am sititing on a comfortable wood bench chatting and basking in the glow of my two new BFF Shannon X and Tina Fey lookalike, Cathy J. CJ does good work for the American Foundation for the Blind and has one of the coolest business cards I’ve ever touched: It’s in braille! SX, too, did a good turn at AFB. At the moment, however, she is exploring other exciting and life-altering opportunities. Over wine – sparking and still – and some mighty tasty and addictive finger foods, including vegetable samosas, we solve a few of the world’s more pressing problems and work in some good girl talk/gossip, too.

Everyone seems to be in such a good mood. Is it because the rain that was forecast is not falling? The seductive breeze? Tanquilizing effect of the open-bar cocktails? Even the Empire State Building across the way seems to have a brighter gleam.

Could the Starlight Children’s Foundation be behind the joie de vivre? After all, as a result of this evening it has around $20K more to do all manner of good and helpful things for seriously ill kiddos (and their families) who live in the TriState area. One can imagine Starlight's mood.

“Starlight is thankful to have a dedicated group of young professionals who take an active part in helping seriously ill children,” said Elaine Siver, Executive Director of Starlight of NY*NJ*CT. “It is so important for young professionals to recognize the meaning of giving back and this group definitely understands the impact they have and the support they are extending to help brighten the lives of the 275,000 children we bring smiles to each year.”

Yet another reason for the crowd's good mood could be anticipation. Among the stakes for raffle ticket buyers, a getaway to Costa Rica. Smiles all around.

Learn more about Starlight Children’s Foundation of NY*NJ*CT and Friends of Starlight committee at www.starlight-newyork.org.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Many Moons Later, Making a Case for Mars




I had two impressions as I sat listening to astronauts Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin speak yesterday at the American Museum of Natural History. Specifically, BA. The first impression was that I was in the presence of greatness.

In my humble journalistic career, Yours Truly has interviewed/been in the room with/rubbed shoulders with a fair number of famous and prominent people, but there was only one other time that I felt I was in the presence of greatness. I will comment on that in a future post.

Here I was listening to JL, the man who was the commander of the tragic Apollo 13 mission. And to BA, the second man to walk. On the moon. I’m thinking, “BA is not someone you’re in the same room with. BA is someone whom you’ve read about in your history books. He’s a trivia question and a trivia answer.” (Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel to space, was invited but did not show).

The second impression I had listening to BA: “here is this guy who walked on the moon in 1969 and most of the people here listening to him were not born in 1969.” A number of celebrities, or should I refer to them as "stars" – Cassie, Whitney Port, Jessica Szohr Lance Bass, Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima – not even knowing their birthdays, I’m pretty sure they weren’t born in 1969. Maybe by 1979 or even 89. But not 1969.

The occasion (and part of a larger travel-themed advertising campaign) is a Louis Vuitton reception celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Lunar Landing on July 20, 1969 and the introduction of a hypothetical, special order travel case. For those who didn’t know, host Daniel Lalonde, President and CEO of Louis Vuitton North America, informed them that his company made its name as a purveyor of luxury travel gear. To commemorate the moon landing, LV imagined the “Malle Mars” (pictured above opened, at left, and closed, at right), an egg-/space ship-shaped trunk resting on a pedestal/launch pad that would be the perfect carry-on for a trip to, say, Mars. Alas, LV only imagined the one, and it is not for sale. Also on display at the reception were NASA original photographs, antique space toys, sculptures and astronomy photographs by French artist/photographer Jean Larivière.

The venue for the reception was the Rose Center for Earth and Space. What an interesting room! For instance, if you’ve never quite understood or you’ve forgotten what a planet is, it is explained in a very accessible and interesting way. Or if you really don’t know what a solar system is and have been too embarrassed to ask for fear you’d be thought an idiot, there’s an explanation. And then that whole story about the rings around Saturn. They did not come from Tiffany’s. Check it out.

And if you want to catch a glimpse of the “Malle Mars” and some of the other items shown at the Rose Center, hustle over to the LV store by Monday (20 July). Should you shop at this location through Monday, do so responsibly and with the knowledge that LV will hand over a percentage of sales from travel-related items to Al Gore’s The Climate Project (theclimateproject.org).

Louis Vuitton is situated at 1 E. 57th St. @Fifth Avenue.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Helping Women Doing It for Themselves

A dress from the Aysha Saeed collection. Photo by Karoline Barwinski.

WHEN a favorite charity is still counting the proceeds from the fund-raiser a couple of weeks or so after the fact, that has to be (or better be) a good thing.

Aysha Saeed has no doubt that is the case for Bpeace (www.bpeace.org). The New York designer (www.ayshasaeed.com/) known and loved by a select few for her facility at combining femininity and elegance with accessible price points staged a fashion and beauty event in late June at Nikki Beach to raise funds and awareness for her cause.

During the evening, guests availed themselves of discounted spa services, musical entertainment and, of course, food/booze. The highlight, however, was AS’s charming collection of pert, sleeveless dresses (some with fanciful hats) in optimistic hues like lime, lemon, fuchsia and coral, with splashes of black and white – sometimes together, sometimes apart.

So how much did AS raise for Bpeace? Some thousands and still counting ...


Bpeace is a business network with a passion for helping female entrepreneurs in countries wracked by war and strife (think usual suspects, Afghanistan and Rwanda) expand their business and create jobs, and in the process jumpstart devastated economies.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

257 (Eateries) + 20 (Days) = 1 (R. Week)


Bice Ristorante Executive Chef Jose Liriano, left, (and helper) serves pasta to visitors at the “Great Tastes of Summer.” Photo by Julienne Schaer/Courtesy of NYC & Company.

GOOSE liver ravioli (Babbo) isn’t on the menu. Neither is vegan quinoa risotto w/green curry sauce (Waverly Inn). Ditto for wild striped bass w/artichokes barigoule (La Grenouille).

But no one should be left unsated during “NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2009,” which opens for business today (12 July) and plates the final meals on the last day of the month, a net gain of one week over its previous 17 years. Two-hundred 57 other pricey and not-as-pricey eating establishments are throwing open their doors to diners with an appetite for good food at bargain prices ($24.07 three-course prix-fixe lunches and $35 three-course prix-fixe dinners – excluding Saturdays, beverage, tax and gratuity).

In the mood for candy beets, tomato, avocado and goat cheese (Benoit Restaurant & Bar)? Guacamole prepared shabu-shabu style (Rosa Mexicano)? What about onion- and chili-crusted short ribs w/egg noodles and pea shoots (Spice Market)? For dessert, an apple rhubarb crisp w/brown sugar oat crumble and Grand Marnier Chantilly (RW newbie Red Café)? Reservations are recommended/ required.

To further increase diners’ pleasure and fervor, RW partners (with NYC & Company), American Express and JetBlue Airways, also offer palate teasers. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola® did its bit of pl/teasing Thursday when it picked up the tab for the “Great Tastes of Summer.” The large crowd that showed at the Shops at Columbus Circle sampled CC product, musical performances by cast members from Hair and tidbits from Tribeca Grill, Porter House New York, Spice Market, Bice Ristorante and DB Bistro Moderne.

For more information on “NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2009,” including special offers, the list of participating restaurants and selected menus, call 311 and/or visit www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Porch for the People in Park for the People


At the opening party the crowd enjoys The Southwest Porch at Bryant Park. Photo by Diane Bondareff.

ON the way out of The Southwest Porch at Bryant Park opening party, I am saying goodbye to “Top Chef” host Tom Colicchio and his ’wichcraft partners, Sisha Ortuzar and Jeffrey Zurofsky. I’d just risen from a power nod in a comfortable Adirondack chair and I’m telling TC how I appreciate that it’s dark and there are no mosquitoes messing about me or the porch.

Instead of concurring, he crafts a tall tale of myriad menacing mosquitoes in New York, especially in the neighborhood of his high-rise on the far west side of Manhattan. “It’s been raining a lot here, and the mosquitoes are gonna be really bad,” says this New Jersey boy to Yours Truly, a Louisiana belle. He’s my co-host, so I show deference. But, really. By the time I leave Himself, however, he is conceding that perhaps the mosquitoes, in say, the bayous and swamps of Louisiana are a tad more worrisome than any that exist in New Jersey or New York. Incidentally, during our tête-à-tête neither of us is bitten. Nor do we bat away anything.

So it goes on the Southwest Porch, so named for the airline that built it. The outdoor lounge is the means by which the Dallas-based air carrier chooses to inform anyone who cares to know that circa late June 2009 it is flying in and out of LaGuardia Airport (to Chicago and Baltimore). Aptly, it is located in the southwest corner of the park. Ingenious! Why post garish billboards all over town when you can simply construct an outdoor space complete with wooden beams, swings, chairs Adirondack and rocking, trellises, cacti, power outlets, complimentary honey roasted peanuts, as well as a sign bearing your name, lest anyone thinks s/he’s at a fanciful sandwich emporium? Those marigold-colored cushions, though, are going to need regular laundering.

In case you’re wondering what sandwich purveyor, ’wichcraft, has to do with the porch. Simple: “Southwest approached us about partnering with them because we are in the southwest corner of the park,” TC said about an hour before that mad riff about mosquitoes. “They asked us to create a menu that captures the spirit of their new service ... It’s a natural collaboration.” Besides, it doesn’t do to have a porch/lounge without food and drinks.

Down South, the front porch is for genteel consumptions like sipping mint juleps and iced tea with lemon and maybe a little too much sugar. Conversely, the back porch is for doing the unmentionable to watermelon and such. But at the Southwest Porch it’s OK to consume anything on the menu that ’wichcraft built, including one of four sandwiches that makeup its centerpiece and that also pay homage to Southwest destinations.

The Meatball Parm is New York’s own; Bratwurst for Chicago, the Soft Shell Crab for Baltimore. And for headquarters, the Southwestern Pork, which self-described foodie Elizabeth Lieb took a liking to. “You think of barbecue sauce as something you get in South Carolina, but this is different,” she says, referring to the flavors she susses out: cinnamon, clove, Morodcan spice rub, etc. Not bad, EL. TC says the pork is seasoned with chiles, cinnamon, cloves and cayenne pepper. No doubt, he left something out.

In any case, the wiches are there for the ordering. But porch visitors can sit all day and not order a thing. They can even bring their own eats, because here anything goes as long as it’s legal and within the confines of decorum and decency. The porch, ’wichcraft’s SO gives me to know, is for anybody and everybody.

And its builder agrees. " ... we are incredibly proud to be bringing the signature Southwest spirit to all New Yorkers at The Southwest Porch at Bryant Park ... We hope everyone will come to relax and have fun ..." says CEO Gary Kelly.

“It’s very democratic; it’s for the people of New York,” SO says, repeating a main talking point of the Bryant Park Corporation, which operates the park.

The BPC is big on democracy – of the people, by the people, for the people. Bryant Park, including the porch, is one place in Gotham where the huddled masses enjoy an open invitation – even the homeless. “You deal with them as you would anybody else,” SO declares. “As long as nobody bothers anybody, they’re welcome.”

And so they are. A few days after the party I am sitting on the porch with the Crazy Jordanians (see 5 July post/“On the Yellow Brick Road with Crazy Js”). To our right, lounging and dozing on a large ottoman is a homeless man; every now and then he takes a nip from his half pint of vodka. No one shoos him away.

Gotta love democracy.

The Southwest Porch at Bryant Park (@6th Avenue b/w 40th and 41st streets) is open to the public during park hours. Through mid-September, food and beverage service is available from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday-Thursday, and noon-9 p.m. on Friday.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

On the Yellow Brick Road with Crazy Js


PROLOGUE: I haven’t posted in a few days. Put it down to my continued recovery from the King’s death, plus general fatigue and some other things I won’t put a name to. Anywho, below (beginning with No. 4) is a serialized account of a recent outing that debuted on Twitter. This is a holiday (233 years young is our great nation) and slow weekend, so perhaps something light is just what the doctor ordered.


4, YESTIDY TOOK CARE OF BUS. @FANCY FOOD SHOW. (more on show in upcoming post) AFT, THESE (SELF-DESCRIBED) CRAZY JORDANIANS KIDNAPPED ME ... MORE TK1:46 PM Jul 1st from txt
5, ... CRAZY JORDANIANS INSISTED I GO SHOPPING W/THEM INSTEAD OF 2 MARIE CLAIRE EVENT 4 GOOD CAUSE ... MORE TK1:50 PM Jul 1st from txt
6, ... AFT LIL ARM-TWISTING, I WENT SHOPPING - 4 COSMETICS: BIOTHERM ... MORE TK1:54 PM Jul 1st from txt
7, ... I STEER CRA Js AWAY FROM MACYS 2 BLOOMINGDALE’S IN SOHO. NO BIODERM ... MORE TK.1:58 PM Jul 1st from txt
8, ... SO OFF WE WENT 2 SEPHORA. NO BIODERM. THE CLERK SUGGESTS BDALES. NO GO, WE SAY. QUICK GET MACYS ON THE PHONE. DIAL 411, THE CLERK SAYS I PHONE 311 INSTEAD. THEY TELL ME TO DIAL 411… MORE TK ...2:47 PM Jul 1st from txt
9, ... B4 I DAIL 411, THE CLERK SUGGESTS GOOGLE AND THEN TAKES MY PHONE AND TEXTS GOOGLE HITS ME BACKS ... MORE TK.4:21 PM Jul 1st from txt
10, ... GOOGLE TEXTS, GIVING ME SEVERAL MACYS IN DC (I HAVE DC NO.) AND ASKING WHETHER I WANT MACYS NY ... MORE TK.4:44 PM Jul 1st from txt
11, ... MWHILE, ANOTHER SEPHORA CLERK USES HIS SMART PH 2 GET MACYS FROM INTERNET. AFT SEVERAL TRIES I GET PERSON ... MORE TK.7:33 PM Jul 1st from txt
12, NO BIODEQM @MACYS!! NOT 4 A YEAR. AND NOT 4 A YEAR IN THE WHOLE U.S. CRA J #1 IS DEFLATED ... MORE TK.7:39 PM Jul 1st from txt
13, ... IN SECONDS THE CRA J IS RE-INFLATED: LETS GO GET SOME BEERS, HE SAYS ... MORE TK.7:43 PM Jul 1st from txt
14, ... WE SET OFF 4 SPRING ST. CAFE AND BEERS. @THE CORNER OF SPRING/BWAY COMES A HUGE DOWNPOUR. SOAKING WET, WE SPRINT 4
BANANA REPUBLIC ... MORE TK7:50 PM Jul 1st from txt
15, ... We fake shopped in Ban Rep, the Cra Js following me like little ducklings. ... More TK8:52 PM Jul 1st from web
16, ... I told the clerk staring at our little caravan that Cra Js were drag queens on their first shopping expedition. Big laughs ... More TK8:55 PM Jul 1st from web
17, ... By now, there is a manageable downpour and off we go the 1-1/2 block to the bar at the Spring St. Cafe. Yea!!! ... More TK9:04 PM Jul 1st from web
18, ... At the cafe, we introduce ourselves to bartender, David. I order Prosecco and the Cra Js order STELLA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!9:21 PM Jul 1st from web
18a, ... Over the Cra Js' 3 beers (a piece) and my two Proseccos, we spoke of many things - fools and kings, which makes us hungry ... More TK.
9:27 PM Jul 1st from web
19, ... Choice made – Spice Market – we set off on foot, with me as GMS. Following the yellow brick road west across Spring St. ... More TK9:44 PM Jul 1st from web
20, ... Near Crosby St., Cra J # 1 stops us. Inspiration! We should go to Babbo, Mario Batali's joint that has a 3-mo. wait list ... More TK9:56 PM Jul 1st from web
21, ... Like Spice Mkt., Babbo is NWest, so it does not change the GMS too much. We continue west and turn north at 6th Ave. ...More TK10:03 PM Jul 1st from web
22, ... On way, I see Greenhouse, a venue of many parties that I've been invited to. Now, I know how to get there when I care to go ... More TK10:06 PM Jul 1st from web
23, ... Approaching Houston, I explain to Cra Js Soho/Noho. We are not too far from Babbo, though I've no idea where it is ... More TK10:10 PM Jul 1st from web
24, ... Time to ask for directions – I am woman, I do not mind. We stop at Mex place and ask the hostess. She's vague ... More TK10:11 PM Jul 1st from web
25, ... While the hostess is away, a male colleague of hers approaches stand. I ask whether he's an actor. "You look actorly," I say ... More TK10:20 PM Jul 1st from web
26, ... He is not an actor but says if I were an agent, he would give it a try. New grad plans to teach ESL in China ... More TK10:24 PM Jul 1st from web
27, ... He wants to know whose roles he could take; I name a few, including Clive Owens. He looks a bit like a young Martin Sheen ... More TK.10:26 PM Jul 1st from web
28, ... Hostess and Cra Js think he looks like MS, too. OK, time to go. Stomach growling. He tells us that Babbo is up street ... More TK.10:28 PM Jul 1st from web
29, ... Off we go, then one of the Cra Js stops a woman w/big cup of ice cream and asks her to look up Babbo on her smart phone ... More TK10:30 PM Jul 1st from web
30, ... Woman w/ice cream tells that we should be near Wash and Waverly and Grove. Grove is just a couple of blocks away ... More TK10:32 PM Jul 1st from web
31, ... We see Grove but keep walking north – clueless. The woman w/ice cream grabs us and turns us back toward Grove. ... More TK10:33 PM Jul 1st from web
32, ... While on Grove, I see Waverly and suggest we take it. We're not sure but moving anyway. We see more people with smart phones ... More TK10:35 PM Jul 1st from web
33, ... Babbo is at 110 Waverly. We are @150. Now we walk cautiously toward yellow brick road: Lions, tigers and bears – OH MY! ... More TK10:39 PM Jul 1st from web
34, ... What to say to Wizard, who has a 3-month wait list? We are plotting and planning and scheming. We now have a plan ... More TK10:42 PM Jul 1st from web
35, ... Since Cra J#1 dined at Babbo last year by asking politely for a table, we decide that he will do the talkin’ ... More TK10:43 PM Jul 1st from web
36, ... We are @Babbo now. Before we go through door, we reconfirm the plan. Once inside we approach the hostess stand ... More TK.10:46 PM Jul 1st from web
37, ... "Good evening, may I help you," the hotess asks ... More TK10:48 PM Jul 1st from web
38, ...Cra J #1:"We don't have a _______" "How many are you," hostess interrupts. "Three," I say ... Stay tuned for end of serial Thu. (2 July).11:03 PM Jul 1st from web
39, Doing low-fives and inner cartwheels we move over toward the door, out of the way until we’re called … ... More TK10:51 AM Jul 2nd from web
40, Doing low-fives and inner cartwheels we move over toward the door, out of the way until we’re called … ... More TK10:51 AM Jul 2nd from web
41, …We decide to sit at bar until Babbo bartender informs that his joint is for those who are eating AND drinking ... More TK10:59 AM Jul 2nd from web
42,Pas de probleme … Cra Js order beer and I water w/lime until. We even act as unofficial hosts in our post at the door ... More TK11:05 AM Jul 2nd from web
43, …COME ON DOWN! We’re seated and outfitted with menus and chickpeas ... More TK11:10 AM Jul 2nd from web
44, Cra J #2 pronounces that we are eating #10 chickpeas; #1 who is a chickpea prince confirms it … More TK11:16 AM Jul 2nd from web
45, … FYI: Chickpeas come in numbers – the larger the better. 11 is the largest … More TK11:23 AM Jul 2nd from web
46, … Regardless of number, these CHICKPEAS!!!! There are so many taste sensations that my palette is going into cardiac arrest … More TK11:23 AM Jul 2nd from web
47, … Server arrives w/bottle of red. Dry, w/med.-body and a lil friction B4 it finishes off smooth and quick. Palette is stabilized … More TK11:29 AM Jul 2nd from web
48, Can speak. But can’t see – the menu, not even with my glasses. And the tea light. And the phone of Cra J #2 … More TK11:34 AM Jul 2nd from web
49, Asking Babbo Wiz to raise lights is not on the table, so Cra J #1 reads the antipasti list for me ... More TK11:34 AM Jul 2nd from web
50, … Tortuous, b/c there is Italian on the menu and Cra J #1’s Jordanian accent to work through. Still, I order the “beef” tartare … More TK11:44 AM Jul 2nd from web
51, … Cra J #1 orders Grilled Octopus; #2 the Duck Bresaola. Since this is not sort of place where your microwave meal is ready … More TK11:46 AM Jul 2nd from web
52, …in two minutes we continue speaking of many things – fools and kings. In its own good time, chow arrives … More TK11:47 AM Jul 2nd from web
53, … Silence please. When server leaves, we hold hands. I say grace to Allah/God. I give Jesus a shout out, but not Muhammad … More TK11:51 AM Jul 2nd from web
54, … We reverently touch utensils to food, which is so purdy it makes you just want to stare at it … More TK11:57 AM Jul 2nd from web
55, … But we did come to dine, didn’t we. We love it, we share it. I’m really digging the beets in my “beef” tartare. Who knew? … More TK12:00 PM Jul 2nd from web
56, … I don’t order a primi course. Cra J #2 orders the Goose Liver Ravioli; #1, spaghetti with a red sauce I still can’t find on menu … More TK12:02 PM Jul 2nd from web
57, … By far, the best red sauce I’ve had with spaghetti. The flavors stick to the palette like a leech … More TK12:04 PM Jul 2nd from web
58, … But Goose Liver Ravioli (which is ALWAYS on a menu that changes daily) … Heretofore, my palette has never had such unthinkable, unspeakable acts done to it. Cra Js? … More TK12:08 PM Jul 2nd from web
59, … Left on Cra J #2’s plate is the sacue from the Goose Liver Ravioli. We all want to lick the plate, and confess it. We don’t … More TK12:14 PM Jul 2nd from web
60, … Third course: Me: Rabbit; Cra J #1: Braised Beef; Cra J #2 Grilled Quail. It’s all scrumptious, transportive. Oh la laaaa!!! ... More TK12:17 PM Jul 2nd from web
61, … Cra J #1 is planning our next move: private club at Soho House in the Meatpacking District. Once upon at time, he went there, too – with a member ... More TK12:23 PM Jul 2nd from web
62, ... Remind him that club's exclusive. Not bowed. Got swagger, enhanced by success w/Wiz and Wiz’s good wine and Wiz’s better food … More TK12:42 PM Jul 2nd from web
63, … It’s about midnight. My body is shutting down. It’s been up since 4:30 am; That’s about 20 hours. Cra J #1 waves me off … More TK12:55 PM Jul 2nd from web
64, … Cra J #2’s body is shutting down, too. Meanwhile, we look at the dessert menu. I’m definitely not interested; neither is #2 … More TK1:22 PM Jul 2nd from web
65, … Cra J #1 votes with the majority on dessert but not on the nightcap. The check is settled, we say goodbye to our hosts … More TK1:31 PM Jul 2nd from web
66, … and happily (and sleepily, at least 2 of us) off we go to see …More TK1:40 PM Jul 2nd from web
67, … another Wiz. We’re back on the yellow brick road – with a lot more swagger … FIN1:58 PM Jul 2nd from web


EPILOGUE POETIC: Would not receive us Soho House the Wiz. Offended were not we fresh off Babbo Wiz audience. Went we to homes respective. Reunited day next at Southwest Porch (more porch post upcoming) in Bryant Park a post-mortem Babbo Wiz audience.
 
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