Run the World (Girls)

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Tulips bursting on to the city streets. Photo: JH.

Monday, April 22, 2024. Cold Spring weather over the weekend with some sunshine. There was one warm day in there somewhere (“ahh, Summer izza comin”). Although the flowers and the trees are all a-bloomin’.

The days of the week. I had dinner on Saturday night with Emilia Saint-Amand who has finally returned from her annual months in Florida. Emilia and I are old friends — timewise and otherwise — although we rarely see each other.

Emilia Saint-Amand at last year’s annual Top Dog Gala where she was a Top Dog Honoree for her tremendous support of AMC over the years.

We first met somewhere in the early ‘70s when I had a small business in a little red one-story barn (built in 1836) in Pound Ridge, and she was a customer. That was quite awhile ago, if you’re into arithmetic, and included decades when we never saw each other (when I moved to California). That was quite a while ago too, having settled down with age. Or because of it.

My favorite story about Emilia, which I may have told before, took place about the same time that we met, in the early ’70s, when she was mother of two very young children in pram-time.

One warm and sunny Spring day she was walking her little ones in their stroller on the Central Park side of Fifth Avenue, from the East 90s to the low East 70s. At which point she decided to make her way back up the avenue. Crossing the avenue as the light indicated, to the east side of the avenue, she was facing an apartment building at the same moment a very chic woman, beautifully, perfectly dressed, all in grey, dashed out of the building to the curbside of a waiting grey limousine.

It was such a stunning and grandly attractive moment in New York. The woman got into her limousine (with her chauffeur also in grey) and was off. Emilia turned to the building’s doorman, who had escorted the woman to her limousine, and asked: “Who was that lady?”

“What lady?” the doorman asked kindly.

“The lady who got into the car that just drove away,” Emilia explained.

“Oh,” replied the doorman matter-of-factly: “That was Mrs. Paley.” *Babe Paley.

Our very young mother transporting her two small boys back home, said to herself: “I want to live there someday!”

And eventually, long after “that lady” left, that day came to pass for Emilia.

We couldn’t resist running Harry Benson’s portrait, taken at Michael’s, of DPC, Topsy Taylor, Emilia Saint-Amand, and Joy Ingham in 2010 discussing an upcoming City Harvest benefit (the photo is from Harry’s book, New York New York, on which he collaborated with Hilary Geary Ross, published by Powerhouse Books).

Voraciously speaking: Winning news from abroad. Our friend Gillian Miniter returned last week from Cali, Colombia where she participated in the annual South American Bridge Championship.

Gillian and her partners Joe Grue, John Hurd, Brad Moss and Kevin Bathurst played in the Transnational (open teams) where 46 teams competed from around the world. The format of the event consisted of three days of three shorter matches called a Swiss, which consists of 12 boards. Of the 46 teams, only the top eight qualify for the next stage. Then it was on to the semi-finals, quarter-finals, and the finals … where our friend Gillian was victorious!

Gillian with Grand Life Master partners Joe Grue, Brad Moss, John Hurd, and Kevin Bathurst at the opening ceremony of  the South American Bridge Championship at Club Campestre in Cali, Columbia where the organizers called Gillian up to represent the United States, giving her a key to the city.

It’s not surprising if you know her. She is one who has the ability to be concise with matters of abundance. She’d worked on Wall Street as a very young woman, which she loved, before she married, because she loved working with figures. She and her husband Sylvester have a daughter Serena and a son Quint, both of whom are now out in the world making their own way.

But these days she is all in on Bridge. And she’s a prodigy. As in she’s a Platinum Life Master.

Lest you think Bridge is all about card counting, there were multiple events at the Championship, including a white party, over a fierce 3-day competition.

Gillian’s also been long involved in major cultural and philanthropic organizations including City Harvest, the New York Botanical Garden, and the School of American Ballet, to name a few. And she’s into her second decade as a (hard)working member of the Women’s Committee of Central Park Conservancy (she even served as President at one point). This Committee runs the annual Central Park luncheon (the “Hat Lunch”) that raises millions to pay for the maintenance of this beautiful, extraordinary park in the middle of this great city, the greatest gift for everyone.

Victory! Gillian and the winning team of Brad Moss, Kevin Bathurst, Joe Grue, and John Hurd. For those of you who are not yet into bridge but are interested in learning the game, Gillian says to start here.

Meanwhile, this past Friday, JH was down in Union Square when the heavens opened up. Fortunately, the Union Square Greenmarket — which is out in the Open in Union Square Park — was open and so he took shelter under the first tent that caught his eye (it was purple).

When he looked up, there was Blaine Caravaggi! If you don’t know Blaine, Blaine is not new to the culinary world. Her husband Robert, with chef/partner Stephen Attoe, opened and operated Swifty’s restaurant and Swifty’s Events Catering (with Blaine) in Manhattan for seventeen years until 2016. And as every regular knows, New York’s beloved boîte, headed up by Robert, went South to Palm Beach in 2019 where Swifty’s found a fabulous home around The Colony’s lively pool scene.

Blaine Caravaggi at her stand at the Union Square Greenmarket. According to Blaine, Off The Wheat only uses organic and Fair Trade Hudson Valley ingredients; everything is gluten free and she even offers vegan, dairy free, sugar-free, refined sugar-free, & low carb options. All this “without EVER sacrificing flavor or texture.”

Ever since, Blaine has also been operating a gluten-free baked-goods company called Off the Wheat Sweets and Eats, located in the Hudson Valley. There she sells all of her sweet and savory treats (and they are treats!) baked using Hudson Valley farms’ ingredients, including eggs from pastured chickens, grass fed butter, cheese that is Animal Welfare Approved. Even the cornmeal and oats are that local and non-GMO.  And every week she sets up shop at the Union Square Greenmarket. If you live anywhere near, you already know it’s a must-go for all.

I’ve known both Blair and Robert since the New York days at Swifty’s and even when Robert was the maître d’ at Mortimer’s. What I did not know is that baking and culinary arts are also a family tradition for Blaine. Her great, great aunt was Fannie Merritt Farmer, an American culinary expert.  (I think she was also from the family after whom the Connecticut Parkway was named). In 1896 Fannie Farmer published her best known work The Boston Cooking School Cookbook also known as The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which 125 years later is still available in print today!

A selection of Blaine’s muffins include organic and dairy free banana dark chocolate muffins, organic and dairy free zucchini chocolate chunk muffins, vegan and organic triple chocolate with chocolate coconut cream ganache muffins, and brown butter toast coconut muffins. YUM!
More mouthwatering treats including keto and sugar-free cappuccino muffins, keto and sugar-free organic raspberry orange muffins, organic and sugar-free pumpkin muffins with orange cream cheese frosting, and organic keto and sugar-free cinnamon donut muffins.

This is all to say make it your business to visit her at the Union Square Greenmarket. Otherwise, you can check out (and order) her line of goodies here.

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