Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Early spring days

An 18th-century musical tableau meets contemporary for Dom Ruinart's champagne "tasting." Photo: DPC.
Early spring days. Sort of gray-ish between the sunshine yesterday in New York.  At five o’clock, Judy and Peter Price had a cocktail reception at their Park Avenue apartment for John and Lucy Buchanan from San Francisco. Mr. Buchanan is the director of the San Francisco Fine Art museums. A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Price’s National Jewelry Institute recently installed an exhibition “The Masterpieces of French Jewelry” at their California Palace of the Legion of Honor.

It was a perfect afternoon for an early cocktail. Spring was in the air. It was comforting, or reassuring, take your pick.

Judy Price, John and Lucy Buchanan, and Pierre Merle
A lot of familiar faces: Katherine Bryan, Mario Buatta, Charlie Ayres, Judy Auchincloss, Henri Barguirdjian, Geoffrey Bradfield, Ashton Hawkins (who is an associate of Mrs. Price in this endeavor), Mr. and Mrs. Ken Aretsky, Graham Arader, Johnny Moore, Cornelia and Marty Bregman, Susan Gutfreund, Gaetana Enders, Carl Adams, George and Mariana Kaufman, Irene Aitken, Amanda Dale-Haynes, Charlie Scheips, Sherman Goldman, Jim Reginato, the Baroness von Langendorff, Duane Hampton, Stephanie Krieger and Brian Stewart, Harriette and Noel Levine,  Elizabeth Kabler, Alexis Gregory, Wendy and Bill Breck, Fred Doner, Ralph Destino, Jonathan Farkas, Mary McFadden and thus and such among the kultur mavens, the proud possessors and the grand acquisitors.

After the Price party, I went back to my apartment changed jackets for a “champagne tasting dinner” at the Museum of the City of New York hosted by the House of Ruinart,  the oldest champagne house in the world. Last night it launched its new “cuvee de prestige” at this dinner. I am not a connoisseur although I recall the pleasure the first time I had a glass of Cristal. And I recall the first time I had Moet when I was a teen-ager. Playing sophisticated grown-up man-of-the-world; my my. And then I discovered the champagne in France where (for me) it’s like drinking great water with an after-effect that is equally as great. I’m a latecomer, I discovered this only a few years ago when we were covering a major event at Versailles.

So when Susan Shin, the Ruinart advisor asked if I’d like to attend a dinner and tasting, it was an easy decision. How bad could it be on a lovely evening in New York. Cocktail reception was called for 8. There were about fifty guests congregated in the museum’s entrance gallery. Fabiola Beracasa, Matthew and Cari Modine, Tinsley and Topper Mortimer, Doug Hannant and Fred Anderson, Tatiana and Campion Platt, Carlos Mota, Olivia Palermo, Lisa Anastos, Tatiana Boncampagni and her husband Mr. Hoover, Arden Wohl, her parents Larry and Denise, Patty and Nick Raynes. It was not a dressy affair although as you can see in the photos some of the girls dressed for the occasion with some interesting and even spectacular results.
Susan Shin and Tatiana Platt
The table setting
At nine o’clock we made the trip up the grand staircase to the second floor gallery where there were two long tables set simply and elegantly, with a cellist in 17th century costume (powdered wig et al) serenading us, or at least filling the air with music. Stephane Baschiera, the president of Ruinart greeted us with some information about the champagne we were being served. Between the cello and the voices of several dozen people, the room was quite full yet made lighter by the nature of the evening. We were there to drink champagne and eat well.  Yes, it is a kind of excess. Yes, but one of the better ones.

When we were in Maastricht a couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with the hotel’s “hospitality manager” about who visited Maastricht which obviously draws a lot of visitors. She said it was destination for people from Amsterdam, from Belgium, and Germany to a long weekend of the good life – a good bottle of wine and some cheese. I was struck by that description of “the good life.” And also by how much sense it made, and how much truth it told. I don’t know if we all knew it tonight, because many of us have come to take many luxuries for granted, but we were having some of “the good life” at the Museum of the City of New York, hosted by Don Ruinart’s executives. And it was good.

Le Menu: Sea Scallop Ceviche with Citrus Dressing and Young Mache and Don Ruinart 1996. Then Duo of Duck (I substituted sea bass), Roasted Magret and Braised Legs with Orange and Huckleberry, Baby Spinach, Tamburina Carrots and Radishes, with Don Ruinart Rose 1996. And more of the same with dessert and coffee. For those who stuck around. It was ten-thirty when we got up from the tables of lively conversation. An excellent adventure and gracious host in a classic New York setting, surrounded by the city’s history, sitting in the 21st century.
L. to r.: Lisa Anastos, Kipton Cronkite, Erin Skrypek, and Brook Hazelton; Birdie Bell and Olivia Palermo.
Larry Wohl, Cari Modine, and Denise Wohl
Douglas Hannant, Cari Modine, and Frederick Anderson
Adelina Wong Ettelson and Bill Ettelson
Waiters in need of a refill
Alex and Louis Rose
Blair Clarke and Tatiana Boncampagni
Sabine Heller (in black) and Lily Raffii ...
... and again
Profile in Blond
Patty Raynes' alligator and diamond handbag
Tatiana Boncampagni and her husband Mr. Hoover
Campion Platt and Alistair Clarke
Patty and Nick Raynes
Blair and Alistair Clarke
Eiléen Lee
Arden Wohl talking to Fabiola Beracasa

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