Monday, May 4, 2015

An Evening of Practical Magic

The decor at City Harvest's "An Evening of Practical Magic" at Cipriani 42nd Street. All produce used in the decor was rescued by City Harvest to help feed hungry New Yorkers. Photo: JH.
Monday, May 4, 2015. Sunny, warm weekend days in New York with temperatures hovering in the low 70s, with the weatherman forecasting temps in the 80s through this week. It’s what I always compare to Southern California weather where it can get very warm and lovely but not humid. For now anyway.
Saturday and Sunday in the (Carl Schurz) Park. Two of the family members are being walked by a friend of mine on the Promenade by the East River while I take a photo of the tree and garden around it.
A closeup of the same. I can't tell you the names of what we're looking at but they don't care and neither do I -- their beauty astounds and comforts.
You can see the East River in the background. The temperature was in the low 70s.
Another beauty.
And another ...
Irises among the tulips.
Never enough ...
View of the 86th Street Plaza of Carl Shurz Park bordering the intersection of East End Avenue and East 86th Street, as seen from the riverside promenade.
A closer look as we move down the steps.
On side.
Under the trees.
Looking east to the steps and the tulips.
At the western foot of the grove.
In the park as seen from the sidewalk on the avenue, on our tail end of the dogs' walk.
The flowering grove as seen from the avenue. 2:30 p.m., Sunday afternoon.
Last week was a busy one on the charity gala calendar. Last Thursday night, for example, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation started 22 years ago by Evelyn Lauder (who died four years ago) was holding its annual  Hot Pink Party in the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf and honoring the founder’s husband Leonard Lauder.

This is a very important evening because they raise a great deal of money for research – in the millions – and the work of the BCRF has had a decisive positive effect on their objective: a cure. I have been an enthusiastic supporter of Evelyn Lauder and all of her associates who have done something really good for the world. Her legacy has left a strong organization of supporters to carry on her quest.
Judy Glickman Lauder, Leonard A. Lauder, Elizabeth Hurley, Anthony von Mandl, and Kinga Lampert.
Then up at the Pierre, same night, The Versailles and Giverny Foundation was hosting its annual do “in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses The Hereditary Prince and Princess Bernhard of Baden.” This is always an interesting dinner, organized and hosted by Barbara de Portago, whose mother and stepfather Florence and Gerald van der Kemp were fundraisers and the curator (Mr. van der Kemp) of Versailles in years of its great emergence in restoration.

It’s fascinating to hear the “personal interest” of these individuals of old royal families of European thrones that are now defunct. They express a nobility of interest in their countrymen and their country that is missing in modern government today – no matter the type of government.

Gerald van der Kemp in the family salon.
None of those I’ve heard speak has ever talked about his or their country in a “political” way as if to imply that maybe they should be back in power. Instead, their message is one of respect for their countrymen, the working people who make the nation, and delivering their needs as their government (not someone else’s or some political party’s government). And so it is.

Also Thursday night over at the Metropolitan Club, the Table 4 Writers Foundation was holding an annual Awards Gala “continuing the tradition of Elaine Kaufman.” 

Just in case you don’t know who Elaine Kaufman was: she was the leading saloon keeper to the Noo Yawk literary crowd for decades and decades.  She ruled her roost and nobody played Elaine – or even got through the door if she didn’t like them. But she LOVED writers. Revered them, fed them, toasted them, and told them exactly what she thought too. I’m sure Elaine would have been impressed, even humbled to think that she was remembered at a dinner in Mr. Morgan’s clubhouse. She was a New Yorker herself, after all.

Which brings us to my Thursday night. It was the City Harvest annual Evening of Practical Magic held at Cipriani 42nd Street. I’ve been attending City Harvest’s annual events for years now because it is a crucially important charity in our community. It feeds people.

Those of us who are well fed and maybe even over fed have little if any knowledge of what it’s like to go hungry. It’s not like a headache. It’s more like being trapped right on the edge of a 1000 foot cliff and knowing that the slightest moment away you could go over ... to oblivion. There are actually billions of us around the world who know about this “trap.”
Arriving at the Cipriani 42nd Street banquet hall with the City Harvest truck parked in front to guide us (and eventually collect the produce used in the decor).
City Harvest started out as one woman’s idea – using the food left at the end of the day and re-distributing it to those in need. It’s so simple and so brilliant. During the first years that I attended, the dinners were smaller and the funds raised were smaller too – compared to many of the events I attended. Evelyn Lauder’s BCRF has been taking in multimillions – thanks to Evelyn and Leonard Lauder – from the start. City Harvest, on the other hand, was taking in mid-six figures – if they did well.

It is a tendency for the Big Money in philanthropy to focus on health issues (that would affect them also) and in many ways “education” because of the contributors’ relationship to these issues. Food and starvation is not on the agenda because it’s not in the consciousness of many of those with deep pockets or even the rest of us who aren’t going to bed hungry.
Carola Jain, Lise Evans, Sandra Ripert, Chrissy Teigen, Pam Kaufmann, and Heather Mnuchin.
Eric Ripert, Sandra Ripert, Margaret Zakarian, and Geoffrey Zakarian.
Jilly Stephens and David Patrick Columbia. Sarah Jay and Misook Doolittle.
Donatella Arpaia and Pasquale Cozzolino. Lori Silverbush and Tom Colicchio.
City Harvest Food Council members Eric Ripert, Rick Smilow, Kerry Heffernan, Chef Chris Santos, Anne Burrell, Ben Pollinger, Gail Simmons, Marc Murphy, Chrissy Teigen, Geoffrey Zakarian, Donatella Arpaia, Terrance Brennan, Executive Director Jilly Stephens, and Tom Colicchio.
However, Thursday night contradicted this thought of mine. Because it was a big crowd – one of the biggest I’ve ever seen in this massive, cavernous, faux Gothic space which I’ve attended probably hundreds of times. A woman named Heather Mnuchin and her associates have turned a noble but unalluring social evening (of charity) into a party of contributors cheering City Harvest on. They raised more than $3.2 million for this organization that is growing, progressing and making a difference in the community everyday. And you could tell by the cheers and laughter in the room that they were having a good time just being there together for this project.

It was not only a big crowd but a very contemporary, even young-ish crowd full of enthusiasm for the whole process. The chefs of New York are generally big supporters of City Harvest’s work. Their contribution has been to bring synergy to solving a community problem. They have given a healthy and universally agreeable mystique to the work of City Harvest. They have visited a kind of celebrity that evokes notice by others.
Entering the dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street.
The edible centerpiece.
The entree was a fillet of beef on a bed of "City Harvest green" pea risotto.
It so happens I was one of the “honorees” along with Tom Colicchio and Richard Berry, both of whom have been longtime supporters who have worked to put this venture on the map. Mr. Berry is a businessman who is also a longtime supporter and a board member of City Harvest.

The evening consisted of the dinner, our “acceptance” speeches and then an “auction”  conducted by Nicholas Lowry, President and Principal Auctioneer at Swan Galleries here in New York.
Masters of Ceremony Geoffrey Zakarian, Chair, City Harvest Food Council.
Jilly Stephens, City Harvest Executive Director.
Co-chair Heather Mnuchin.
Tom Colicchio receiving the Inaugural Mnuchin Family Award for Excellence from Heather Mnuchin.
Tom Colicchio accepting his award.
Max Adler introduces DPC.
DPC accepting The Harry & Misook Doolittle Heart of the City Award.
Richard Berry receives his Star of the City Award from Jennifer McLean, City Harvest COO.
Richard Berry addresses the crowd.
Co-Chair Chrissy Teigen introduced a video presentation.
City Harvest Speaker Lex Wilder.
Anne Burrell, City Harvest Food Council, congratulating Lex Wilder.
Nicholas Lowry starts the auction.
Mr. Lowry has an entertainer’s personality. In fact when he started, I thought he was doing standup. When the audience got too chatty-cathy, Mr. Lowry would give them a big shush, they shushed, and he’d continue on his patter. He was auctioning off dinners by famous New York chefs, visits to famous vineyards in France, vacations in Turks and Caicos.

Eric Ripert, a major City Harvest supporter, for example, offered to prepare a dinner for 20 anyplace in the US. An anonymous individual bid on it -- provided it include a performance of one song by John Legend, also a big City Harvest supporter. The bid was for $1 milllion.
Nicholas Lowry, Geoffrey Zakarian, Anne Burrell, Lex Wilder, Gail Simmons, and Marcus Samuelsson cheering on the bidders.
Dinner with Marcus Samuelsson and Geoffrey Zakarian, with cocktails by Anne Burrell and dessert by Gail Simmons, sold for $70,000.
Jay McInerney, Chrissy Teigen, and Eric Ripert.
Another item was a visit for two or four people to a famous vineyard in Bordeaux including dinners and a stay at the vineyard’s chateaux as well as a private tour of the vineyard and facilities.  The winning big was $240,000.

Meanwhile the guests in the room were cheering them on. A dinner prepared for 8 guests by Marcus Samuelson went for $160,000. It went like that.
The gentleman in the blue check shirt bid (and won) one of the auction items for $160,000.
The table celebrates with of bottle of G.H. Mumm champagne, which the same gentleman placed the winning bid for to kick off the live auction.
One of the auction items, a four-day weekend in Bordeaux at a famous vineyard for a couple, sold for the highest bid to Misook Doolittle for $240,000.
Ms. Doolittle's table celebrates with a photograph.
Jilly Stephens, Jennifer Bronstein, Max Adler, Misook Doolittle, Chrissy Teigen, and John Legend.
John Legend accepting the anonymous $1 million bid (!) for a private dinner by Eric Ripert and Le Bernardin along with a special performance by John Legend.
SOLD! John Legend, Eric Ripert, and Nicholas Lowry .
It was a great evening and a very positive example of what can be done and is being done in the community by its citizens for  its citizens. This is community and this is the only thing that’s going to save us from dark clouds off yonder. It’s a very great thing.

The party itself was just: a great party. It’s one of the few times I’ve watch an auction where the house was cheering it on and reveling in the results.
Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Lise Evans, and Geoffrey Zakarian.
Lise Evans, Marcus Samuelsson, and Carola Jain.
Danielle Hirsch and Rochelle Hirsch.
Grace Meigher, Philip Carlson, and Duane Hampton.
Hunt Slonem texts to pledge.
Steve and Meredith Millington.
Michael and Eleanora Kennedy, Margo Langenberg, and Edgar Batista.
Lesley Stevens and Edgar Batista.
Dominique Kirby and Michel Witmer.
Anna Safir with Eleanora and Michael Kennedy.
David Hirsch, Gillian Miniter, and Jason Hirsch.
Jennifer Bronstein, Misook Doolittle, and Max Adler.
Anne Burrell and Tripp Swanhaus.
Last Friday night, another beautiful night in New York, I went to dinner with my friend Charlotte to Le Cirque. This of course is an institution and it deliver the tradition of a great restaurant in terms of staff and service  and hospitality. I happen to love the Pasta Primavera that Sirio Maccioni created years ago at the first Le Cirque location.

I also like that it is prepared at table and it is entirely delicious to the last morsel. Charlotte was easily persuaded to share it with me. SO, I took out my trusty Canon and took some photos of the process we watched of our dinner being prepared. Oh, we started with the “lobster salad” (excellent).
The process begins. They wheel it up to our table and the pasta is poured into the sauce pan with some broccoli.
Then the cream (it looks like cream — yes, I know ...)
And the captain tosses the pasta and vegetables and the cream.
Then the salt.
And then the pepper.
And toss it some more.
And then the cheese.
And toss it some more.
And then ... voila! (How do you say that in Italian?) A total gastronomic pleasure.
We were going to skip dessert except we were persuaded by the management to try the tapioca covered with caviar serving in a little Beluga tin. Exceptional, and just enough so that you wouldn’t be tempted to stay all night and eat more of it.