'The event he came to see as the beginning of enlightenment occurred one Christmas. The cleaning lady started it.'
- Jane Gardam, Old Filth


Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes from New York’s Savviest Hostesses

Florence Fabricant

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Oct 13, 2015
Category: Food and Wine

October. It’s crisp in the evening. In the great limestone fortresses on Park Avenue, the residents are finally back from wherever they go in the summer. At night, their lights are on — dinner party season has begun. What are they serving? You’d be surprised.

In the silver serving bowl on the cover of “Park Avenue Potluck,” there’s a….could that really be a casserole?

For that matter, when was the last time you saw “Park Avenue” and “potluck” in the same sentence?

Yes, the days of black tie dinners that begin with Rigaud candles in the hall and champagne in the living room are over. “Ladies who lunch” have pretty much died off. The best seats at fashion shows now go to Kardashians. And thank you notes on paper have gone the way of the lady’s maid.

One thing hasn’t changed: the ultimate audience. “I design every menu according to what the men will eat,” a hostess says. She’s a smart one. The C-level husband labors all day to keep his family in a zillion dollar co-op and a country “cottage” — if “New York’s savviest hostesses” are going to make their men go to dinner parties, better believe they’ll focus on their care and feeding.

So what we have here is a book of recipes that a Manhattan hostess could actually cook — has, in fact, actually cooked. Like a local club cookbook. If you happen to live in a neighborhood where everyone’s rich, accomplished and fit. [To buy ”Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes from New York’s Savviest Hostesses” from Amazon, click here.]

So (and this may be meaningful) only the drinks are exotic. Like “Pond Water” — sugar, vodka, limoncello, lime juice and thyme. Not something you drink every day.

The book offers a killer nibble: Indulgent Spiced Pecans. (Because “pecans are the only nut I’ll break a diet for.”) The soups here are simple and toothsome and, mostly, appallingly healthful. There are no fewer than 15 casseroles, including a mac-and-cheese punched up with dry mustard. Chicken with Potato Chips: there’s a blue-collar concept. Nice recipe for cider-marinated pork loin from a Rockefeller. A pot roast recipe I don’t know, but very much want to try. Applesauce with dark rum. And far too rich desserts.

For a recipe, let’s choose a dinner that a man could love….

Sweet-and-Sour Meat Loaf

Serves 6

1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons grated onion
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Simmer tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and mustard together until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.

Mix beef with bread crumbs, salt, pepper, onion and egg. Add 3/4 cup of the tomato mixture. Form into a loaf, place in a baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil from the meat loaf and spread the remaining tomato mixture over the loaf. Bake for 30 minutes more. Serve hot or cold.

Florence Fabricant, a world-class food writer, did this book as a labor of love — it benefits Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. As a private cancer facility, it’s the world’s largest. As a cause, it’s one of the most prestigious in New York. Good to see a fundraising tool that not only tempts the palate but suggests “New York’s savviest hostesses” aren’t all insufferable snootballs.

Short takes

Take a trip to Harbour Island without leaving home

It’s not easy to get to Harbour Island. Fly to the Bahamas, take a small plane from Nassau to Eleuthera, then board a boat for the 15-minute crossing to Harbour Island. Once you’re on the tiny island — three miles long, a half-mile wide — there are no cars, only golf carts. Why go to all that trouble? For the pink sand beaches, the total absence of tension, the relatively few rich Americans — and the bonefishing. My friend Elizabeth Howard, who has spent considerable time on Harbour Island, has written a charming story for children about a local girl and the afternoon she gets to spend with a legendary fisherman. And Diana Wege’s illustrations are the next best thing to being there. [To buy “A Day with Bonefish Joe” from Amazon, click here.]

Ingredients for a ‘One Night Only’ Book Group: a hot novel (‘Married Sex’), the author (me), wine (white)

Jean Hanff Korelitz writes novels and runs BOOKTHEWRITER, which represents more than 100 NYC-based authors who are available to visit book groups in and around the city. She also organizes BOOKTHEWRITER’s Pop-Up Book Groups, which exist for a single night for people who just happen to want to kick a particular book around with a particular writer — in this case, me. On Thursday, October 29, from 7:30 to 9:30, in a chic Manhattan living room with a great view, we’ll be chatting about “Married Sex,” the novel and the novel concept. Considering the topic, wine will be served. I’ll spare you background on my book, on the reasonable assumption you’ve heard plenty, if not too much. Here’s the information/reservation form.

Ella Woodward got sick. Then she ate herself well.

Ella Woodward was your basic 19-year-old English girl — “a sugar monster, and I mean a total addict.” But in 2011, she was diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome: “I literally couldn’t walk down the street, I slept for 16 hours a day, had never ending heart palpitations, was in chronic pain, had unbearable stomach issues, constant headaches and the list goes on.” Not the kind of affliction you want when you’re a university student who’s just starting to work as a model. She dared to take a vacation; she came home in a wheelchair. She went to the Web — and returned a gluten-free vegan. She started a food blog; 18 months later, it had 5 million hits. In her book, “Deliciously Ella: 100+ Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Recipes,” she counts “goodness, not calories.” If smoothies, mango-and-sesame quinoa, and sweet potato and carrot mash appeal to you, here’s your cookbook. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

“Climbing Back: A Family’s Journey through Brain Injury”

I haven’t seen most of my college friends in 47 years. When I think of them, I see them as they were — as we were — in 1968. Elise Rosenhaupt and her boyfriend Tom: off they go, bright and shining, headed for New Mexico. So when Elise recently sent me her new book, “Climbing Back: A Family’s Journey through Brain Injury,” the title was like a blow to my brain. It begins like this: “The last time I saw our son before his injury, my husband and I were walking toward Harvard Square.” And you sink with her: getting the news that Martin, a Harvard sophomore, had been struck by a car that launched him 100 feet in the air. He’d landed on his head. He was in Neurological Intensive Care at Massachusetts General Hospital.

There are many books that chronicle disaster and recovery. This one’s not like them. There are doctors and nurses, of course, and friends in the waiting room, and Harvard faculty showing up unexpectedly, but Elise Rosenhaupt has worked as a poetry editor, and she knows when to weave in the story of her marriage, her family, her parents and their brain disorders. The prose is taut: “There is nothing in my world but wanting Martin to live.” And you think, this is how recovery is done when it’s done right, when you marvel at the frailty of our bodies and the resilience of our spirits. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]