Friday, June 25, 2010

Long Live the (Legacy of) The King!

Photos courtesy of www.michaeljackson.com.

EMOTIONALLY paralyzed for about an hour when I got the news, more than four hours later. Michael Jackson, the undisputed King of Pop, was dead.

When I was able to pull myself back together I scurried home to pen a tribute:
(http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2009/06/king-and-i.html

It’s been a year today. My sadness is still great. One thing, however, that is extremely gratifying - though bittersweet - is that finally MJ is getting the respect he was long due in his birth country. The rest of the world seemed to know what we didn’t - at least what the media didn’t: MJ is the King. Full stop. And the celebrations this week, here and abroad, bare this out.

Open today to the public that wants to pay respects with flowers only is Forest Lawn Cemetery where MJ is buried. The mausoleum, however, is only open to family and designated guests. The Rev. Al Sharpton, along with Brooke Shields, gave the most touching speeches at last year’s televised
memorial at the Staples Center. At 2:26 p.m., the official time of MJ’s death last year, AS and his Harlem-based National Action Network will pay respects with a moment of silence.

Katherine Jackson, the King Mother, has sanctioned the controversial "Forever Michael," a tribute for fans planned for Saturday at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. Tickets cost up to $500. One wonders whether the proceeds will go to MJ’s estate, not that it needs the money. In the year since his death it has brought in around $1 billion from music-related and film/TV projects. Not everyone in the Jackson family supports “Forever Michael.” Ditto for the tribute in Gary, Indiana, the original Jackson family homestead. It’s not at all surprising that some tributes will raise questions of taste or appropriateness, considering the intense interest in anything Michael Jackson.

Indeed, an astounding number of events, including numerous TV specials and commercial ventures, are ongoing around the world. New York, too, is doing its part. A few are capturing the imagination of Yours Truly. The Apollo Theater, the storied venue where MJ and his brothers won amateur night, is attracting huge crowds eager to see a new plaque in his honor in its new hall of fame.

At 5 p.m., Times Square may attract the hordes it does for New Year’s Eve with the "Thriller" reenactment flash mob. Also in the square, Madame Toussauds Wax Museum is paying respects with a window display featuring MJ’s wax figure tricked out in the red “Thriller” jacket and black pants. Fans are encouraged to leave mementos.

More evidence of the connection between wine and song is City Winery’s happy two hours. From 7 to 9, $25 bottles of wines will be up for sale to the beat of 25 of MJ’s classics.

They’re baad! The very gloves MJ wore in the “Bad” video are not in Cleveland. The gloves and other MJ gear is on public view at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex.

Very thrilling, all.

Learn about Michael Jackson tributes where you live by Googling “Michael Jackson tributes and Your City” or any similar iterations.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is this the YSL Belle D'Opium party? Really?

Maggie Gyllenhaal, left, M.I.A. (with eye candy) and Katie Lee show up for Belle D'Opium. Photos by Cobrasnake.

I'VE arrived! At nearly the 12th hour, I am invited to the YSL Belle D'Opium launch party.

It isn’t on a yacht or in an airport hangar, which was my theory:
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/06/wheres-party-really-where-is-it.html

Where are we? Yes, in a space on the west end of 37th street christened the YSL Stage.

I have left the night and entered into darkness and haze. Feeling uneasy, until I make out knots and clusters of people talking, drinking and looking at something. A juggler dressed in white. On a stage, doing his thing. Purplish lighting serves as a backdrop, lending him an ethereal quality. Is he there? Is he not there? Am I hallucinating already. Later, on the very stage I believe I witness a woman eating fire or doing a very good imitation of doing so.

Some kind a den of iniquity – dark and dodgy. Does not appear to be elaborately decorated as legend says of the “Peking.” More pauper style. No, minimalist is the word. Music is pulsing. It's loud, but few seem to notice.

Around a corner is a shooting gallery. Photogs or people with cameras are taking photos of the art, namely posters featuring Opium and BD'O while an audience of a few in this narrow room watch absently – their glasses of Champagne robotically moving from elbow to mouth. On a display case is a row of large BD’O bottles all askew. And empty. They arrived on empty, Luke gives me to know.

Luke is standing at the tail of the gallery in front of red ropes hanging where a door normally would – very 70’s. Ropes are obscuring a very good view into a darkened room. From my vantage point I can only see portholes. Is there a yacht in there?! Luke politely informs me that no one is allowed in at the moment. By the way, Luke – straight outta Winnetka, Illinois – is now happily with Wilhelmina Models, and judging by the looks of him will shortly be appearing in an ad for Calvin Klein, Armani or Ralph Lauren or all three.

Anyhow, the room Luke&Co. are guarding is pretty spare, except for those portholes that are actually TV screens that show such exciting programs as the making of BD’O. But wait, there’s a table. No, a turntable. Not sure. Whatever it is, is spinning. Or is it my head that is doing the spinning? Could explain those ghostly images on the walls. Excuse me, I have to lie down ...

In this den are nooks and crannies where chaise lounges and tables are ensconced for privacy and mystery. Colonies of chaise lounges are arranged in close proximity in open areas of the two-floor space, so EVERYBODY can see YOU. I’m sure the Peking had these, too. Cher probably sat on one.

Cher is not here. Here is not Grace Jones. John Travolta, definitely not here. He's home sitting on a plush sofa giving Kelly a belly rub. Ali MacGraw! “That’s not Ali MacGraw,” some anonymous smartypants hisses, “that’s Katie Lee, she used to be married to Billy Joel.” Note to Self: “Self, Google Katie Lee.” Maggie Gyllenhaal is definitely here looking like a deb. Vixen in the animal-print micro-mini. Wassup M.I.A.? Ashley Olsen just bumped into me and didn't say, "my bad." Mary-Kate? Really, I defy anyone to tell those girls apart.

Where are the BD’O samples?! Don’t see any samples and don’t see anyone handing out samples – but can’t see very well. In fantasies conjured up a vat. Maggie G. is wearing it. Too timid to ask, though want a sniff. No guts, no glory. And no lilly of the valley top notes either ...

One has to make due with Perrier-Jouët because Moët et Chandon ain't in the house. Very little food, though that tuna and jalapeño thingy does some sick things to my palette. As long as there is plenty of P-J, one can forgive a food shortage. Note to Self: “Self, remember to eat hummus, pita, chicken breast and sundried tomatoes when you return home. Don’t forget to take two ibuprofen and drink plenty of water!”…

This is not the 1977 party – at least not the one of legend and my imagination. From far it. Don’t think it is trying to be either. Just not sure what it is trying to be.

Ding!, ding!, ding!, the light turns on! This party is a decoy. The actual party is jumping off from the airport hangar! In fact, I am chatting up a Maggie G. impersonator.

Visit www.yslbeautyus.com for more information about Belle D'Opium.

Snazzy Perks of Club Membership
The Spring 2010 Jemima Jackman collection, including the multi-colored tunic with ruffle hem, was in part inspired by time the designer spent in Trinidad & Tobago. Below, Sandra Baquero's multi-dot dress with three elastic straps.

Jemima Jackman puts a bit of chic in bohemian in her latest collection, while Sandra Baquero marches on with her mission to produce timeless pieces that are feminine and glamorous.

Neither designer is a household name yet but the buzz is getting louder, especially for JJ who has been featured in both WWD and New York Magazine.

New Yorkers who want to be able to say they owned a JJ or SB way back when should hustle over to the event space, Chacala NY, tomorrow for the Tribeca Retail Club’s “Summer Love.” Simply put, the love fest is a trunk show – product from more than a dozen designers, including the two superstars in-waiting.

The TRC, which bills itself as an “underground fashionistas destination,” is making a party out of the whole thing. Admission is free, but $15 in advance/$20 at the door buys VIP treatment. VIPs can eat, drink and spend to the sounds of house deejay Lil Hungry. And, oh, there’s a swag bag.

Learn more about the Tribeca Retail Club at http://www.trc2010.eventsbot.com/.

A Little Luxury at a Big Discount
The Victoire Focx collection includes wrist cuffs, chains and so forth, left, as well as boot cuffs, bottom. The Divadel clutch, below, has two strong features in Swarovski crystals and hand-painted cobra. Like all of the handbags, it is lined with signature Victoire purple suede. Photos from Victoire Focx.

COMING out of the trunk next Wednesday at EVA New York is the Victoire Focx collection from the fertile imagination of Constance Victory who was introduced on these pages late last year:
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2009/12/bringing-old-fashioned-luxury-back.html

“Bag to the Basis: a Return to Luxury” is a collection of handbags and assorted little delights. Especially delightful is the result that CV achieves with her handbags when she mixes nappa leather with something like crocodile. Indeed, they are luxurious without looking overdone. Other pieces in the collection have about them a strong power of suggestion, for one would not think of owning a wrist cuff – until now.

The collection will be available in August at EVA and BOND 07 at retail prices. The “junk” in the trunk will be 30 percent off.

Learn more about Victoire Focx at http://www.victoirefocx.com/; EVA New York at http://www.evanewyork.net/store/; BOND 07 is soon coming to http://www.bond07.com/.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An Appetite for Dinner From the Movie

A poster, left, for "The World Premiere of Florent: Queen of the Meat Market.” Below, from last year's festival "Clam Pie" directors Guy Taylor and Dan Boylan with a poster for the very generous Great Island Bakery. Chef Brad, bottom, preparing shrimp stuffed pan fried morels and mushroom seviche. Top photo courtesy of www.nycfoodfilmfestival.com. Bottom two photos by Ryan Jensen.


HEAD’S UP: Welcome to the debut of “Chow Talk.” It is to be a once- or twice-monthly digest of food-related news. While Yours Truly will usually publish Chow Talk on Wednesday – ditto for standalone food stories in general – it may from time to time appear on another day of the week as breaking news dictates.

QUESTION: Does a pig ear sandwich wash down better with “Etiquette” or “Bruce Becker: Ice Cream Picasso” or “Fatty Cue - Smoking Fat Heritage Breeds for the Barbie?”

Answer:
All three and, six more.

The sandwich is but one of the exotic offerings from the world over on the menu of "Edible Adventure #001: Smokes, Ears & Ice Cream” during the Fourth Annual NYC Food Film Festival, from today through Sunday.

The NYC Food Film Festival? “The films are screening at the events ... You taste what you see on the screen! Thats [sic] the whole point of the festival,” the p.r. maven gave me to know when it was clear that I was missing the point.

"Etiquette" or "label" in French is an animated montage that wonders about the produce sticker. While the artistry inherent in ice cream is brought to the fore in “Bruce Becker: Ice Cream Picasso.” And “Fatty Cue - Smoking Fat Heritage Breeds for the Barbie?” is a display of the magic of the Brooklyn barbecue joint. Some foods from the nine films screened during the “Edible Adventure #001” will be available for sampling (Friday night, 25 June at 7/Water Taxi Beach – Long Island City, Queens). So, too, will select food from the other films shown at festival venues in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

The opener is "The Great New York City Shuck 'N Suck," an all-you-can-eat oyster orgy (at 7 p.m. at Water Taxi Beach-South Street Seaport, Manhattan). Amongst the six films on the half shell is "The Mud and the Blood." This lip-smacker visits the South Carolina low country where collecting and roasting oysters is a storied past-time. Nowhere in Dixie is it done better.

The NYC Food Film Festival is a little soufflé, around nine events and 40 mostly short films this year, whipped up by George Motz (“Hamburger America,” the film and book) and Harry Hawk who used to stir the pots at Schnack and Water Taxi Beach. Being a festival, it has a competition and awards ceremony with a top prize of Food Filmmaker of the Year. It also has do-gooder aspirations aimed at the Food Bank for New York City, which will reap a portion of its proceeds, plus “top tier integration throughout the Festival.” This last bit means lot of plugs for the Food Bank to remind festival diners that some of their neighbors do not have enough food to eat.

Without a doubt, a festival highlight is “The World Premiere of Florent: Queen of the Meat Market” (Thursday night, 24 June at 8:30 at The Altman Building, Manhattan). David Sigal’s film looks at the good, the bad and the ugly in the 23-year history of the Meatpacking District fixture and its owner, Florent Morellet. FM serves dishes from the original menu of Restaurant Florent, which closed its doors last year – prey of a greedy landlord.

“It's Grits!” (Sunday afternoon, 27 June at 12:25, Tobacco Warehouse, Brooklyn) intrigues Yours Truly, a child of the South. Apparently director Stan Woodward traveled down yonder to jaw with those in the know about true … grits. The palette teaser before (12:15 p.m.) the hominies is “Perfect for the Kitchen,” a room that is the source of a heap of inspiration for painter Robert Box. Thirty grits dishes from amateur Gotham chefs and some other morsels are the palette pleasers.

Visit http://www.nycfoodfilmfestival.com/ for complete information about the Fourth Annual NYC Food Film Festival; learn more about Food Bank for New York City at http://www.foodbanknyc.org/

South France Knows How to Party ...
LAST weekend, I walked out of a tasting at Vintage Grape, one of my favorite neighborhood wine shops, with a bottle of Laruent Miquel Viognier 2008 from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. It is reminiscent of that old reliable, Sauvignon Blanc, but has a fuller body and more apricot and pear.

It was on the tasting block with three other wines from the region. Foods and wines from the region will be more abundant in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens than any other time of year, thanks to the 2010 Sud de France Festival, continuing through 21 July.

The raison d'être of the festival, re-upping after last year’s debut, is simply to educate New Yorkers and all who have palettes about culinary and wine offerings from a region of France that claims to produce the most wine and the most organic wine of any wine region in the world. One can only imagine fondly what’s in store – wine tastings, dinners, classes, contests and des petits gouts at scores of restaurants, wine retailers, hotels and nightspots.

Photo from http://www.festival-suddefrance.com.

A wine tasting tonight (7 to 10) with Timeout Magazine bills itself as an intimate tasting of select (Rives Blanques, Mont Tauch and La Tour Boisée) Sud de France wines. At festival headquarters, Maison de la Région Languedoc-Roussillon.

Introducing French Tuesday. During the festival, Languedoc-Roussillon has dibs on the second day of the traditional work week at the Hudson Hotel where its wines will be the house exclusive. From 7 p.m.

Octopus Tartelette with Ratatouille and Eggplant Cannelloni are two of the five courses on a menu prepared by Languedoc-Roussillon chef Jean-Marc Boyer and Boulud’s Cedric Tovar, also a native of the region. Among the wines that the 80 dinners at the James Beard House will enjoy with the feast are Paul Mas Estate/Picpoul de Pinet 2009 (white) and Château Lancyre “Vieilles Vignes’’ AOC Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St-Loup 2006 (red). From 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on 30 June

On Bastille Day (14 July), it’s a party at Water Taxi Beach, the site of wine to taste, music to hear and fun to have. During a special dinner (20 July at 8 p.m.), Gérard Bertrand sommelier Mark Fine promises to unravel some, but not all, of the myseries around Languedoc-Roussillon wines.

Visit http://www.festival-suddefrance.com to learn more about the 2010 Sud de France Festival.

... And the Russians Are No Slackers

From the Caspian Sea to your table is Sevruga caviar. Photo from www.gourmetfoodstore.com.

AS early as next week, Yours Truly will be able to reveal what Georgians eat. Not the people in the ATL – the ones in the former USSR.

This very evening, I will present myself at a “Taste of Russia,” a VIP reception on the roof of the Manhattan Automobile Company. The Russian American Foundation is arranging for guests to sample the cuisine of Russian, as well as that of some of its former satellites – from Armenia to Uzbekistan. It is unthinkable that there will be not caviar. And to wash down the caviar one doesn’t imagine that the advertised spirits will be from the south of France, no?

“Taste of Russia” is part of the 8th annual Russian Heritage Festival, a celebration all this month by immigrants from the old Iron Curtain countries. Besides food, there is music, dance, sports, art and so forth.

Visit http://www.russianamericanfoundation.org/heritage.php to learn more about the 8th Annual Russian Heritage Festival.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Where's the party? Really. Where Is It?

One of the posters, above, in the current advertising campaign for the new Opium. Below, the poster from a decade ago set tongues awagging. Top photo from www.yslbeautyus.com. Bottom photo from the files.

Two questions have the fashion world abuzz: What kind of party will Yves Saint Laurent, the label throw tonight in New York for the world premiere of the latest version of Opium? And, um, where is the party?

The answers to these questions are as closely held as high-level state secrets.

What great marketing! What a simply brilliant way to create buzz around a product and event. The last time Opium made a big splash was in 2000 with the infamous and award-winning poster featuring model Sophie Dahl. The people in the war room at YSL have also been feeding the public curiosity mill at www.whatisyouropium.com. “A thousand inspirations lead to one creation. This week, Yves Saint Laurent reveals a new scent. Visit daily as we reveal what inspired us. Tell us what inspires you,” visitors are encouraged to do after watching a daily video about Opium.

Yesterday, the video about party preparations carried the headline, “Setting the Stage.” A visitor identified as Lola Jane said, “I’d love to smell this fragrance. I can’t wait to see how beautiful the event will turn out to be.”

It is Erik, however, who perfectly captures the sentiments of the body politic: “I wanna go!!!”

The last couple of weeks New York has seen enough e-mail, text and phone call activity to give the likes AT&T worries about its ability to handle all the traffic. No one can call in enough favors on this one. Many of the fashion elite are clueless about any serious element of the party. And the precious few with invitations have been sworn to secrecy, only parroting information already in the public domain: the deejays are Alexa Chung/Alexandra Richards and Cobrasnake is the official photographer. The celebrity guest list is also a mystery, creating alerts for Cher, Grace Jones and Loulou de la Falaise Klossowski, muse of YSL the man. It seems the most information that anybody has is what YSL has deigned to disclose: “Like Yves Saint Laurent’s addictive new fragrance, the world premiere party promises to be a captivating blend of ingredients. Months in the making but only one day away, the extraordinary event is the realization of hundreds of inspirations.”

How will YSL top that 1977 spectacle? Will it even try, especially in this day and age? One can just imagine the recrimination in the press. Amid The Great Recession and declining euro, a French fashion label has the temerity to throw an uber-fabulous, uber-elaborate party aboard a yacht called Peking helmed by an It author and society fixture (Truman Capote), American Coalition Against Opium and Drug Abuse and all other detractors be damned. That’s so 20th century disco era. Here’s the deal: YSL is going to hire a jet and press John Travolta into service as the pilot. Captain Travolta will fly the VIPs to a landing pad near New York City where the party will jump off. They will drink Moët et Chandon, eat sushi and bathe in a pool of Opium. Simple. Done.

What is amusing in all of this frenzy is virtually no one is talking about the actual scent. FYI, at its base is stuff like amber and vanilla. Jasmine and myrrh have a hold on its heart, and at the top is lily of the valley and mandarin.

No doubt, tomorrow the world will know the whos and whyfores. For now we know the party is at 9; the build up has been massive, and we are not invited.

Visit www.yslbeautyus.com for more information about Opium.

Havaianas' Ode to World Cup Fans

Fernanda Motta, left, in front of a Havaianas team sandals "tower" at Barneys. She is not wearing flip flops. Below, team sandals from the United States, England and Brazil. Fernanda Motta photo by Marion Curtis Startracks. Team sandals photos courtesy of Havaianas.


GOAL!!! Almost a week into the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the commemorative Havaianas teams flip flops are leaving Barneys at a good clip, my friends there give me to know.

Wonder which sandals that handsome guy bought? Yours Truly was chatting to the indecisive fellow a few days back at the Havaianas/GQ Magazine/Barneys team sandals launch party. Very bullish on Spain, was he, but also a little skittish because the colors are too bright. And Brasil’s green and yellow? Too much. He asked my opinion. I looked them over with no respect to country and chose Italy.

“No, I don’t want those,” he explained. “Everybody says American men always wear blue.” With those words, he returned Spain’s yellow/red sandals to their proper place and set off to get the opinion of Brazilian model Fernanda Motta. She has to be pleased today that Brazil is the leader in Group G with 3 points. But can the World Cup favorite keep that winning spirit going on Sunday against Côte d'Ivoire? Likely.

The Brazilian team Havaianas are the biggest sellers among the 17 countries represented in the line, behind the United States and England.

What of the Yanks and Brits? They played each other to a draw last week and are tied for second place with one point each in Group C. Both are on the pitch again tomorrow. The U.S. Americans take on the Slovenians, while the UK faces Algeria.

Meanwhile, regardless of his country of choice, the Barneys guy no doubt walked away with a pair of $24 Brazilian sandals that “feel supple and soft, yet highly durable” and are inspired by Hawaii and Japan in heart and sole.

Visit Havaianas at http://usa.havaianas.com/ and Barneys at www.barneys.com.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Garden of Eden, Right Here in NYC

The zucchini pesto bruschetta, above, is delicious and sans the bread will do some wonderful things to pasta. Below in descending order: A placard featuring photo and quote from Mario Batali at his Celebrity Chef Kitchen Garden on the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden; Michele Di Pietro in the Conservatory Kitchen, one of four at The Edible Garden, before she presents the media with her creation; Yours Truly finds the apple-lemon juice from Red Jacket Orchard irresistable; Doreen and Michele Di Pietro work their magic in the kitchen. Photos by Yours Truly.

THE
lemon zest, lemon juice and roasted garlic are doing the #*&%$@##$@$##&%&##%&$#*! to my palette. And just when my palette thinks it’s about to recover from this explosion of flavors, in kicks the zucchini. And then the fresh basil, some of which only moments ago I plucked from a bunch and deposited into my skirt pocket for a rendevous later.

I’ve just had zucchini pesto bruschetta prepared by Whole Foods Market Associate Culinary Arts Coordinator Michele Di Pietro and her wingwoman, Doreen. I am at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) where in progress is a media preview of the plant museum’s second “The Edible Garden,” which opens Saturday and in time for Father’s Day with “Get Out and Grill.” It is the first of the four festival weekends. "The Edible Garden" closes 17 October with the final festival weekend, “Fall Finale,” which includes sound advice about preserving and a demo and booksigning by Mario Batali. He also participates in the Celebrity Chef Audio Tour during which he and others talk visitors through how to best use the fruits and vegetables in “The Edible Garden.”

What a party is this “celebration of growing and preparing good food!” And could it be held in a more appropriate place in New York City than in the Bronx, which has the unfortunate distinction of being the unhealthiest of the five boroughs? On the beautiful grounds of the NYBG will be a four-month orgy of daily cooking demos in four different kitchens, tastings, the aforementioned festival weekends, book signings, audio tours, as well as a ton of family programs, which focus on digging, weeding, composting, planting, tending and harvesting.

The best way to navigate “The Edible Garden” is to understand that it is neatly divided into four main rubrics: Festival Weekends, Garden-to-Table Weekends, Value Weekdays and Other Programs of The Edible Garden.

The garden’s bounty seems boundless: For “Get Out and Grill,” Dan Barber will be one of the celebrity chefs conducting a demo in the Conservatory Kitchen, the very place that MDiP whipped together that scrumptious zucchini pesto bruschetta. Recipes for the bruschetta and many of the demo dishes will be available on the NYBG Web site. A delicious way Sunday to show appreciation for fathers and father figures is to get them to the Garden Terrace Tent for a Father’s Day barbecue. Also on the menu is a talk and booksigning by Yankee great Roy White aka Mr. Consistent.

Later in the garden party, Nan K. Chase promises to explain how to “Eat Your Yard”(16 Oct.). Mark Gagnon, Executive Chef of Abigail Kirsch, will be so kind as to show and tell how to prepare a good asparagus (26 and 27 June). Afterward, his boss, AK will sign books.

Wonder whether the peas and rhubarb demo (3, 4, and 5 July) will include how to make a rhubarb tart? Further, will rhubarb and/or peas be on the table for the canning, pickling and preserving demo (24 and 25 July). Meanwhile, one of the joys (and sometimes sorrows) of living in New York is that the world lives here, too. A bit of its food – that means you the Caribbean; you, too, Ireland – will be part of the global cuisines demo (4, 5 and 6 Sept.). Global, too, and amongst the home gardening demos are Herbs and Edibles (3, 4, and 5 July), Grow Organic (14, 15 Aug.) and What’s Eating My Garden? (11 and 12 Sept.). Moreover, “Some Like It Hot” (25 and 26 Sept.); some don’t.

Incidentally, “The Edible Garden” dishes daily, at least the weekdays NYBG is open. The specials are as follows: Tuesdays and Wednesdays (11 a.m.) is “Cooking for Kids,” Wednesdays also has “Cooking for Your Health (12:30); “Cooking for the Season” is Thursday’s dish (2 p.m.). Rounding out the work week, Whole Foods endeavors to put the TGI into Fridays (2 p.m.). And for the very good reason that good music helps with the digestion, August (5, 12, 19) brings with it the “Food for Thought featuring the Waterlily Concert Series.” Here, food experts jaw about the subject they know best, then the music begins.

GrowNYC’s “Greenmarket” is the only one of the many programs of “The Edible Garden” that’s ON! now. It opened today and it will be open every Wednesday (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) until 24 November. FYI, on Wednesdays when the Greenmarket is doing business at NYBG, grounds admission is free. And welcome at Greenmarket are FMNP, WIC, Senior Coupons and Food Stamps/EBT.

Think of Greenmarket as an appetizer, a very good appetizer that is nutritious, delicious, affordable and from as close to home as the product of New York state’s farmers and merchants. Today, Perez Farms, is offering radishes, scallions and some of the sexiest red-leaf lettuce I’ve seen in a spell. Bread Alone is responsible for that wonderful pumpkin seed muffin I enjoyed at the media trough. And Red Jacket Orchards is pimping its sweet white cherries, red cherries and size-appropriate strawberries. Lazing in ice are RJO's fruit juices and samples. The most seductive and inspirational is the apple-lemon juice. Yum.

Visit www.nybg.org for complete information about "The Edible Garden," including how to purchase tickets.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Nation's Past Reaches Into Its Present

Sussing out what is an American, left, in "American Document 2010." Below, Jennifer DePalo saber-rattling in "Sketches from 'Chronicle'" and Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch as a tired, poor worker in "Tenant of the Street." Top photo and middle photos by Costas Cacaroukas. Bottom photo by Kerville Cosmos Jack.

IN the 21st century we are a much more informal nation. So it is not surprising that the reconceived “American Document” opens without preamble when Kelly Maurer walks on stage carrying a suitcase while the lights are still up and the audience is still chatting. Some on Tuesday night are not aware that the actor's unassuming entrance marks the start of the Martha Graham Dance Company’s 84th season with the “Political Dance Project.” The season closes on 13 June.

At one hour, “AD 2010” is a sprawling piece that uses dancers from the Graham company, as well as actors from SITI Company and poetry from Walt Whitman, and diary entries from Iraqi War soldiers. This 21st century update of the 1938 classic directed by SITI's Anne Bogart and written by Charles L. Mee is more theater than dance. Still, though, it wonders, “What is an American?”

This is not a piece that the minds accepts quickly. For now, however, I can say it is interesting. And interesting is not code for dreadful, though a couple of sections aren’t my cup of drink. Because it is not often that one sees such a melding of dance and theater from a dance company – unless it’s the Graham company, of course – it takes a little time for the brain to make the paradigm shift.

In the opening section of “AD 2010,” the atmosphere is jaunty with a narrator in the spirit of P.T. Barnum. It’s morning in America. The players are moving around the stage, with carefree leaps and exaggerated movements of the hands. In a couple of clipped taps of the narrator’s drum, however, morning turns to evening. The dancers’ arms are heavier, their feet plodding where they were once barely touching the floor. The narration is more foreboding, rather than insouciant.

Yet, that question remains. In a funny bit the narrator asks several people who all respond in a foreign language. A couple ponders the essence of an American as they cartwheel about the subject. It’s distracting and Pollyannaish. Elsewhere, a “feminazi” is reading a screed about Muslim men and Muslim women, along the lines of shape up or ship out. While the sentiment is real, its manifestation here is contrived. Perhaps, these issues are too current, feelings too raw to be dramatized in this way.

The variation on the question invoking the diaries of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is the most engaging section of “AD 2010.” During the narration, the dancers twist and contort their bodies and crumble to the floor in starkly real death poses. An actor recounts a soldier’s tale of killing an Iraqi woman. Those were his orders. His anguish is palpable. It also raises the specter of soldiers who kill civilians. Should they be exonerated if they are following orders, as many claimed during World War II? Equally disturbing is a soldier’s account of killing everything that had life in one family’s house – not only women and children, but the dog, cat and goldfish.

After the soldier narratives, which ends with a chilling, tongue-in-cheek take on torture, the dancers embark on a series of abbreviated grand jetés, a strong and welcome counterpoint. "AD 2010" closes with the dancers and actors reconvening to assert, “What is an American.” Final answer.

“Sketches from ‘Chronicle’” opens with Jennifer DePalo sitting, her substantial black and red skirt covering her seat. She sits regally. Hers is a superior bearing. The score here and throughout the other two sections is foreboding like that of horror films and action scenes in Westerns, TV crime dramas and biblical-themed films. Danger is here, near and imminent.

Before the performance Graham company artistic director Janet Eilber reads the letter that Miss Graham wrote to Hitler’s administration, declining an invitation to perform in Germany around the time of the 1936 Olympics. That episode spawned “Chronicle.” The dancers – all women and clad in black, except for JDeP – convey the run-up to war, war itself and its aftermath, and the response to war. The contortions, sharp movements, arm and leg extensions and abbreviated grand jetés are breathtaking. The dancers are of one mind like The Borg. Their rigid synchronicity, chignons included, brings to mind the goose-stepping German soldiers. It’s a command performance.

With an oeuvre comprising nearly 200 dances, Martha Graham is likely to have created a number of classics. “American Document” and “Chronicle” are among them. So, too, is 1942's “Appalachian Spring,” which seeks to capture the imagination and optimism of America near the end of WWII. It debuted Wednesday night. The dancing is so persuasive and articulate that one imagines that it is speaking with tongues instead of a series of turns and arm extensions that can end in a deathly still posture of prayer. The weak link in this exquisite entertainment is Samuel Pott. His dancing is too restrained throughout and pedestrian in a few sections, particularly a few sautes, which lack conviction. To his credit, though, he lifts Blakeley White-McGuire (or she leaps) as if she is as light as a feather. In one section during a series of lifts, she is so high in the air that it looks as if she might sprout wings and fly about the stage like a butterfly.

Wednesday night opens with “Dance is a Weapon,” a series of solos about the power of the people to make change. Each piece was preceded by helpful and welcome images on a huge projector screen, as well as voiceover about an event(s) that inspired it. “Dance/Weapon” is wholly engaging. In “Tenant of the Street” choreographed by Eve Gentry, Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch’s zombie-like movements to the sounds of traffic evoke the image of a locomotive, toiling to move the big train as the workers toiled to line the pockets of the bigwigs.

The most haunting of the nine solos is Jane Dudley's “Time Is Money.” Maurizio Nardi robotic pendulous leg and arm movements are in perfect sync with the ticking of the clock and the Sol Funaroff poem read by Margaret Klenck. He’s gaunt and dishevelled. His working stiff is little more than a serf or sharecropper – approximately one rung removed from slavery. His is a dreary existence in which all life deigns to offer is overly long work hours in less than ideal conditions for a pittance. No time for sleeping. No time for sleeping. Gots to make money for the robber baron ... Listen: Are those the faint calls for unionization?

For tickets, schedule of performances and more information about the Martha Graham Dance Company’s “Political Dance Project,” visit www.marthagraham.org and http://www.joyce.org/performancestickets/tickets.php/

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Out of Ghana, Some Royal Flourishes

The Sena dress, left, in black stretch wool with Kente detail. In descending order below, Gold Coast corset with black silk charmeuse lining and black silk string back closure; designers Edna Bassoon, left, and Cindy Gaston wearing a b&w Asante jacket; Badi shorts, and Asante jacket with black silk charmeuse lining. Photos courtesy of www.thehemmacollection.com.

STARING up at me from the bottom right corner of an expensive-looking invitation is a corset in green, white and black. In the pattern, green and white stripes alternate with black color blocks. Laid on top of the color blocks is a colony of white dots arranged in the shape of a diamond. I am besotted.

Little did I know that I was staring back at Luxury. The Gold Coast corset is one of 12 exquisite Kente cloth pieces, most in various colors, that I had the pleasure and privilege of fondling, cuddling and coveting when the 2009 Hemma Collection made it debut late last year. Each pattern, as well as color, has a meaning behind its charm and beauty. The classic Eastern fabric crossed with classic Western silhouettes spawns eye-catching hybrids. Joining Luxury, which is the pattern of the corset, are Duality Harmony Passion Compassion Strength and that old chestnut, Power. They are inspired by the Kente cloth that has been favored for several hundred years by Ghana’s royals and brought to the New World by the dynamic, Harlem-based duo of Edna Bissoon and Cindy Gaston.

To celebrate Hemma’s exposure in national media, including Essence and Lucky magazines, the collection is being brought to Soho USA from Noon to 7 p.m. tomorrow for a trunk show at AvaMaria. The collection is also available on the company Web site and two New York boutiques. On offer at the trunk show is a designer meet-and-greet, gift bag and, 10 percent discount on purchases.

As is the case for any designer collection, not all pieces will flatter all body types equally. However, the NYU grads who also studied design at FIT, created the multi-tasking Sena dress for just this purpose. “It is made of an imported stretch wool that creates a beautiful silhouette and hugs the curves slightly, allowing a woman to feel confident about her body and curves,” say the women who conceived the collection while students in Accra, Ghana during a Spring of much content. “We put a lot of time into perfecting the fit and cut of our garments and the Sena dress is a testament to that, as it beautifully fits any shape or size. The single Kente detail below the bust allows this little black dress the versatility to be used for any occasion whether work or a night out.”

When Yours Truly comes off of her strict money diet – depend on it – she shall make Luxury her own. And in so doing she will become that very special specimen known as a Hemma customer. “The Hemma customer is stylish, ambitious, empowered and knows what she wants in life. She is not afraid to stand out and be innovative,” EB gives me to know. “The Hemma woman is cosmopolitan and has an interest in fashion with a conscience. The Hemma woman also appreciates well-tailored garments that use luscious fabrics that feel as good as they look. And finally the Hemma woman pays attention to detail, whether it is the custom-made buttons or the attention to fit because detail is what differentiates an okay garment from a fabulous one!”

Consider the deets: The pieces are handwoven and custom-made in tradition-rich Ghana, which has given the world much, including Kente in the 17th century. Each takes two to three months to create. “There is no mass production,” EB asserts in a video about the collection on the Web site of Hemma, which means queen in Twi, the mother tongue of Ghana. In other words, there are no “shoppertunities” at leading discounters. The garments can be made for one’s own unique curves, and they are not the sole province of sizes 0-10. At this writing some highly skilled weaver may be working on the 2010 collection, including some pieces for men, that will debut in September during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Is Hemma working toward membership in the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture with frocks that are a fraction of the price ($225-$475) of most such creations?

The garments look and feel as rich as they do in photographs. One can sense the love, care and attention to detail that goes into the crafting of each piece, even the fanciful Badi short in an au courant ocean blue and white pattern that translates into Duality. It is lush and cottony soft.

While the Brooklyn natives are no longer students in Accra, taking up medicine and law, respectively – they’re undertaking those courses at Columbia University’s medical and law school – a good deal of their business is there. So is a good deal of their heart. To help make the world a better place they taught at La Yahoushua, a local middle school. Five percent of proceeds from sales of the collection go to their Hemma Foundation through which their mission is to funnel funds to the school for learning materials and other bare-necessity basics. In conceiving the collection they also took inspiration from the La Yashoushua experience.

“ … We were able to grow very close with the school faculty as well as children and learned so many life lessons that inspired our first collection but that we have incorporated in our everyday lives as well,” CG says. “Ghanaian society taught us to slow down once and a while and enjoy the gift that life truly is. Things like hospitality, friendship, love and cooperation are some of the few things that this culture exhibits all of the time and it was astounding. We were both taken in as family at La Yahoushua and we wanted to display those same qualities we learned in Ghana through our collection.”

Their favorite is the Asante jacket, the first born. It was created for their own backs. “It has a meticulously tailored fit, hugging a woman's waist which creates a chic yet stylish look,” they explain. “It can be worn to the office or out on the town and will make any woman stand out in all the right ways.

The Asante jacket, whose pattern means Passion, also has a matching skirt. In the Asante and all of the pieces in the collection, EB and CG not only want women to look good and feel good, but to do good. “We hope that the Hemma woman spreads the word about this intricate fabric, Kente, because it is an art passed down over hundreds of years that we would like to see survive hundreds more,” the two assert.

“We also hope that others dedicate some of their time to supporting a cause that is just as close to them as education in Ghana is to us because giving back is transformative, not just for the receiver, but the giver as well.”

Learn more about The Hemma Collection at www.thehemmacollection.com; visit AvaMaria at 107 Crosby St. (and Prince); learn more about Albertine and Darling, which also carry The Hemma Collection, at http://www.albertine-nyc.com and http://www.darlingnyc.com.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

365 Days and (Hopefully) Many More!


HAPPY birthday to You. Happy birthday to You. Happy Birthday, dear VEVLYN'S PEN, Happy birthday to You! … and many more!

It was a year ago today that Yours Truly returned home, wrote a piece on the launch of the game based on the latest “Indiana Jones” film, then Googled, "How to create a blog." After sitting through a two-minute tutorial, I followed some prompts, gave one last, big push and birthed VEVLYN'S PEN."

Six days earlier it was Internet Week New York as it is now, through 14 June (to learn more click on the the tab on the right side of the VEVLYN'S PEN banner). I was at a Women in Communications mixer where a woman from careerbuilder.com gave me two pieces of advice when I told her my plan to return to my reporting roots. The first was to join LinkedIn, which I would discover later that evening that I'd done a few years earlier. The second was to start a blog. At the time I did not quite understand what's a blog. A couple of colleagues ran blogs, and I'd made inquiries about them, but I didn't get it. Not really. It would not be the first time I'd undertook a scheme that I hadn't fully wrapped my brain around. In this instance it is working in my favor.

I've not worked as hard since my grad school days. But I've not had as much professional fulfullment and fun - ever. Who knew that I would miss reporting so much! Thank you, news service of “The New York Times" for laying me off from my editing job. Thanks for emancipating me from that cubicle where I could not meet my public. EUROSTAR for helping me get my mojo back.

In the start of this second year, I plan to continue to bring my audience “The Wright take on life” as it relates to art/culture/fashion/food/film and so on. You will notice changes, including an editorial calendar to clue you in to which days you should tune in to read about certain subjects. For instance, on the Tuesdays that I publish, health-related topics will carry the day. Food (restaurants openings, fests, interesting products, health benefits of or lack thereof, and so forth) will usually occupy Wednesdays. Already, fashion has dibs on Thursdays with Fashion Scrapbook and standalone fashion/beauty-related subjects. For the start of the weekend Fridays will mostly focus on film and occasionally art and dance. The rest of the week will be a sort of wild card, featuring a mix of stories. Expect more enterprise stories on all subjects, like the shorts on Emilio Sosa and Mario Cantone, and the “Missive from Monroe.

And, aNd anD, occasionally, I will add my two cents to certain issues of the moment. In the main, I'll save these beefs for the Saturdays that VP is published. Speaking of which, methinks that President Obama can be mad as hell and not take anymore BS from BP and still not appear on a morning news show and talk about “whose ass to kick.” It’s unbecoming of him to pander to public opinion and/or the rabble rousers.

While I have one cent left, allow me to submit that the president should run the country the way he ran his successful two-year application for the job. All that spewed, I’ve decided to withhold any pillorying of him until January 2011. That’s right, a two-year probationary period. On some level, I liken him to God, to the extent that he has access to a lot more information than I do, and may be acting accordingly - though his actions look whacked. Further, one must remind herself when she is about to descend into cynicism and criticism that here’s a guy who inherited the greatest economic crisis in the history of the country and two wars. Now, more shit on the fan: likely the greatest environmental disaster in the history of the country. Unlike God, though, he has about six months to get his ducks in a row - or else.

It is natural that VP should undergo changes, and hopefully wisdom will keep pace with age. What will not change is the dedication to quality writing and reporting. And, of course, the wit and irreverence.

Thank you, dear audience, for accompanying me on the journey this last year. And thanks for sticking around for the next leg.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Revisiting a Troubled Political Past

Martha Graham Dance Company principal Tadej Brdnik performing Isadora Duncan's "The Revolutionary." New York City high school students, below, in "Panorama." Photos by Costas Cacaroukas.

TADEJ Brdnik is wearing a black tank top and grey jeans. He moves around the floor in a controlled fury. The jumps, leaps and thrusting out of his arms are very urgent and adamant. They are determined. Indeed, they are righteously angry.

He ends Isadora Duncan’s “The Revolutionary,” with arms held aloft, his hands balled in tight fists, evoking another protest image: The Black Power Salute by gold medalist Tommie Smith and silver medalist John Carlos on the podium at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. TB’s entire body language in this piece, originally danced by ID, bellows power to the people.

Empowerment of the masses is the leitmotif in the Martha Graham Dance Company’s new season, the “Political Dance Project.” “The Revolutionary” was one of the solos performed during the season preview at a company fundraiser last month at Cedar Lake, home to the contemporary ballet company of the same name. The Graham company season opens Tuesday night (8 June) at the Joyce Theater and ends with an evening performance on 13 June.

In this four-program treatise, the Graham company revisits early 20th century America and many of the issues of the day i.e., workers rights, aftermath of the stock market crash. This look back also looks forward to today, which may cause some to muse, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

To impart this panoramic story the company is not relying on dance alone. This is a multimedia, collaborative effort that comprises film montages, spoken word, actors, and like “The Revolutionary,” works from other choreographers. Graham company artistic director Janet Eilber explains that she is staging the political dances now because of what she terms a current “fascination” with the 20th century. Another impetus is the ascendancy of contemporary dance. Further, this project is in keeping with the company’s continuing mission to tinker with ideas.

“We (the Graham organization) have been for about the last five years experimenting with new ways to present the ‘new’ classics of American Modern Dance,” says JE, who cites as one of her inspirations for this season “Stepping Left,” the book by former Graham dancer Ellen Graff examining the influence of social and political activism on dance. “We have been addressing what studies show us about today’s audiences – that they want more context, more information about what they see in the theater. So we have experimented with spoken introductions, thematic programs (like an evening about Martha and American Music, or her Greek themed works, or evenings that use media and narration).”

One dance that uses narration - mainly slave narratives in the preview excerpt - is “Panorama,” which like “The Revolutionary” is one of the solos in the “Dance is a Weapon” (debuting Wednesday) montage. When “Panorama” was first performed in 1935, it explored an expansive view of American history, dating to the Puritans through to the rise of the nation’s collective social consciousness in the mid-1930s. It took 33 dancers to tell the tale. In its current iteration, the 33 dancers are New York City high school students who auditioned for their roles.

While on Wednesday the students will be dressed in red, during the preview performance they wore heavily symbolic white T-shirts and blue jeans. Both the T-shirt and blue jeans are enduring modes of dress in America in a piece about American history. The different pocket designs on the jeans suggests the diversity that is the United States. Further, in one sequence the dancers disclose their birth country, making them hyphenated Americans. Yet what is striking is that none are Native American. Once again, the natives are virtually invisible in our diverse society – a shameful bit of American history.

The Graham company has a well-documented history of celebrating/challenging the zeitgeist of the day, never skittish about addressing controversial subjects - even snubbing the likes of Adolf Hitler during a moment in history when he was not a hated figure, albeit a feared one. The company is much like its founder who came of age in an era when upperclass women such as herself did not pursue careers in the arts, yet she did the shocking. The political dances, too, speak to issues that have the power to send shock waves, the passage of time and human rights laws notwithstanding. JE calls “American Document” (premiering Tuesday) the most provocative. It is an updated version of Graham’s 1938 work that was informed by the ascent of Fascism in Europe. It asks the fundamental question, “What is an American,” still fighting and dying words, even in the 21st century.

“This is not a dance but a theater piece created with SITI Company with Anne Bogart directing,” says JE of the ensemble troupe and its founder. “… It is performed by six SITI Company actors and 10 Martha Graham dancers and includes spoken text from a wide variety of sources – from Walt Whitman to blogs from American soldiers in Iraq. It’s very different from traditional dance programming and parts of it are quite edgy and contemporary.”

Hmmm … cryptic and intriguing.

Expressing a difficulty in choosing from among the dances, JE nevertheless settles on “American Document” and “Dance is a Weapon” as the ones she hopes will make the greatest impression on audiences. “And of course, I hope EVERY dance will be particularly impactful – that’s the goal that drives all of our work and experimentation with giving audiences context and new points of access.”

For tickets, schedule of performances and more information about the Martha Graham Dance Company’s “Political Dance Project,” visit www.marthagraham.org and http://www.joyce.org/performancestickets/tickets.php /.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Aren't They Lovely; Aren't They Wonderful!

At right, cocktail length strapless tulle over duchess dress with drop waist in palomino. Full length one shoulder nu-georgette gown (middle photo) in amethyst with chiffon flower detail at shoulder of blouson bodice and matching sash. At bottom, cocktail length strapless tulle over duchess dress in rose with natural waist. Photos courtesy of www.cynthiarowley.com.

TO the devil with the sky-high divorce rate, women are still getting married. And they and the rest of the wedding party have to wear something or the law might come calling – and it won’t be the justice of the peace. To help them enter fashionable matrimony are both Cynthia Rowley and, J. Crew Bridal. Yes, J. Crew (See next entry).

CR, who’s made a name for herself for almost three decades for feminine frocks with a little flirt and lots of flair, has extended her aesthetic to bridal wear. But not wedding gowns: bridesmaids dresses for day and night weddings.

In partnership with bridal wear manufacturer, the Dessy Group, the designer is celebrating Cynthia Rowley Bridesmaids with a private party at her Bleecker store this evening.

Between CR and Vera Wang, the gushing ladies behind the blushing bride will shine, too, for these are dresses that won’t be relegated to the back of the closet until the owner can’t stand the sight of them anymore.

Here are pert little affairs in colors like amethyst, palomino and rose. Some have straps. Some don’t. Others are one-shouldered styles. They come in silk, tulle and cotton sateen. At $175 to $220, none will break the bank.

The collection is available now where CR is sold in the United States, UK and Australia.

Learn more about Cynthia Rowley Bridesmaids at www.cynthiarowley.com

J. Crew Shows a Different Side of Itself
Pictured are items from the 769 Collection (except the macaroons) at J. Crew Bridal. Photos by Yours Truly.

“J. CREW has come a long way since T-shirts and flip flops,” one observer remarks as she casts a wide glance over the array of finery on hangers, counters, shelves and in drawers on the first floor of the chain’s brand spanking new (and first) full-service bridal boutique at 769 Madison Ave. (at 66th street).

Welcome to the 769 Collection, exclusively at this location and to the bridal collection, available more widely. “We tried to cover every aspect of the bridal ceremony from the engagement announcement to the bride’s traveling clothes,” director of wedding design Tom Mora gives me to know.

TM has the air about him of a man who feels he’s forgotten something. He need not fret, for he and his team got everything down to underwear and earrings.

J. Crew Bridal flung opened its doors yesterday evening for a special cocktail party to show off all the family jewels – much, much more than the three styles that gave birth to the collection six years ago. On the first floor of the French salon-inspired space is the 769 Collection: accessories and jewelry, including the one-of-a-kind LuLu Frost necklace in mesh with attached orange baubles/brooches worn by cocktail party hostess Darcy Miller aka Martha Stewart Weddings Editorial Director. On most of its offerings, J. Crew has smartly partnered with experts to create items exclusively for its boutique.

In addition to LuLu Frost, for instance, there is Bobbi Brown lip gloss, Albertus Swanepoel headpieces and Wolford hosiery. Also on the first floor are undergarments, carefully folded in pull-out drawers, day and evening separates, as well as evening dresses and gowns, including a navy and cream silk chiffon gown with a roped belt that bride-to-be Christina’s bridesmaids (B1, B2, and B3) will wear in her wedding next May. The colors are the same as those of the clan of her Scottish betrothed.

In the basement is the by-appointment only bridal floor, complete with self-contained dressing room suites for maximum privacy. It is in one of the suites where I meet Christina and two of the Bs. A quick word about the bridesmaids dresses. While a few of the colors catch the eye – salmon, for instance – the styles are nothing special. Many bring to mind the bridesmaids dresses of old – not a good thing. The wedding gowns are another story. Christina, who only plans to shop at J. Crew, has an instant connection with a layered tulle gown with empire waist, halter-style bodice and spaghettini straps. At $3,500, it is one of the most expensive gowns in the collection. Further, it is beyond Christina’s budget and, alas, is not available in her size (10-12) at the moment, TM explains. “It only comes in these sizes [2-8] because it is very expensive to make it larger. We want to see how these do for right now.”

Reading between the lines, it may not be one for Christina and other normal-sized brides-to-be. But there is the Sophia. It is a headturner in ivory tricotine with a bias cut, empire waist and halter top with wide straps. At $295, it is the least costly of the gowns but one would never know. Another winner – and some gowns are more winning than others – is Thea, B2’s favorite for Christina. It will flatter many figures and like a number of gowns in the collection can be worn on other occasions. This is $700 well-spent in ivory silk chiffon with a halter top and a tie at the waist. A belt can easily be substituted at the waist as J. Crew bridal personal shopper Nathayai Watts eagerly illustrated.

The sparkling wine and macaroons, notwithstanding, J. Crew bridal is going over well with the cocktail crowd, including Fern Mallis, whose appearance in the basement induces whispers by Christina&Co. I break the ice by making introductions. Asked by B1 what style she would suggest for Christina, the founder of New York Fashion Week and judge on Bravo’s “The Fashion Show” recommends gowns with empire waists to flatter her curves. What does she think of the collection. “I think it’s amazing.”

Learn more about the J. Crew Bridal boutique at (212) 824-2500; by visiting 769 Madison Ave. (New York City) or at www.jcrew.com.

Giving Your Shirt and Getting Something Back
THAT
perfectly fine shirt that you’ve been meaning to get rid of – because it’s just not you – may be worth a $50 Lacoste gift card that can be used toward your kind of shirt. Or sunglasses. Or a bath towel or beach towel. Anything you please in the Lacoste collection.


That's the deal at the exchange, the “‘Royal Pains’ Summer Shirt Exchange” sponsored by USA Network and Lacoste, which is one of the labels worn by the cast (tricked out in Lacoste in the promotional photo) of the show. It’s on until 6 p.m. today at New York City’s Greeley Square Park (32nd at Sixth Avenue).

The exchange celebrates tonight's (10 EDT) premiere of the second season of the USA Network show about Hamptons doctor Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein). MF and other members of the cast were guests at a party celebrating the show's premiere Tuesday night at the Lacoste store (Fifth Avenue/49th Street).

One cannot impress upon donors enough the importance of parting with one shirt that is clean, wearable and able to pass muster. USA will kindly donate $10 to Doctors Without Borders for each collectible, maxing out at 20 grand.

Meanwhile, from the sponsor, disclaimers: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited. Open only to persons who are 18 as of 3 June 2010. Gift cards only available while supplies last. Limit 1 gift card per person. FIRST COME FIRST SERVED. Gift cards subject to restrictions specified by issuer.

Learn more about “Royal Pains” at www.usanetwork.com; lacoste at www.lacoste.com and Doctors without Borders at www.doctorswithoutborders.org.


'Big' Shoes Can Make for SomeVery Happy Feet
In a scene from "Sex and the City 2," Chris Noth as Big (below) rests his feet on Carrie's new sofa. On his feet is a pair of Donald J. Pliner's Vinco loafers (right). Top photo courtesy of www.donaldjpliner.com. Botton photo from Warner Pictures.

CHRISTIAN Loubouton is not the only shoe designer that’s getting exposure from “Sex and the City 2.” Not that CL needs or wants the attention.

For his part, Donald J. Pliner doesn’t mind at all. The designer may not have the name recognition of his colleague but male and female shoppers with an appetite for footwear that is both stylish and comfortable do know DJP. Customers may recognize the brown suede loafer that Big (Chris Noth) is wearing when he plops his feet on Carrie’s prized sofa as DJP's very own Vinco.

As Pliner’s p.r. points out, the Big loafer can be a slipper indoors and a chic shoe outdoors, especially in New York City where the rubber sole can soften the impact of the city’s mean streets. Indeed, unlike the women of “SATC 2,” Big doesn’t forgo “the concept of comfort for the look of beauty.” All in keeping with the comfort manifesto of this scion of a Chicago shoe family: "when the feet are uncomfortable, so is the mind, so is the body, so is the soul."
Amen to that.

DJP is sold at Saks, Dillards, Nordstrom and other places. The collection of shoes, as well as handbags and leather clothing is also available online at www.donaldjpliner.com. On the Web site, the loafers range from a sales price of $140 to the regular price of $210. They are available in various leathers and colors, including black and red.
 
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