Monday, September 12, 2016

Last of Summer

George Farias dines with his 85 guests in a bamboo tent created by David Monn for George's annual End of Summer Dinner in East Hampton.
Monday, September 12, 2016. It was as very warm weekend in New York; a hot, muggy Friday that got muggier later in the evening; a couple of brief spritzes from Mother Nature and otherwise overcast much of the time. Weather like this has an overall affect on people’s moods, and the news over the weekend, including the anniversary of 9/11 has definitely had its effect on all of us.

Sistina's new location at 24 E. 81st Street.
Although: I was a guest of friends for dinner on Saturday night on the new Sistina which has moved its location from Second Avenue and 81st Street to 81st Street between Madison and Fifth, in a larger location. Sistina is the creation of Giuseppe Bruno. Giuseppe and his brothers, namely Gerardo whose restaurant San Pietro is a very popular luncheon place for many of New York’s business, real estate and banking executives and tycoons, also own Caravaggio on the Upper East Side.

Sistina’s menu is Southern Italian in origin and it always gets high ratings with its longtime loyal crowd – many of whom live closer to Fifth and Madison than Second Avenue – so the new location makes it a more convenient destination on foot.

I started with something simple and perfect for this unsophisticated palette at this time of year – a salad of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, onions, and avocado and a dash of what looked like guacamole, which was of course delicious. And then I chose for my main course the roast chicken — but it’s with pork sausage, pickled hot cherry peppers and garlic. Extraordinary. Spice-E — which I love — and moist and totally a pleasure. My hosts made other selections from the menu and everyone was happy enough that we had a long conversational dinner with a good Brunello and couldn’t resist the desserts (chocolate gelato for me). A wonderful weekend evening.  When we got outside to go home, the temp was still in the 80s but the humidity letting up. A good night.
Sistina's bar, garden room, and main dining room. As you can see, we practically closed down the place.
Last of Summer. Two weeks ago on Saturday in East Hampton, George Farias hosted what has become his annual End of Summer dinner. For several years he spent August in Beverly Hills, and at the end of the month, he hosted a spectacular dinner party for the social and film set. Last year he spent his August on this side of the continent taking a house on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton, and giving his dinner there. We covered it as you may remember, although I didn’t make it out to the evening. I’m an old immoveable object by the end of the Summer, happy in my clam-like life at desk, or at dinner, and home with dogs. I hate going anywhere without them, and I hate going anywhere with them. So I don’t, although George was kind enough to invite me, and being a dog-person he understands.
Tuna tacos, although pigs-in-the-blankets were the most popular hors d’oeuvres.
I knew I’d be missing something really enjoyable because I have been a guest at other dinners George has given here in the city. He is a warm but non-intrusive, welcoming host who responds to the phrase: “Amaze me!”

George is organized. He evidently approaches the notion of entertaining as an Art, and something to please the eye as well. Everything is done perfectly and efficiently -- you as a guest arrive and are well-seated (comfortably), well-fed (brilliantly) and pleased to enjoy the conviviality that his style brings out in the guests. So I arranged to rely on one of our anonymous sources out East who would give us the what-it-was like.  I also got hold of the photographs by the very talented Jean-Pierre Uys who documented the evening.
Guests gathering at cocktails before dinner.
My source at George’s dinner is so “Anonymous” that he doesn’t even tell his wife — a friend of mine —

George Farias’ American Summer Dinner. There was a certain reverse snobbery this summer. Pigs-in-the-blankets were the most popular hors d’oeuvres. Barefoot beach parties; lobster rolls and vats of corn reigning. BOSE speakers spewed iTunes, rather than live music. They were all great fun, indigenously genuine, and often multi-generational. But when George’s invitation hit, a lot of the invited were looking forward to something apart from the rest: an elegant, grown up party.
The placement cards.
David Monn designed it. He and George obviously see eye-to-eye.  They like the quietly spectacular; it’s a good part of the evening’s entertainment as it creates a special environment for the guests to bask in.

Evoking ‘dinner in a garden’, David strung ferns under a bamboo ceiling, in a long, 20’ high tent. One continuous piece of linen covered the table, which seated 86. George’s own silver, filled with dahlias, dotted the table, which glowed with hurricane lamps, and was surrounded by hundreds of votives, lining the garden, meant to mimic fireflies.
The table awaits the guests.
The setting.
Caviar came encrusted in pastry with the requisite shots of vodka to accompany. This being two months before the election, lively conversation ensued, especially because the guests included Rudy and Judith Giuliani, Fox’s Monica Crowley, Democratic spokesman, Robert Zimmerman and Billy Rudin and Jay Snyder, who the next day, would host a Hillary event.

Civility prevailed, though, with an assist from a concert from the talented young composer, Timo Andres, on a 9’ Steinway grand piano, propped up on a platform above the garden. George had read about him in the New Yorker and was impressed with his accomplishments, including becoming a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in composition, as well as composing for the Los Angeles and Boston Symphonies.
The guests are ready to be served.
He performed Philip Glass’s 13th Etude, Ades 2nd Mazurka, and an original composition, entitled ‘Bruckner Blvd’-inspired while driving ... not down Lily Pond Lane. The attractive crowd was made more so by the end of summer glow, included: Marjorie and Jeffrey Rosen, Serena Boardman and Johnny Theodorcopulos, Bettina Zilkha, Judy Cox, Susan Stroman, Kathy and Billy Rayner, Estrellita and Dan Brodsky, Darren Walker, Holly Peterson, Debbie Bancroft, Guilia Caltragioni, Patricia Hearst Shaw, Caryn Zucker, Ann and Mathew Wolf, John Studzinski, Charlotte Moss, Alison and Sylvia Mazzola, Robert A.M. Stern, Laura and Harry Slatkin, Alex Papachristidis and Scott Nelson, Barbara and Bobby Liberman, Gayfryd Steinberg and Michael Shnayerson, Kathy and Rick Hilton, Marcia and Richard Mishaan, to name only a few who come to mind.

Guests took our potted place cards home, to remind us of a most splendid end of summer eve.
Nancy Marcus greets her host with a bottle of wine
Liz and David Netto and daughter Madeline
Wendy Keys and John Studzinski
George with Chessy Breen and Ann Wolf
David Monn, Alison Mazzola, and Sylvia Mazzola
Robert Zimmerman
George with Robert A.M. Stern
Liz Netto
Darren Walker and Holly Peterson
Bettina Zilkha
Judy Cox and Debbie Bancroft
Laura and Harry Slatkin with Kent Torell
George Farias, Chessie Breen, and Ann and Matthew Wolf
Bobby and Barbara Liberman
Bill Siegel and Monica Crowley
Rick and Kathy Hilton with Lauren King and George
Jeffrey and Marjorie Rosen
Carol Mack, Richard Mishaan, Lisa Fine, and Marcia Mishaan
Dana Hammond Stubgen and Virginia Coleman
Jim Zirin and Marlene Hess
Gayfryd Steinberg and Michael Shnayerson
Alex Papachristidis, Robin Torell, and Fruzsina Keehn Sherry
Leila Heller
Rudy and Judith Guiliani, Giulia Caltagironi, and Greg Parker
Jay Snyder, John Theodoracopolis, Serena Boardman, Lauren King, and Mark Gilbertson
Sharon Bush
Nancy Marcus
Sarah Dodd and Will Denton
Leslie Stevens, Chip Conlon, and John Studzinski
Dan and Estrellita Brodsky
Madeline and David Netto
Susan Stroman
Milly deCabrol, Patty Hearst, and Sharon Bush
Judy Cox, Leslie Stevens, and Monica Crowley
Jane Scott Hodges, Charlotte Moss, and Nancy Marcus
At table: Marlene Hess and Jeff Rosen
Peter Duchin (right) shares a laugh with Barbara Liberman and Pietro Cicognani
George Buxton
Peggy Siegal
Robert A. M. Stern
Marcia Mishaan
Judith Guiliani and Monica Crowley
Richard Mishaan shares a laugh with Sarah Dodd
Carol Mack with Darren Walker
David Monn with Charlotte Moss
Barbara Liberman
Patty Hearst amused by Mr. Studzinski
Alex Papchristidis and Marjorie Rosen
Susan Stroman
Tom Scherrer and Laura Slatkin
Pianist Timo Andres

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