Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bits & Morsels holds table at Gino

Ladyfingers at Gino.

Last week I was lucky to have dinner at Gino
with Herb Rose and his son Louis Rose. Herb is the Director of Special Events at the Pierre and Louis is the President of 583 Park Avenue. Not only do they get it, but they also have style. The Pierre is one of the great destinations in New York. The hotel itself is now undergoing renovations, but the ballrooms and all the other event spaces are open for business and not affected by the hotel's facelift. 583 Park is a Delano and Aldrich-designed venue. It’s a special place to have an event because they offer service to the point where there is one waiter for every five guests. We discussed all aspects of special events over some good ole Italian food sandwiched between the famous zebras on the wall.

How did you get into special events?

Herb Rose: I took hotel management at college in NYU. My internship was at the Plaza, and after graduation I stayed on there and I worked in every department. The one that I liked the best was banquet. So that’s where I specialized. That was forty years ago. Then I came to the Pierre in 1979. I have been there ever since except to join Louis at Cipriani for five and a half years. That’s how I go into it.

Louis and Herb Rose.
What is your daily routine?

HR: Well I come in and we review the day’s events. Usually we have a morning meeting with Bill Spinner, my colleague. We have been working together now for over 25 years. We review the day’s events, any special needs. We see appointments throughout the day for any future events, people inquiring about future events, or people who have already booked and are planning their bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, charity dinners. We meet throughout the day doing their menus, arrangements. Generally, at lunchtime we have a tasting with a client, so they can taste the items that they are interested in serving. Then in the evening we change into our dinner clothes and we oversee whatever the events are that night.

What happened if an event gets cancelled?

HR: We had a cancellation last Sunday and they had to pay for the whole party.

Louis Rose: The revenue that was going to be made has to get paid. Essentially in our business we sell dates. We sell real estate and dates for that real estate. If we passed on a bunch of parties, that has to be accounted for. If we resell the date, they get their deposit and all their money back.
Gino on a quiet Sunday evening.
How often does that happen?

HR: We have had two this year. It happens two or three times a year at the most.

How often do you come to Gino?

LR: A couple of times a week. Definitely every Sunday because that’s lasagna day.

This is one of my favorite restaurants. I think I have Gino in my bloodstream.

HR: We have had more meals here than we have had at home.

LR: In fact I have the wallpaper in my dining room.
Arugula salad. Chopped Gino salad.
They don’t make restaurants like Gino anymore. How has the business changed from when you started?

HR: When I started at the Plaza in 1965 every menu was written in French. If you couldn’t speak French or at least read a menu in French then you couldn’t function. Every banquet menu, every party menu, even the a la carte menus were in French. There was no such thing as form or printed menus. When you went into a hotel to plan a party you would sit down with the banquet manager [that’s what the catering manager was called in those days] and you would discuss the menu and what you would like to have. You couldn’t call up and say send me your luncheon menu or your dinner menu. Let alone fax or e-mail the menu .. that didn’t exist.

Everything was done on a one on one basis. That is the way banquets were planned at luxury hotels up till the late 80s. In the late 80s practically every hotel began to have printed menus to show people. At the Pierre we resisted it. When I left in 1998 we still didn’t have printed menus. When I came back we had printed menus. You have to have that because people want the menus by e-mail and they want it immediately. That was a big difference because in those years you had to have some culinary knowledge. You had to know menu French, what the dishes were, what vegetables were in season and what the chef could and couldn’t do. Today you are given a set of menus and people choose what they want. There was more expertise required in years past. Most of the people were foreign in the banquet department. I was the only American working at the plaza at that time. Most of the people came from a restaurant or kitchen background. It’s much different now than how it was.
Spaghetti with a side of meatballs.
The economy is not doing well. Are people scaling back events?

HR: Not yet because it’s too early. We feel it’s inevitable.

What are the most popular days for events?

HR: For charity and corporate events it’s Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. For social events it’s Saturday night. Years ago we used to do two parties on a Sunday, a lunch and a dinner. Now we're are lucky to do one. Corporate and charity events won’t touch a Friday night because people go away. Fundraisers hate Mondays because they don’t get the mail over the weekend. They lose a day in terms of any more acceptances coming in.
What can ruin a party?

HR: Only one thing, lack of air conditioning.

LR: That can really ruin a party. At 583 we can plug in a temperature specific to what the client wants. We always run into this where someone is going to be cold in one corner and hot over there. The host is always right; it’s their party.

What’s the most popular food at events?

HR: the cocktail frank in a blanket is still the most popular.

LR: The filet mignon, a lot of veal chops. The comfort food station is popular. It has the mac and cheese, the chicken pot pies all miniature.

[583 Park Avenue] & [The Pierre] & [583 Park on NYSD]
Angelo has been a waiter at Gino for 17 years. Rum cake.
With the economy in a downturn most people will not be expanding their business. Chef David Bouley is actually doing just that and opening up several new locations. The most exciting of his ventures is a restaurant called Brush Stroke which will utilize three different floors to focus on different aspects of Japanese cooking. [The Wall Street Journal]

Tiramisu is my favorite dessert. It’s easy to make and there is no baking involved. It’s more of an assembly dessert ... and if I can make it ... anyone can. This recipe from David Lebovitz suggests serving tiramisu in individual portion sizes. Here is the recipe with scrumptious photos. [David Lebovitz]

A 12-year-old McDonald's burger.
Eek! Next time you crave a burger from McDonald’s, visualize this burger (pictured right). This is what a burger from McDonald’s looks like after 12 years. It’s horrifying how little the burger has changed. One can only imagine what in god's name is in there. [Boing Boing]

That 12-year-old burger has me suddenly interested in veggie burgers. They have come a long way from the flavorless patties of yesteryear. Here is a primer on veggie burger brands and some recipes to make your own. [The Accidental Hedonist]

Granola is not as healthy as people think it is. Some versions are filled with high fructose corn syrup and other additives. In moderation some granola can satisfy your sweet tooth in a relatively healthy way. Here is a list of 3 granola brands that taste good and are actually good for you. [Calorie Lab]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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