2011 June 2

Eat, Drink, Love

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Jay Mandelbaum, Gillian Miniter, Terri Coppersmith, Douglas Blonsky Jay Mandelbaum, Gillian Miniter, Terri Coppersmith, Douglas Blonsky
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(NEW YORK) The Central Park Conservancy's Taste of Summer event is not exactly regularly-scheduled programming on the benefit circuit. Maybe it's the multi-colored lights, the thumping DJ, the (extremely) open bar, or the actual, and enthusiastic, eating. But this fundraiser, which takes over a tent just steps from the Bethesda Fountain, drew 1,100 New Yorkers last night—and the revelry, despite the steaminess, was very real indeed.

What else do you expect when 33 of New York's finest restauranteurs gather in one spot and attempt to out-do one another in the heated territory of small bites? We'll take your best shots. To start things off, Orsay offered up a memorable Japonais tuna tartare, immediately followed by Thalassa's olive oil cured diver sea scallops over caviar mousse. And then Geisha's crispy rice with Hawaiian white tuna! By the 12th Station (STK's BBQ shortrib slider) some guests had enjoyed upwards of 4,000 calories in a half-hour window. And that was before the VIP tent! Danny Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group had run of that particular space, held court over the VIP tent, where already-stuffed guests found themselves unable to resist a third (cough) slice of Gramercy Tavern's German chocolate cake.

Speaking of VIPs: Bill Cunningham spent almost three hours snapping away at the food, the revellers, the spectacle. Gillian and Sylvester Miniter greeted guests like Alexandra Lebenthal, Somers Farkas, and James LaForce. Michelle Smith, who recently opened her first freestanding boutique on Madison Avenue, munched on a spice kimchee marinated baby back rib from The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English. "It's been crazy but great," she said of shopkeeping. "I live right around the corner from the store, so I change mannequins in the morning, rush downtown to the office, and check in again on my way home." No doubt her employees are on their toes.

As the silent auction wound to a close (a two-night stay at the Surrey? a helicopter relay to Teterboro? four tickets to Billy Elliot, followed by dinner at Swifty's?), the music took a distinctly eighties turn ("YMCA", which really brought the crowd to their feet) before moving on to "Single Ladies," of which there were very many in the house. All in all? Good times.

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