Tuesday, March 21, 2006

One Is A Lonely Number

Sometimes when I have to work late and no one is around I get the willies. The willies are something like the creeps. I am alone with my thoughts, which always get steered to "Why am I still working so hard at 58?" The answer is always the same: "I spend a lot of money and I have to keep the cash flowing." That is what I say when I am feeling sorry for myself. When I get past that I realize that without work, I would probably have no identity. But my identity is nothing compared to Cindy Adams and Liz Smith, both in their '80s. I am not anywhere near as famous, talented and driven. What makes these dames tick? Everyday, like mailmen, they deliver their columns filled with new and fascinating material. Day after day, year after year, they have been alive with copy. I like to think about them and then I don't feel so lonely at the computer when everyone else is asleep. Maybe if I work harder, I can be just like them at 80-plus.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Kitchen at The Gilt...

Guest Writer
Tara M. O'Donnell
Corporate Communications Senior Manager
Samsung Electronics North America HQ

Stephen O'Donnell Surrounded By The Gilt Chefs

My husband built the kitchen at The Gilt and that’s the only way we would have even considered going there for dinner. We’re simple folk. I’m from the suburbs of NYC and I love food but spent most of my childhood eating liver. And my husband Stephen is from Donegal, Ireland. He’s a real mountain man who hadn’t tried most ethnic foods until about 5 years ago. Stephen’s company, JBS, has been working on the kitchen at The Gilt for a while, which is located in the former Le Cirque 2000 space in the Palace Hotel. Every night for months I heard about how Chef Paul, an Englishman with a sense of humor but a stubborn streak, fought with the hotel chef over where spice racks and pots should be hung. But until a few weeks ago, when I read the New York Times food review about The Gilt, I had no idea that Chef Paul was Paul Liebrandt, an infamous artist in the world of cooking. When we arrived, the very elegant setting made us feel a bit like two fish out of water. But the servers were overwhelmingly hospitable and it wasn’t long before we were settling in and sipping champagne. The Maitre’d suggested the tasting menu which sounded like the best way to experience the restaurant. There was something that Frank Bruni wrote in his NY Times article that came to mind as soon as the first course was served. He wrote that one of his dinner companions said, “I feel like I'm in my first class of organic chemistry." I felt like the servers were speaking Greek. Every new dish that came out was a surprise, even after the server carefully explained what it was. My husband doesn’t eat fish so that was a tricky obstacle for the kitchen to overcome. I think they truly earned their keep that night since they couldn’t give him the set tasting dishes found on the menu. They were very inventive….substituting beats for salmon and offering quail instead of sole. When I saw the size of the first dish, I expected to leave the restaurant and head straight to a pizza place. But, I was pleasantly surprised by my full stomach when I left. They paired each dish with the appropriate wine. That was amazing. But when they poured the first glass, or drop, my reaction was the same as the food. I won’t even get tipsy from these drops of wine. But, after several drops, I felt warm and cozy. My favorite dishes turned out to be food that I normally would never eat and in some cases, don’t even like. There was a small shell fish appetizer with one diver scallop and a craw fish that had peas on the side. The shell fish were tasty but the peas, which were infused with cilantro (I think), were delicious. I haven’t eaten peas in 20 years. There was a delicious foie gras served with bread and truffle butter. It melted in my mouth. I also really enjoyed the hare which when the server described , didn’t sound all that good, but it tasted wonderful. My husband really enjoyed the veal short sweetbreads. I was glad he didn’t know or ask what sweetbreads actually are. Talking about bread, the bread was to die for. There were many types infused with different ingredients such as chestnuts, olives and ham. As with anything, there are always a few items that didn’t impress me. The first appetizer was a poached quail egg with a thin, crisp slice of chorizo. It tasted a bit like taking a bite of a bacon and egg sandwich but the texture turned me off. A sorbet made of wasabi, green apples and salt was served before the main course. I wasn’t a fan. But I suppose it was just there to clean our palates, and it did the job. Overall the experience was an extraordinary one. We go out a lot but not to places like The Gilt. It was a little more formal than I would normally like (every time you go to the rest room, they “serve” you a new napkin with two forks – as if it were bread) but it was a rare treat for us to get to experience such a place. One of the best parts of the evening was getting to meet the team of hard working sous-chefs that put all of these intricate dishes together. My husband spends most of his days in the kitchen of The Gilt but he was amazed at how it transformed in the evening when all of the masters are at work. I would recommend checking out The Gilt for a very special occasion. But consider who you invite. It’s not a place my parents would have enjoyed. They would have felt gypped by the small portions and large price tag.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

News about the state of Gov. George Pataki gives me the willies

Forty-one years ago, my cousin Eddie Guskind died of peritonitis. He was 32 years old. I have been watching the reports about our Governor and I am starting to get a little nervous. His hospital stay keeps getting longer and longer. Patients who usually have an appendectomy are out of the hospital in two or three days. The last time I saw the Governor on TV from his hospital bed he looked very pasty, drawn, sickly and weak.

Once peritonitis sets in anything can happen. From what I can remember, my cousin complained one weekend of a stomach ache, and went to his doctor twice. Each time the doctor gave him medicine and told him to go home to rest. When the pain become intolerable, his young wife (who is my first cousin) rushed him to the hospital only to find out that his appendix burst and this horrible poison set in. Irene was a few years younger than Eddie, had a daughter who was just three and was several months pregnant.

Eddie died three days later. The family went nuts. The funeral was horrible and my cousin Irene was in shock for many years. She gave birth to a son, named him after his father and now my little cousin Eddie (41 years old) is married, the father of two fabulous sons, but has to be somewhat haunted that he never met his father.

We all are. How can this happen? Now turn the clock to today and I am watching this horror unfold again. This time to a political figure who has all the wherewithal, the money and the power not to let this happen. I truly believe Gov Pataki will be okay, but at this point I am sure the doctors are freaking because this serious infection can run amok.

I am picturing Gov Pataki standing next to then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani during the World Trade Center turmoil. He looked like the pillar of strength. I can't wait to see him like that again.