It’s true that Celest and I are sometimes like a lez couple with no sex between us. I like to say she’s the chocolate to my honey. We go out on the town (and beyond) together a lot and we’re a great pair because our tastes are similar and our philosophies on what’s fun are really compatible—namely eating, drinking, traveling, dressing up, flirting and talking, talking, talking…We’re easily impressed with one another and often unimpressed by men (sometimes even the ones with whom we’re in relationships) so we spend a lot of time together and are often each other’s “date” to social events. This will be the case in August, when we go out to L.A. together for our friend Nini’s wedding. Nini first solicited my help in planning the menu for her reception, being held at the penthouse atop the Beverly Wilshire hotel, when we made spring rolls together a couple of months ago. Since then, I have considered it a labor of love to consult via email and phone with the bride and the catering director of the hotel. If everything goes as planned, come Labor Day weekend, all her guests will be feasting on an intimate fusion menu that combines Nini’s Vietnamese heritage with her groom’s British roots and California’s late summer harvest. Dueling trays of lychee martinis and pints of New Castle are a must. I can’t wait!
Celest says she’s sure the food will be spectacular, but she’s more concerned with what she’ll wear. And how much it’s going to cost her to check all the luggage she plans to bring for a week on the West Coast. Damn those supplementary baggage charges! What’s the price these days if your extra bag is a hatbox?
Before the wedding, however, it was inevitable that there would be a debaucherous bachelorette party here in New York. Last weekend, that’s just what Nini got. She was looking forward to a night of rich food, drunken flirting and excessive silliness in the form of glittered tiaras, faux tattoos with slogans like “on the prowl,” and a troop of girls wearing matching black boas. It all came to pass and more (except the boas, which, when they arrived looked too thin and scraggly—so pathetic they were left at home). And her “blackmail pictures,” as she called them, do in fact include a bride-to-be with blood shot eyes and, occasionally, a stranger’s wandering hands on her Marc Jacobs.
We started the eventful evening at Public, where the size of our party (eight women) dictated that we order from a shortened menu. Frankly, I was disappointed in Public, the place where I hosted a Supper Club event to good success last fall, and where I chose to celebrate my birthday only a few months ago. This night, however, I was annoyed that a party of eight was forced into a pre fixe menu, but more grievous was the fact that my food was sub-par. In particular, I thought the beet and ginger risotto, which had a beautiful color, was watery, not creamy and not redolent of truffle oil, as it should have been. And the “red velvet cake” I ordered for dessert was not only not red, it was so flavorless and the ice cream so bland, I actually sent it back and got a blackberry panna cotta as a replacement. The panna cotta was an improvement, but still hardly noteworthy. Celest’s watermelon feta salad was cleverly plated—squared-off pieces of melon were stacked, Linkin’ Log style, with chunks of feta scattered across the plate. She liked the lentil salad with green beans, avocado and pecans well enough and was satisfied with the flavor of her dessert, which was a sticky toffee pudding with Armagnac ice cream and caramel sauce. The service was fine and Nini seemed to enjoy herself, but I’m concerned about the standard of food at this restaurant, one of my go-to places over the past year.
After dinner, we huddled under umbrellas and headed in the rain up the street to the new spot Elizabeth, which was an instant hit for décor and it turns out they serve pretty good cocktails to boot! The place looks sharp—deep green felt walls, chandeliers and an ultra-modern fireplace in the room where we were seated. In the sleek front room, there’s a handsome bar with a set of round, leather banquettes facing it. It’s eclectic; fresh flowers sit next to chrome skull lamps. But, the place’s most spectacular seating is in the far back. Open-air in good weather, its retractable roof was in place for this rainy summer’s eve. It’s like a hip solarium. I’m eager to go back and try the food from Chef John Iconomo, formerly of Country. We sipped cocktails like the Double Down (a tequila, chili, cucumber concoction) and planned our next move—ideally to a hot crowd and good dance music. We couldn’t decide where to go.
Sadly, finding the right place to meet your expectations on a Saturday night seems more and more difficult in New York these days…
We decided on Butter, which I’ve loved in the past for its understated upstairs bar. But this night called for more of a party than I’m used to pursuing, so we headed downstairs, towards the thumping music. What we found was the saddest, deadest scene imaginable: awkward groups of gender-segregated factions (I know, a bit hypocritical to criticize, since we were a bachelorette party of all girls, but still) and a crew of deadly bored servers who had daggers in their eyes for the pretenders in front of them. I can’t believe this was once one of the most happening spots in the city! I suppose it might host better nights than Saturdays at 1am, but I won’t be going back to find out. She’d been treated to a few shots at Elizabeth, so Nini was having a good time and that’s what mattered most. Celest and I got chatted up by a handsome Brazilian who bought rounds for our group, which eventually dwindled to just three ladies, and invited us to accompany him to a place in the Meatpacking District with a name that sounded promising: Kiss & Fly. We agreed, anxious to get away from Butter. I suppressed my concern at his use of the phrase “Euro club” to describe where we were headed, when he hired a white limo to transport us across town.
Never ignore a phrase as odious as “Euro club.” The drop it produces in your stomach is your primeval instinct, telling you to go as far in the other direction from such a described place, as you can. Kiss & Fly was a fog-filled, techno pumping, trashy attired, smelly club, the likes of which I haven’t seen since my sophomore year of college. I truly had forgotten places like it exist. And that people want to go there! Our host was gracious enough, ushering us in (obviously a regular—ouch) past the ropes and bouncers and eventually showing us to a “table” where we could sit and marvel at the scene in front of us. And the vag (as Sara would say) hanging out of a dress worn by a girl dancing on a raised platform three feet away from where Nini, Celest and I sat. It was right up in our face, peeking out now and again as the girl grooved to the deafening, non-melodic music.
We didn’t stay long, but we stayed long enough for Nini to smoke some cigarettes inside the club (a real novelty that any betrothed Manhattan smoker ought to get to experience on her big night out) and to take some pictures of the offending crotch.
So I could share.
Upon leaving the club, Nini declared it was time for her to head back to the hotel suite she was enjoying for her single gal weekend, so we put her in a cab and Celest and I headed around the corner to share a 5am cheeseburger at Florent. We did this because (a) I was hungry again after hardly eating any of my $120 pre fixe dinner at Public (b) There’s not much time left to enjoy this pioneer of the Meatpacking District, since, ironically, the real estate that their success helped make popular in this neighborhood now means that, as a modest place, they can’t afford the rent, and (c) We agreed we needed to end the night with a civilized conversation, one not shouted across bad techno and a plethora of foreign accents.
Well, at least there was no techno.