Monday, May 5, 2014

Party of the Year

Once upon a time, before the reign of Reality TV, I was the star of my own social experiment. The setup reads like the beginning of a joke:

What happens when a lowbrow, mid-western young Jewish girl (me), lands a PR job at a posh New York City investment firm … run by the bluest blue bloods still surviving today … and THEN… gets put in charge of the 80 year-old CEO’s social calendar? 

I'll tell you what happens: there's a major culture clash. Comfort-zone-wise, it was worse than Wife Swap. Hilarity ensued.

Although I had had plenty of experience planning fundraising events in my previous job, I had no idea of the mountain of etiquette I'd need to scale in order to organize this company’s soirees. 

I couldn't figure out the rules about how to address envelopes to Lords and Ladies; where to seat the dinner guests at a formal dinner party; even placing a stamp on a return envelope became a lesson in class distinctions. (“If they can’t afford the stamp on the return envelope, they shouldn’t be attending the event,” I was told.)

I was reprimanded for wearing blue suit pants, rather than a skirt, to the office. I flubbed the menu for the Board meetings at the 21 Club and miscounted the guest list for the dinner at LeCirque. And the wine lists! Our CEO had a very specific idea of what should be served, and I didn’t know my cabernet from my claret. Thank God for the sommeliers (a word I learned on the job).

Then there was the annual trip to the Ascot races and the after party in London. I planned every detail of the lodgings, food, travel and entertainment --  long-distance --  for months in advance, but was not invited to cross the pond with the team. Talk about class distinctions!

Our grandest event of the year was held the first Tuesday in December, in conjunction with the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. For this party, 200 of New York’s high society hovered above the festivities taking place in the freezing plaza below, observing the lighting ceremony from the floor-to-ceiling windows in our office. Dom Perignon flowed as swiftly as the ancient aristocratic blood in our CEO’s veins, beluga caviar disappeared by the tinful, and 24-carat-gold encrusted hors d’oeuvres whirled around the room on gleaming silver trays. The elite of New York City were dazzled.

Does it surprise you that my time at the investment firm was brief? Alas, I only regret that it had not been filmed. "The Blue Blood Chronicles" would have made great TV.

It is in this spirit of Gatsby-esque decadence that I embarked upon this week’s culinary adventure, sponsored by Julia Child and her featured guest baker, Gale Gand. Our Tuesdays with Dorie project was scallop and pesto “purses”.
The recipe itself was simple enough, but I did visit five different stores to gather the choicest ingredients. After making the pesto and melting the butter, it was all about assembly. (But first place the scallop in a strategically lit dramatic pose for the blog photo op.)

14 minutes in the oven, and the party began. The phyllo/parmesan dough purses were appropriately buttery, and the scallops inside, dripping with pesto and garnished with scallions, devolved into an opulent, fleshy indulgence that inspired sighing and fawning from my honored guests: my 8 and 10 year old. 

We slumped in my worn out Ikea kitchen chairs, decked in our coziest pajamas after a long sweaty day on the baseball field, happily licking cheese and butter off our chins. Seating arrangements be damned. The ornate purses were served on white, Stop and Shop paper napkins, paired with nothing but tap water. There was not an ounce of  gold plating to be seen, and yet, it was the party of the year.


 To see how other bakers from Tuesdays with Dorie fared, check out their links here. For the recipe, buy the book!

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  1. Yes - showing up with a plate of these almost guarantees a party - guests or no guests.

    I don't envy you that job, although I would have loved to have viewed that reality show :-)

  2. Loved the story. Great memories. And you can laugh about it now.

  3. I WANT this recipe. Sounds amazing. I'll have to try it when we have an abundance of basil in the garden so I can make my own pesto.

  4. What a great story!!! I am old enough to remember when you didn't even include RSVP cards because "people should know how to hand write an RSVP." Your kids were quite lucky and how lucky were you to be able to share these with them =)

  5. I didn't want to spend the big bucks on scallops and was looking for alternatives. But after reading this, I think I'll splurge. My girl will be home from college today and we could use a celebration. And I feel like I need to say that you are a really great writer. Thanks for the glimpse into a world I will never know.

  6. haha! very classy-- the blue bloods would be proud.

  7. Sounds like my kind of party! I made these with a different filling - hoping to make these with scallops for the hubs, if I have better luck with phyllo with my next recipe.

  8. The food was more than delicious at the party of the year :) Great looking purses!


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