Party Like It's 1999 - February 15, 1999
Whether you're finally getting married or you're just calling a few people for cocktails, you should know that a party isn't just a party anymore. These days, it's a live performance, a tour de force. And the 45 Barnums here will show you how it's done, with oysters and gazpacho whisked around in shot glasses, kosher-for-Passover spring rolls, and -- if you've got the cash -- bathtubs filled to the brim with Beluga.
What distinguishes one caterer from another? Aside from the food (which dresses a lot better than it did in the seventies and eighties, but then, so do we), there is the relative altitude of waiters' cheekbones to consider and, of course, their outfits -- black tie, Nehru jackets, even dog collars (the customer is always right). To stay competitive, caterers have been staking claims on exclusive spaces, poaching staff, devising elaborate stage sets down to the color-coordinated cocktails.
But there's one more prerequisite: the general willingness to do anything -- and we mean anything -- for a client. That includes throwing on an apron to cook a steak for Sharon Stone when the rest of the guests have capon on their plates; dispatching a sommelier to buy wine for a party at Sotheby's; or, in the spirit of Margaret Mead, living for a month with a tribe of reformed cannibals -- as one caterer did -- to collect some new fish recipes.
It's no coincidence that a vast number of New York's hottest caterers came out of the theater -- they know how to get the show on the road. And with so many people finding something to celebrate nowadays, restaurateurs like Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Charlie Palmer, and Matthew Kenney are loading their pots and pans on the bandwagon. Just what can they do you for? You don't need an invitation to find out.
Art of Eating
Affairs To Remember: Barry Sonnenfeld and Billy Joel's Christmas get-togethers; Roy Scheider's family parties. For Martha Stewart's annual summer "crab pick," Art of Eating sets up long tables on the beach and covers them with newspapers. Children's sand pails are filled with mallets, and crabs are steamed with Maryland crab spice. "People throw them on the table and go to town," said Cheryl Stair, Art of Eating's owner.
Who Runs The Show: Husband-and-wife team John Kowalenko and Cheryl Stair started catering in 1988, right before Stair left East Hampton's Laundry restaurant.
Tray Chic: Artichoke-risotto cakes with smoked salmon and caviar are whisked around in baskets or on platters decorated with local flowers, herbs, or props like fake birds' nest. For a sit-down dinner, Stair might offer littleneck-clam seviche followed by gilled whole salmon stuffed with saffron, onion, and pine nuts.
The Dish: In the British Virgin Islands, Stair asked a woman how she made johnnycakes. "I'm in a shack that look like it has no electricity," says Stair, "and this woman whips out a Cuisinart and says, 'I start by putting everything in here!'"
The Tab: Cocktails from $17.50 to $30 per person; three-course dinners from $50 to $75. Minimum food cost, $1,000; dinner from 8 to 1,000 persons; cocktails up to 1,500.
© Hampton Event Management International