Thursday, January 31, 2013

What you become is what counts ...

Yesterday's Liz Birthday Table at Michael's: JH, Sheila Nevins, Joe Armstrong, the Birthday Girl, Debra Shriver, DPC, Jon Meacham, Toni Goodale, and Julia Reed.
Thursday, January 31, 2013.  Yesterday was mild and misty-foggy and almost warm in New York (if you think 60 degrees is warm).

I went down to Michael’s, not because it was Wednesday, but because Julia Reed, Debra Shriver and Joe Armstrong were hosting a birthday lunch for our friend (and NYSD columnist Liz Smith) who will celebrate her 90th officially on this Saturday, February 2nd.

The table was decorated with yellow roses (of Texas). The menu for yesterday’s luncheon was entirely Ms. Liz’s favorites, and being a Texas girl there was some native Texan cuisine. She wrote a book about all this a few years ago called “Dish” which was all of her favorite recipes – leaning toward the fried stuff, including the exotic Fried Milky Ways or Mars Bars (I must be imagining this but I think it’s true). Elvis went in for that kind of thing too.
The table. In the goodie bags: "Harold Sissy sweet pickuls ... Texicun Gormay Pickuls, a sissy pickul with Harold's majik tuch — sweet with a lot of HEAT!"
The Mayor of Michael's own bronze boot and the yellow roses of Texas ...
The menu was created by Julia Reed who came up from the Big Easy just for the occasion, and Debra Shriver who lives here in Manhattan (most of the time). Deviled Eggs and Pickled Okra were the appetizers, which you can see on the menu. I’d never had Okra, pickled or otherwise, which shows what a plain ole Yankee I was brought up to be. And did I like them? Yeah.

Pickles I like, and these were pickles, but called (and looking like) okra.  There was also Fried Chicken Breast which I’d never had before in quite the way they prepared them specially at Michael’s for the Grande Dame of Dish as someone dubbed her once. And Collard Greens and Mashed Potatoes. And Biscuits and Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread.
Deviled eggs ...
... and Okra Pickles as appetizers.
Deb Shriver, who hails from way down in Alabam (and now has a house in New Orleans — like a lot of New Yorkers these days, it seems), told me that there is a debate among aficionados of cornbread as to whether they like it sweet or not. And here I thought cornbread was cornbread.

Oh, we also had Devilled Eggs because Liz likes them. And the Classic Iceberg Wedge with Roquefort or Thousand Island, depending on your taste. Then of course there was a cake which was Red Velvet Cake because Liz likes that too. Except it was specially done to look like an armadillo — because where Liz grew up there were armadillos everywhere — in the backyard, everywhere. Did you know they make a kind of squeaking noise when they walk? And that they are harmless, eat bugs and hang out in  the neighborhood. The likeness created by the very creative cake bakers was so credible you wondered if it were really Red Velvet Cake (it was, and it was excellent).
1st course: Iceberg wedge with Roquefort.
The main course: Fried chicken breast with collard greens and mashed potatoes.
We sat at Table One, in the Bay and Michael’s was a madhouse and so noisy with conversations bouncing off the Hockneys and the Lichtensteins that I could barely hear Toni Goodale and Debra Shriver who were on either side of me. I couldn’t hear anything Liz said from across the table and I didn’t bother to do my customary “Whaaaa?” because she probably couldn’t have heard me even though her hearing is much better than mine.

At table were the aforementioned: our hosts — Mr. Mayor Armstrong, Ms. Shriver and Ms. Reed, plus Sheila Nevins, one of the original Wow Oh Wow girls, and JH who designs Liz’ column (and everything else) for the NYSD everyday, and Jon Meacham who recently bought himself and his family a nice house in his native Tennessee.
Millington serves the Birthday Girl with the Red Velvet Cake disguised as an armadillo ...
Making her 90th wish.
Liz and her placental mammalian cake.
Face to face. Joe Armstrong took this snap.
Armadillo blood in the batter. Don't worry, it was just red velvet cake.
As if the cake wasn't enough.
Sheila Nevins's birthday card to Liz.
Joe reading the card aloud. Click above to watch.
Deb Shriver had been talking to me about the Pickled Okra and told me they were featured in “Steel Magnolias” which was written by Bobby Harling (another Southern boy). Right after she told me that, in comes Bobby Harling with Shirley MacLaine. They both came over to wish Ms. Liz Happy Birthday.

Someone asked Shirley about “Downton Abbey.” She said she loved doing it and is doing more very soon. Then I told her my neighbors who are interior decorators did the apartment where she is house-guesting while in town. She knows them of course, but told me to tell them they didn’t leave a hook in the bathroom for her wet towel.

There was so much going on all the time that I can’t remember much conversation. Toni Goodale just got over the flu which she caught from her husband Jamie (James) who is finishing his book about being the lawyer for the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers lawsuit. James Goodale is a brilliant man but Toni told me this book also reads like a thriller.
Shirley MacLaine stops by to wish Liz a Happy Happy ...
A blows a goodbye kiss ...
Deb Shriver was telling me about life in New Orleans where she and her husband have an apartment (or a house?) and how the big events are coming up back to back – Super Bowl and Mardi Gras, and how all the restaurants are going to be jammed because “with Southerners, it’s about the food first.”

Sheila gave Liz a crystal ball which we all  could probably use about now, even when it comes to the weather which is weirder than ever.
Sheila Nevins and Joe Armstrong with Sheila and her Bichon Frise/Poodle rescue, Bogie.
Next door to us Diane (Brenda Starr) Clehane was lunching with Mickey Ateyeh and Angela Cummings, who for years designed jewelry exclusively for Tiffany. I was very impressed to meet Ms. Cummings mainly because the name is so prominently fixed in my head in terms of her work that I never thought of her as a person so much as a brand. The lady herself somehow didn’t fit my image of a Tiffany jewelry designer (I think I was comparing her to Elsa Peretti who looks the role). Cummings is a very good looking woman, almost suburban in her presence, quietly genteel, simply but smartly dressed, with a warm smile and appearance of a resolute but gentle executive.

Next to them were Tracey Jackson and Paul Williams whom I’d seen the night before at the Café Carlyle for the opening of Amanda McBroom. Tracey and Paul are working on a project together that is nearing finish, so you’ll be hearing more about it soon.
Diane Clehane with Angela Cummings.
Francine LeFrak and Sheila Nevins.
Joan Gelman and Sandy Pearl, BFF since 1978.
Tracey Jackson and Paul Williams.
Meanwhile, the joint was jumping ... around the room: Jim Dunning; Pat Mitchell of the Paley Center; David Sanford of the WSJ and Lewis Stein; Pete Peterson; Lisa Baker with Reem Acra and Shelley Rosenwald; Washington attorney and talent dealmaker Bob Barnett; Aryeh Bourkoff, Richard Bressler; Gerry Byrne; Daniel DeWolf with Ted Smith; Diane Dimond, Judy Twersky with Brian Balthazar; Barry Frey; Rich Gelfond with Larry Ingrassia of the New York Times; Scalamandre’s Steven Stolman and Jack Bochonok; Larry Hackett; Jane Hartley; Jolie Hunt; Da Boyz: Gerry Imber, Jerry della Femina, Michael Kramer and Andrew Bergman; Wenda Millard; Nancy Murray of Louis Vuitton with Judy Price, Chuck Pfeiffer; Stan Shuman with Enrique Senior; Tad Smith of Cablevision; Andrew Stein; Barbara Taylor Bradford and Bob Bradford; Joan Gelman and Sandy Pearl, longtime friends who first met in 1978 when Sandy, who is now an art consultant, came down from Toronto to work in television;  Chris Meigher of Quest; Bob Benton (who went to U of Texas with Liz and worked on the school paper with her); Beverly Camhe; Marshall Cohen with David Corvo of Dateline; Star Jones; Dawn Ostroff of Conde Nast; Francine LeFrak; Jordan Ringel of Pavia Harcourt; Bob DiNapoli and son, Alec DiNapoli; Martin Gumer.
Apres lunch, waiting for a cab with Millington toting the presents.

Contact DPC here.