Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Dogs

Looking northwest from Fifth Avenue. 11:30 PM. Photo: JH
Tuesday, December 4, 2012. A very warm day for December, yesterday in New York, with temperatures hovering near 60. It’s nice to be able to go out without an overcoat in December but it’s also the kind of weather where you can get stuck (without an overcoat) and in need in a matter of hours.

I went down to Amaranth on East 62nd between Madison and Fifth for lunch with a friend. It’s not a regular haunt for me although it is for many friends. The cuisine is Mediterranean and sometimes you can get the feeling that so are a lot of the customers, as well as the staff.
Same view at 11:00 AM.
It is very popular, from lunchtime right through the later dinner time. It is a favorite of Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni when they are in New York. Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy was lunching there – unrecognized by almost all to the point where when some guests learned of his table they mistook one of his guests for him. It is one of those New York watering holes where the decibel level climbs with the Sun and stays on with the Moon. Yesterday was no exception.

Packed and noisy with the clatter of conversations. The food is excellent with most of the lunch items under $25.

I started out the evening at La Grenouille which was closed for business yesterday because they were celebrating the 50th Anniversary.

Charles Masson, son of the founders of La Grenouille, last night in the restaurant where he hosted a 50th anniversary party.
La Grenouille opened on December 19, 1962, in the middle of a snowstorm, by Giselle and Charles Masson. Charles Masson had first come to America in 1939 to work under Henri Soulé in the French Pavilion of the World’s Fair in New York. Later Soulé opened  Le Pavilion in Manhattan on 57th Street and Park Avenue in the Ritz Tower, creating the primo French restaurant in New York. Charles Masson eventually became its maitre d’.

Late December 1962  hardly seemed like the perfect day or time of the year to open a new restaurant in Manhattan, but they did. Within short time it too became the destination for lunch and for dinner for the fashion crowd, which attracted society figures and tycoons who had already been prepped for such cuisine by M. Soulé’s restaurant.

All these years, now run by their son, also named Charles, La Grenouille remains in its original location (they had the foresight to buy the building when it became available) with its original reputation and allure It is a beautiful restaurant praised as much for as its décor and atmosphere as for its superb cuisine.

Its clientele is often famous, chic, and sophisticated, yet its ambience is warm and welcoming. Several years ago, an NYSD reader in North Carolina contacted me asking for advice on where to dine on a very special occasion in New York. He was coming with his girlfriend for the weekend, and he wanted to surprise her by proposing during a dinner at a special restaurant. I recommended La Grenouille. I later learned that he took my advice and he called to make the reservation, telling the management of his plan. That night at dinner, after the main course, the couple were brought glasses of champagne. In hers was a diamond ring. That was the cue; the proposal was made. The staff applauded, and the fiancée was overwhelmed and thrilled.

Last night Charles Masson and his staff hosted a three hour cocktail reception for scores of their clientele and friends.  I got there at the tail end, on my way to a benefit, staying just long enough for a glass of champagne and a picture of Charles.
La Grenouille at 3 East 52nd Street, in the building in which it started in business.
From there I grabbed a cab to go down to Cipriani 42nd Street where the Animal Medical Center was holding its annual Top Dog Gala. Every gala, every benefit, has its own profile and personality. It would be a good guess to say that the AMC attracts a group of supporters whom you also might just see at luncheon or dinner at La Grenouille every now and then.

Brooke Astor (for whom an award is named) was once an honoree at an AMC gala. She was so impressed by the veterinary hospital’s facility and staff  that she famously said if she ever got sick she hoped she could go to the AMC for care.

Last night the Brooke Astor Award was presented to Gloria Gilbert Stoga, founder and President of Puppies Behind Bars (PBB).
The David Monn-designed interior for last night's Top Dog Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street, during the cocktail hour.
The video screen above the podium as people were taking their dinner seats.
It  is Ms. Stoga’s belief that dogs have an innate ability to heal. Through her program, PBB instructs prison inmates on how to train service dogs who will then go on to served wounded war veterans. After 9/11, they also began training explosive detection canines (EDCs) to serve on national security defenses around the world.

In 2006 she established Dog Tags: Service Dogs for Those Who’ve Served Us – providing free of charge to wounded vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. These dogs were specially trained to work with people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. This great program now serves 50 veterans across the country.
The table settings, masterpieces in papier-mache.
Two of its stars were there last night: William Pagan and Oprah, a yellow Lab, and Rick Yarosh and Amos, a black Lab. William Pagan is a Marine veteran who first joined up  in 2001, serving in Iraq for one tour and, then two more – the second in the National Guard. In 2009 he was injured doing a night patrol, suffering multiple wounds – which required spinal fusion surgery – and post-traumatic stress disorder. When he returned to civilian life he found himself overcome by a sense of isolation and fear of going out.

A year ago November 1st, William met Oprah, trained by PHB. During two weeks of training William then learned the 90 tasks Oprah was taught by the prison inmates of PHB. He also learned her body language and how to meet her needs. More than that, Oprah’s outgoing personality made it easier for him to connect with people and feel safe.
AMC's CEO Katherine Coyne and Robert Liberman welcoming guests last night at the Top Dog Gala, reporting that this was their most successful fundraiser.
Gloria Gilbert Stoga, last night's Brooke Astor Award recipient, telling the guests about the genesis of Puppies Behind Bars and the great work the prison inmates do in training dogs to help war veterans and law enforcement agencies through the powers of animal companonship and service. AMC chairman of the Board of Trustees Robert Liberman with Rick Yarosh and Amos getting a treat from Katherine Coyne.
Gloria Gilbert Stoga, Katherine Coyne, Robert Liberman, Rick Yarosh and Amos, and William Pagan and Oprah.
A year later man and dog are inseparable. William is involved in volunteering, and in January he graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree from Grantham University. He was studying before he met Oprah but he credits her for giving his life a sense of purpose. “With Oprah, I look forward to waking up and starting every day God gives me.”

Rich Yarosh was serving in Iraq when in September 1, 2006, stationed in southern Baghdad, he and his crew were in their Bradley Fighting Vehicle when its fuel tank was hit with an improvised explosive device.

Rick received 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 60% of his body. His face was badly burned, he lost his right leg, and fingers on both hands. He was hospitalized for six months in Texas and spent another three years as an out patient. The hardest thing was losing his buddy, Sergeant Luis Montes who died six days after the explosion.
Dr. Nathan Saint Amand and Clare Potter. Lisa and David Schiff.
Caroline Weber and Cecile David-Weill. Barbara Liberman and John Pyne.
Bill Cunningham and Mary Hilliard talking shop.
Peggy and Alberto Mejia and Emilia Saint Amand. Linda Lambert.
Betsy Bartlett and Jones Yorke. Alison Minton and Mark Gilbertson.
Rick credits his family, friends, community and his doctors for his recovery, On August 13th, Rick met Amos, to help him begin to live a fully independent life again. Amos can turn lights off and on, open doors, retrieve items and “watch Rick’s back” in public places. Amos is now an integral part of Rick’s life. “He does what I do, goes where I go, and most importantly we understand each other. Amos has made my life easier. When I feel down, he is always there to pick me up.”

So, we had some good lessons on Courage, Bravery and Love last night at the Top Dog Gala. There were many people in the great hall who were moved by stories of William and Oprah and Rick and Amos. These canines are walking, moving, tail-wagging lessons in unconditional love, good for all of us and good for what ails the world. The only sad part of that reality is that there are so many humanoids out there who don’t get it, and whose deprived, sapped spirits make it hard for the dogs to dwell in a state of peace and love.
Barbara Liberman with Ina and Jeff Garten. Barbara Regna.
Antoinette Guerrini-Maraldi and Fred Eberstadt. Suzanne McDonough.
Jean Shafiroff and Jonathan McCann, President of Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation. Dr. Iris Love and friend.
Rick Joseph and Janet Yorke with her handbag modeled from her dogs Betty Boop (l.) and Tuxedo (r). Elke Gazzara.
It was a very rewarding evening. Robert Liberman, the chairman of the Board of Trustees told the group that this was their most successful fund-raiser, taking in more than $1.5 million. Gloria Gilbert Stoga in her acceptance speech informed us of the richness of her personal experience and the examples of her trainings’ successes. Benefit Co-chairs were Ina Garten, Nancy Kissinger, Barbara Liberman, Annette de la Renta and Robert Couturier.

It was a black tie evening, as you can see, and another aspect of its success was that starting with cocktails at 7 and dinner served at a little after 8, after the inspiring stories and examples of the abundant love canines provide (to those who love them), the evening, including dessert, was over at 10 PM. Amos and Oprah got some treats too.
The traditional goodie bag was replaced by treats to take home to our furry best friends.

Contact DPC here.