Wednesday, December 7, 2011

BIts & Morsels

Garden lettuce and herbs at Crown.

by Erin Frankel

If you have been searching long and hard for an Upper East Side clubhouse, Crown has come to the rescue. Housed in a stately mansion, formerly the home to Bruno Jamais, Crown has quickly become the new playground for born-and bred movers and shakers who have long frequented the Upper East Side's social scene.

The space is classy with hints of glamor. Old school and chic. The mansion's turn-of-the century ornate features inspired the partners to give the space a 1920's art deco vibe. Upon entering, you will walk into a foyer lined with taupe velvet walls and matching seating at a long zinc bar. This entrance gives way to a large dark mahogany dining room lit by a fireplace and candles on each table. Behind that room, there is a larger room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a skylight overlooking a garden in the neighboring townhouse. There is also a long winding marble staircase that leads to Crown's private room hidden behind a bookshelf, which typically hosts a slew of celebulante events.
Silk Hankerchief Pasta.
Atlantic Halibut.
The combination of old-school luxury with a contemporary sensibility is mirrored in the continental menu. Chef John Delucie, of the Waverly Inn and The Lion, runs the kitchen here. Delucie, having long favored engaging the palates of his downtown denizens, has now traded one prime location, beautiful space, and hot crowd for another ... just further uptown.

The seasonal dishes are nearly all winners. In particular, the Wild Mushroom salad over a bed of arugula topped with chestnuts and aged goat cheese delivers a rare thrill as does the chilled seafood salad: a mixture of diver scallops, calamari, and lobster drizzled with lemon, mint, and a calabrian chili. The pastas are hearty and rich, adding that extra insulation for the colder months. Two of my favorites were the housemade penne with black trumpet mushrooms, smoked bacon, and a farm egg topped with parmesan and Crown's crowd-pleaser, and the silk hankerchief pasta in a white Bolognese sauce topped with hazelnuts, black truffle, and parmesan. As for the entrees, I had to order Crown's Loup de Mer (my all-time favorite classic) topped with artichokes a la grecque, chervil, and castelvetrano olives.
Loup de Mer. Seasonal Fruit Plate.
Crown was packed until 11pm, even on a cold, rainy Monday evening. The crowd that fills the space each night clearly sees Crown as both a special destination and a home away from home.

24 E 81st St
A table set for 8 at Crown.
Earlier this week, I was fortunate to have lunched with Aviva Drescher (rumored to be starring on this season's The Real Housewives of New York), at our favorite Upper East Side diner, 3 Guys on Madison Avenue. Over our Corfu salads, two born-and-bred New York City gals chatted about growing up in New York, falling in love, getting hearts broken, overcoming tragedy, the importance of philanthropy, and ultimately, living the fabulous life in New York.

Across the table from Aviva at 3 Guys.
Corfu salad at 3 Guys.
Aviva with her husband Reid.
Aviva is a tall, thin, striking blonde who exudes a quiet confidence. You would never guess that beneath her simple and elegant dress, she was wearing a prosthetic leg.

Born and raised in a privileged Upper West Side home, Aviva never anticipated her life would take such a drastic turn when she was 6 years old and a horrific accident severed her left foot. Since that day, Aviva has been tenacious about not letting this tragedy define her.

Aviva's background is quite impressive. After attending the prestigious The Fieldston School as a child, she went on to earn a Bachelors of Arts degree from Vassar College, then a Master's in French Literature from New York University, and then a Juris Doctorate from The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Aviva explained she also found love and happiness in spite of her affliction. After her first marriage fell apart, at a chance meeting at Bed Bath & Beyond Aviva met Investment Banker Reid Drescher as their young children played together in the aisles. She explained that it was only a matter of time before the two got married and grew their family together.

The Dreschers now have the quintessential contemporary modern family on the Upper East Side of New York City, with four children - Harrison, 10, Veronica, 9, Hudson, 4, and Sienna, 1. Aviva said she rarely misses a night when she can personally tuck her children into bed.

When I asked her how she has stayed so positive, she smiled and said, "being an amputee has never been a dominating factor in my life. I have not allowed wearing a prosthesis to define me. I am lucky to wear a prosthesis. I could have died and I am thankful to be alive, while many others don't get that second chance. In no way should losing a limb ruin anyone's life. Amputees can do anything anyone else can."

For this reason, Aviva has made it a life-long mission to help other amputees who can't afford a prosthesis. Within her leadership role at One Step Ahead, Aviva continually teaches her family the importance of giving back.

She passionately explained that she "recognizes what I have overcome and feel a moral responsibility to help others. Wearing a prosthesis to me is what it feels like for others to put on a pair of glasses. If I can transfer this ease to other amputees, than I have successfully given back. Through my foundation [One Step Ahead] I can help other people, especially kids, to lead normal lives. I am grateful to live such a fulfilling life with 4 amazing children and an incredible and devoted husband."

At the core, Aviva is down-to-earth, wise, and personable. After only knowing her for all of two minutes, she offered to share her favorite 3 Guys dish, the Corfu salad, with me. And after 45 minutes of sharing her life story in the booth of a diner, she leaned over and gave me a big hug, feeling grateful for everything she has in her life.
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