January 2010, done and not so bad. Memories of last January, and the deep freeze of the economy, are receding but it is good to remember how different things were a mere year ago. I would not have been caught dead with a shopping bag, and corporate clients were not even tempted to pick up the phone to talk about planning a party. Today, I shopped a little (taking advantage of a great sale at Eileen Fisher) and our phones are ringing, events are being planned again.
Just this past Thursday night we had 2 great events at the Plaza that speak to the different worlds we inhabit in the same moment. Dining in the Dark, is annual dinner of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. During the course of the evening, the room is completely darkened, and visually-impaired, trained servers, serve the meal to the seated guests. It is a disorienting experience on many levels and as it confronts us in our comfort zone and we are forced to cope with circumstances we think we understand, but actually, cannot. For our sighted service and management staff, it was a humbling experience. For a moment, I envisioned the potential for fundraisers for anti-hunger organizations, where guests would attend dinners but the plates would be served empty. The business-me thinks that isn't so hot, but the activist-me loves the idea.
I suppose the contrast with of the second event that evening reflects the contrast of our daily lives - the serious and the superficial; confronting life's realities and the pleasure of escaping from them. The upcoming movie, From Paris with Love, held its premiere party at the Plaza. John Travolta, in his bad-ass, vibrant and violent personae was fabulous. The movie was fast paced, action packed gun shooting though little blood, and a treat for Sam and me to watch. (There was Hugh Jackman, seated 2 rows away from us.)
The year feels like it has substance to it. While business re-engages with entertaining (which is nothing more than a way to interact with clients, launch ideas and products, and grow more new business) it is with restraint (yes, even for the movie premiere - the crowd was well heeled and well behaved) and without the excess of the bubble days.
In the weeks ahead we are involved with some special evenings. On February 8th, we will co-sponsor an event with Liberty Science Center in our professional kitchen in Hudson Square. The theme is ELEMENTS, the second dinner in a series supporting the 2011 Cooking Exhibition at LSC. Highlighting the science of food and cooking, it will be an interactive dining experience (open to the public) where top chefs, winemakers, coffee roasters, and master mixologists will display and explain the physical and chemical changes that occur in food when exposed to the natural elements of fire, water, air, and ice. The sexy term for this is 'molecular gastronomy' and while our grandmothers and their grandmothers practiced molecular gastronomy, I doubt anyone would pay to watch them cook. But to see Jamison Blankenship (Morimoto), Master Chef Jack Shoop, Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo (Frankies Spuntino/Prime Meats/Café Pedlar) and Simone Bonelli (Perbacco) and more...should draw a crowd.
From deconstructed Caprese in a shot glass, and Cold Smoker Cured Yellowtail to the serious issue of lack of food and hunger in our city - again, the dichotomy of our experiences, and worlds that collide. The Yorkville Common Pantry is honoring Great Performances, as one of 3 honorees at their Spring Gala. Our decision to accept this honor is not because we deserve it - but because we want to do more to bring attention to organizations that do so much everyday (more than most of us can even imagine) to feed hungry families, seniors and individuals. From food and hot meals, to social services, haircuts and showers for the homeless, and food education classes for children and parents - the work of YCP is amazing. They feed more people than any other anti-hunger program in the city. Check them out. Give. Generously.
Turn out the lights, walk or eat or read in the dark. Escape to the movies, laugh or cry or gasp in wonder. Visit a museum, learn and explore, science or nature or art. Give to others, imagine skipping a meal or eating half of what you'll consume today.
Some of us no longer fear the terror of the financial crisis and the impact of the devastating recession. We see the clearing and feel safe again as life resumes familiar patterns. Some of us are not that lucky. But if we have learned anything from the past year, it is how fragile things are and of our obligations in this world of 'new normal' - walking in between light and dark, yet seeing with new clarity.