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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.