02/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What's The Party Line?

The New Year is technically a week old, but only three days old from a back to work perspective and already we are trying to read into it what the entertaining trends are for '09.

Will There Be Parties Or Not?

And what the stock market/automobile/banking-bailout debacle didn't mangle, Bernie Madoff came along and finished the job. In cater-ese that means -- if corporate business was down, we could still depend on non-profit fund-raising events, and of course, weddings -- the legendary untouchable market segment. No longer. Thank you Bernie for emptying the coffers of the social ranks as well.

So the work year is three days old and what do we see?

1. I don't want to sign a contract, but I will do the event, be patient
2. Party at the Plaza? Can you please find me a simple, low key location in Chelsea maybe?
3. I signed the contract, but I am not ready to give you my deposit (my cash feels safer in my
own pocket)
4. We are moving ahead, but it will be 250 guests instead of 500
5. Can we do a two course luncheon instead of three
6. Chicken, chicken, chicken
7. And of course... can you do it for 20% less?
8. Nothing on the calendar now, but maybe second half of the year

I went out and shopped. I bought a great Searle jacket at 50% off, some Ferragamo shoes at 50% off and then a fabulous pair of boots at full retail. It felt good. It felt socially redeeming and significant. It felt patriotic.

For months, the only shopping I have allowed myself was food purchasing. The biggest weekly splurge was at the Saturday Greenmarket in Union Square where I would treat my family to a selection of awesome ultra fresh fish and whatever local greens or root vegetables were available. Before New Year's, I treated myself to a new blend from Rick's Picks and some great jam from Beth's Farm Kitchen. How virtuous -- shopping locally, being disciplined and restrained. It was killing me. With every apple I bought, images of the Great Depression ran through my mind.

The boots -- maroon, patent leather, short and fabulous. How can I expect my clients to resume entertaining if I couldn't let myself spend some money? The wonderful shoe man needed me. All week long he was abused by aggressive bargain hunters, "Well, I like those sandals, but not that price." He told me that he finally refused to sell his wares to several women who simple crossed the line. Even when they begged. He had his pride, and he had me. Full retail. It felt wildly liberating.

So, what are the party trends for '09?

I'll have to wait a couple of weeks and see what this year is really about. Will Barack Obama set the tone with some great inaugural events and give us permission to send out invitations again? I know those caterers down in DC have been booked up for weeks -- are all the parties underground? Will we get a glimpse of the joy of entertaining and the happiness it brings? What will they be wearing... what food will be on the menu? I cannot wait to get to DC and see for myself.

It is a strange new world. I have been through several recessions and nothing even comes close to the vibe we are feeling today. The good news is that we have clients who are entertaining. Business happens around food. Hospitality is the secret weapon of relationship building. Employee morale matters. Not everyone is broke. Not everyone is engaged in lay-offs. There are business segments that are thriving. We won't be searing the filet mignon, and we have some incredibly delicious homes-style meals ready to serve. We need to spend a little money. It is good for the economy. It is very important for businesses with payrolls. It might even feel good. And I promise, it will taste great!

Liz Neumark

Chicken Menu Items Spring 2009


Roasted Chicken Breast
Ricotta and Pea Frittata, Sauteed Katchkie Farm Arugula
Roasted Tomato and Olive Picant

Panzanella Stuffed Chicken Roulade

Ratatouille and Basil Coulis


Roasted Farm House Chicken Breast

Local Shell Bean Ragout, Corn Dusted Zucchini Blossom
Natural Jus

Herb Seared French Chicken Breast
Baked Potato Custard, Crispy Salsify, Morels
Black Truffle Sauce


Roasted French Breast of Chicken
Hen of the Woods and Sweet Pea Salad, Fresh Pea Leaves
Carrot Coulis