Friday, May 11, 2018

Through the Kitchen and home again

Eastern Redbuds in bloom in Central Park. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, May 11, 2018. A mild day, yesterday in New York, with temperatures in the not-as-warm low 60s, rainclouds passing over and the Sun occasionally peeping through.

The busy social calendar is still a couple of weeks from lightening up. Last Sunday night the Cancer Research Institute held its 35th annual “Through the Kitchen” party at The Grill and The Pool in the Seagrams Building.

This event is the baby (now grown up) of Lauren Veronis, who created the idea and brought in — and continues to bring in — the crowds. As usual, they had a big turnout (a lot of longtime supporters with many new ones joining the roster). It begins at 7 p.m. with cocktails in The Grill, followed by the distribution of the chef’s aprons for all the guests. Then the be-aproned enter the streamlined kitchen, which has been entirely renovated by the new restaurateurs, very large dinner plates are waiting — to move through the kitchen for an astounding buffet.

It’s hard to resist wanting to try everything no matter what diet you’re on. And there is a lot of everything — all kinds of salads, meats, pastas, seafood, sushi and breads. and most people I noticed (including myself) tend to load as much on the plate as possible.
John and Lauren Veronis.
From the kitchen, guests and their plates move into The Pool room where the tables for eight and ten are decorated with a specific theme. This year it was magazines. I happened to be seated at the Playboy table decorated with, you can see, a mannequin costumed like a Playboy bunny dominating. And the model on the Playboy cover looks amazingly like Jamee Gregory who coincidentally was also at the Playboy table. This year they even used the pool with a “fisherman” reading a magazine (Field & Stream?) and occasionally throwing a line across the water as if to catch something (that wasn’t there).
The table theme: magazines.
It’s a perfect Sunday night occasion with the buffet being the VERY grand entertainment — and delicious. This party originated in the same location when it was the Four Seasons Restaurant, and always on a Sunday night. The “entertainment” for this very popular event is of course The Food. The new owners of this restaurant present a fabulous menu of all the basics we love to gorge ourselves on (occasionally).
Cocktails in The Grill.
Making our way through the kitchen ...
During the dinner Jill O’Donnell-Tormey Ph.D. who is the CEO and Director of Scientific Affairs of the Cancer Research Institute, told the guests about the progress that was being made through their generous support. This year the evening raised $1.4 million, which will enable CRI to fund six new fellow beginning in July and continuing for three years. She reminded everyone that their generosity is funding exciting advances in immunotherapy that is saving more lives and leading to cures for many kinds of cancers.
Dinner in The Pool.
Before dessert, Jamie Niven, the auctioneer extraordinaire, raised additional funds (quickly) before everyone returned to the kitchen for their platefuls of all kinds of delicious desserts, and then everyone went home to presumably sleep off the feast.
Jamie Niven.
Which speaking of “feasts,” i.e. lunch and dinner. This past Wednesday I went to lunch at Michael’s with Blair Sabol, who was in town doing some research on her next column. We were joined by Daphne Merkin. The two writers have never met but are big fans of each other’s work and share several mutual friends. It was a love fest of conversation which covered the current waterfront of fashion and politics. I got a few words in edgewise but was happy just to sit and listen to their thoughts and what they’re working on.

Michael’s was its usual “jammed” with its usual crowd and then some. Passing by my table, I saw Patty Hearst and Anne Hearst McInerney, who were lunching with Sharon Bush; Tina Brown was with Jolie Hunt; financier Herb Allen, PR guru Lisa Linden; Washington lawyer, the man who makes careers happen, Bob Barnett; Tom Goodman; attorney Jonathan Mechanic; documentary produer Ruth Streeter; show biz columnist Roger Friedman; producer Beverly Camhe; actress/producer Diane Sokolow; Susan Blond; Kathy Lee Gifford with Jillian Dorfman; Diane Clehane; Anne Beagan; Joan Jedell; Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew; Peter Price; Joel Silverman; Jim Cohen; Mark Rosenthal; Peter Bren; Andrew Stein; Adam Platzner.

Dinner time. That night I went over to Sette Mezzo, much smaller, Italian (I’ll say) but like Michael’s, jammed. One table over was Steve Martin and his wife, editor/writer Anne Stringfield. At another table was another famous comedian/writer, also hilarious, Mel Brooks. Sette which draws a big neighborhood (UES) crowd is also a mecca to the famous (not to mention rich). I saw David Geffen lunching with former British prime minister Tony Blair. On another night Leo DiCaprio was there with a small group of friends; Paul McCartney often dines there when he is in town. It’s not uncommon to see Caroline Kennedy and Ed Schlossberg at table with friends and family. One night he was at one table, Billy Joel was at another table, and Rod Stewart at another! A trifecta. Harry and Gigi Benson are often in attendance. It’s still a neighborhood restaurant with a great staff, friendly, on the ball, a great menu and a trio of proprietors, Oriente, Gennaro and Nino – all real Italians (although they speaka-dee English pretty well too). It’s homey and delicious; hard to resist.
Mel Brooks and Steve Martin exchanging digits at Sette Mezzo.
It’s a Great Day in Queens. I got this press release from Rob McKay informing me that the Queens Tourism Council is celebrating the 60th anniversary of this iconic photograph taken on August 12, 1958 by Art Kane, a freelance photographer on assignment for Esquire, of 57 jazz musicians in front of a brownstone at 17 East 126th Street in Manhattan. Dubbed “ A Great Day in Harlem,” the black-and-white image of Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and several other jazz legends, symbolized the genre and neighborhood at the time.

Next Saturday, May 19th, Art’s son, Jonathan Kane is honoring the anniversary by taking his own visual portrait of Queens residents in front of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Jonathan, who is a photographer/musician, lives in the international Jackson Heights neighborhood, and his image will depict the borough’s unprecedented ethnic diversity.
Art Kane, “ A Great Day in Harlem."
“It’s long been a dream of mine to recreate the image as a homage to my father, but with a social and conceptual twists ... Queens is the most diverse county on the planet. We speak more than 100 languages, we profess countless faiths and creeds, and best of all, we get along! We are living and celebrating everything that’s great about America everyday, and it’s time to share that with the world in a bold and dynamic way.”

Working with the Queens Tourism Council, Jonathan plans to assemble dozens of Queens residents for about three hours starting at 8 a.m. They will enjoy some breakfast and each other’s company before posing for photos in the same basic T-formation as seen in “A Great Day in Harlem.”
The January 1959 issue of Esquire in which Art Kane's photo originally appeared.
The image could be used for any number of purposes, including education, tourism, fund-raising, decoration, and even branding. Jonathan says that all participants will get an enlarged copy, while he plans to create and distribute a poster to interested parties. There are also plans to create a video documentary of the event. (There is a docu of his father’s 1958 photo.)

Right now Queens Tourism Council Director McKay is recruiting people for the photo and organizing the run of the show next Saturday. If you are interested in being part of the experience, contact him at 718-263-0546 or email him at
Sunday, as everyone in America knows, is Mother's Day. Among our personal honorees are Annie and her mother Biddy, the founders of the Peruvian Connection who recently joined us as NYSD Advertisers. The mother-daughter team began their business quite accidentally after Annie, then doing graduate work in anthropology traveled to Peru where she was introduced to the native women working with alpaca in the Andes Mountain.
Annie with her mother, Biddy.
So taken by the brilliance, beauty and practicality of their work that when she returned to her family home in Kansas, she helped design a sweater as a birthday gift for her mother. So taken was her mother and her friends with the sweater that the popularity of the pieces gave rise to a greater idea: a business. That was 40 years ago. Today, with six stores in this country, one right here on 76th Street and Columbus Avenue, and another in London, and a catalogue mailing list numbering in the millions (still out of Kansas), Mother was right!
Annie with her daughter Balie.
Happy Mother's Day!


Contact DPC here.