Liz Smith: Lighting Up New York

DOING NOTHING for others is the undoing of ourselves,” said Horace Mann.

ON THURSDAY, the Lighthouse International (it specializes in treatment for those losing their sight) was getting “the social” treatment with a famous fund-raising lunch in the name of the late great Time editor Henry Grunwald.

Our friends on the New York Social Diary did a big write-up of this event last Friday and as I was the emcee of the whole “shebang,” I just want to add a comment.

We gathered at 12 noon in the Metropolitan Club on East 60th Street off 5th Avenue. There was a moment when people greeted, air-kissed and looked at cell phones to see what they were missing back at the office, the board room or the keyboard. (Or the bedroom.) Then, we trooped in to lunch.

This fund-raiser honored Bob Pittman, head of Clear Channel, and Linda Fairstein, novelist and former D.A. vs. sexual violence. Believe me, all the people in New York and other cosmopolitan cities trying to fundraise, could take a tip from this successful SRO lunch.

Louise Grunwald, the creator-host, believes that intelligent, generous people can get together and give money and still be able to both listen and eat at the same time. So while other charities dawdle through long courses, boredom, harried waiters before dessert, this particular one serves lunch and keeps its program — tiny minute-long speeches and the honorees appearing and doing their stuff — while the guests eat. The reality? Your money goes a long way when given to the Lighthouse and you have a bang-up time because it’s all done and over by 2 p.m.

Last week we wound up even before that. Everybody rushed off, satisfied, full of food and inspiration, and they got back to work or whatever they wanted to be doing.

Those who won’t go to a fundraiser at lunch, are missing something. This annual happening is really fun and the guests are always superlative. They know they won’t be bored to death for their money. Incidentally, the Lighthouse goal — was $450,000. We earned almost that but I’d like to see it go to $500,000. So you could help fill in by sending your check to The Lighthouse International, 111 East 59th St., 10022. That is, if you love me!

I WANT to tell you about an experience with food recently because I see “dining, food, new cafes, recipes, famous chefs” are the way to go these days if one wants attention.

If ever you are in NYC, you are less than an hour from the rapidly-becoming-more famous Blue Hill at Stone Barns Farm. (The name is tricky to remember! But better to remember the fact that it is a nonprofit farm/education center with a mission for creating sustainable food systems.) It is located not far from Bedford, New York which is where a lot of famous VIPs and rich people live, but that didn’t scare me off.

I was being “taken” to the Blue Hill restaurant in a gang and nobody knew or cared who I was or that I grew up on Texas road-kill, tacos and chicken fried steak. Our host had secured the precious reservation so when we got to the farm — observing hogs, sheep and chickens grazing and pecking en route — and its restaurant, we were just enjoying the twilight and the bucolic fields. We were too late for the more informal daytime café or garden shop.

The formal dining room was all but dark with only a few glimmering candles on the tables. This was just as well as there were really no menus to read anyway. One just waits for the waiter to give choices for September, which was the month, and he asks you to express likes, dislikes, and allergies.

We dined on what had been harvested in the field, the greenhouse, the pasture and forest, and from the hives and cellar. Of course, there were famous wines to accompany our surprises. I had a great time during a superb dinner and the only thing I didn’t like was that the waiter was grand and supercilious. But that’s ok. He was catering to our whims. He refused at one point to give us bread although we pointed to it being carried around the room. He said, “In time, but not now or you will fill up on it!” (Just like being at home under the electric fan with daddy slapping our elbows off the table!)

I especially loved the September tiny tiny veggies which are spiked onto a long board and eaten raw. Little carrots, cauliflowers, onions, etc. And we had some small tomato sandwiches. They were delightful. Also lamb, free range chicken, fall honey. Like that. So, go, if ever you are near Pleasantville, Sleepy Hollow, Briarcliff Manor, Tarrytown or the Rockefeller State Park Preserve.

The reservation phone # is not a secret but it’s hard to find. It’s 914-366-9600. Don’t tell ‘em, “Liz sent me,” because they won’t care. Blue Hill at Stone Barns is too pure for publicity!

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 10/8/12

2 comments so far.

  1. avatar John Dillon says:

    No matter how great the food, supercillious servers are unacceptable, no matter how grand the meal or restaurant. I wonder if the waiter you had also ‘slopped the hawgs’? I’ll give it a pass thanks.

  2. avatar Marknfl12345 says:

    Liz looks so tiny, sweet and cute! That is what the tiny baby carrots do for you!!