Bryant Park vs. Lincoln Center: Out with the Old, in with the New

Last night the “fashion set” bid the tents at Bryant Park adieu and turned the runways into 1Oak– a look that came complete with dancing models, Moet and Ronnie Madra. I put “fashion set” in those very convenient quotations because partiers were more of the “drinking set,” as apparently none of the people who had spent the most time under the big top- the fashion editors, designers and front row stars- could muster the nostalgia necessary to say goodbye. That and Calvin Klein was having his party somewhere else.

(‘DiggThis’)In any case, a big stink has been made about what will happen to NYFW when it moves to Lincoln Center in the fall, farther away from the Garment District and all of those downtown fashionistas. Will more designers choose to show off site? Will downtown-dwelling stars and fashion mags decline to travel all the way to the Dakotas? Will New York as a fashion capital lose its international cred from the lack of a centralized location if said designers continue to show independently? Will the Lincoln Center give fashion credibility as an art form? Deep stuff, right?

These are all really important questions that I’ll leave to be answered by the Sunday Styles (or teen bloggers writing from Arkansas who seem to have just as much validity). I’m more interested in figuring out how the “fashion set” will defile transform the UWS nabe into fashion land, what tequila hole Michael Kors will turn to for a pre-show blackout, what hotel the cast of Jersey Shore will take over, what unassuming quaint pub Kate Moss will put on the map, if they do so choose to journey north.

Hot spot for over-worked fashion editors to cry it out after getting snubbed by the Wintour. Old: Ruby Tuesday. Distance: Just over a block from Bryant Park, on 7th Avenue. Why: The food chain provides many carb options, something the editor has been abstaining from for half their life, and an atmosphere one can be sure is totally free from fashion peers. Let the floodgates open- Fashion Week is tough, but easier with cheese, breaded and fried. New: Central Park. Distance: One block east of the Lincoln Center. Why: What better place to run to in a fit of rage and “why me?” than freaking Central Park? The editor will feel as if they’re starring in a weepy Woody Allen film; scorned woman turning away from all she knows to find answers in the woods of Manhattan! The drama! Bonus as an ego boost when they find smirking at tourists in flip-flops easy from their perch on Prada pumps.

imageHot spot for models to gorge between shows. Old: Crumbs 42nd Street. Distance: In Bryant Park. Why: If you’re making up for a week’s worth of calories, you should at least be eating something pretty and within walking distance from your next call time. New: Magnolia Columbus. Distance: 4 blocks north of Lincoln Center. Why: The fact that they are Carrie cupcakes (for models still infatuated with SATC) makes the walk to gorge worth it. Besides, models never make call times.

imageSpot for designers to have a pre-show stiff one. Old: Cellar Bar @ the Bryant Park Hotel. Distance: Pretty much on top of Bryant Park. Why: Cellar Bar is a sophisticated rager, perfect for sophisticates in need of numbing nerves and their publicist’s front row choices. New: Candle Bar. Distance: Roughly 8 blocks north, or one subway stop from the Lincoln Center. Why: Gay dive that’s a nice counterbalance to the frat-tastic bullshit of the Upper West Side. And we all know how progressive the fashion world is.

imageCheesy fashion-themed bar big with tourists. Old: Stitch Bar and Lounge Distance: 3 blocks south, 2 block west of the Bryant Park tents. Why: They have cocktails named Anna Wintour, Silk Scarf and Stiletto. This place screams “Girl’s Weekend!” New: None, yet. Maybe Rosa Mexicano will change her name to Rosa Cha of the occasion? Why: While there are quite a few Jazz or Opera themed bars, the UWS is prime for fashion to make its mark. Right locals? Anna Win-tini could be on the menu at any given bar hungry for tourists.

Hot meal ticket that is completely booked come fashion week. Old: Aureole Distance: Nestled between Conde Nast and Bryant Park. Why: Charlie Palmer’s house of indulgence is right next to Vogue. This is a quick dinner on-the-go for a busy Voguette. imageNew: Bar Boulud. Distance: Just past Broadway, right in the Lincoln Center’s wheelhouse. Why: “Location begs Lincoln Center spillover, i.e. middle-aged Philharmonic fans and ballet families.” Replace this i.e. with middle-aged fashion editors and PR families.

Photo: Gothamist

Industry Insiders: Adam Tihany, Designer Dude

Since 1978, Tihany Design has held the champion title for worldwide restaurant and hospitality design. The company namesake, architect, and restaurateur, Adam Tihany is the creative force behind Aureole New York and Las Vegas, La Fonda Del Sol, Daniel, Charlie Palmer at The Joule, Le Cirque, and Per Se among other fine-dining establishments. His design work in hotels includes One&Only Cape Town, Mandarin Oriental Geneva and Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental Landmark. The top name in hospitality design shares a look inside his boutique agency and list of posh accomplishments.

How would you describe yourself? I’ve been called all kinds of things. You can call me a designer who has done a lot.

What are some of your favorite recent projects? Aureole at Bryant Park Place. The art is pretty mind-boggling and will transform it into something quite exciting. We recently renovated Daniel, and that has been quite successful and received favorably. We just completed La Fonda Del Sol at the Met Life building. Also a happening place. We finished the One & Only Hotel in Cape Town. I designed the whole hotel; every single corner, nook, cranny, suites spas and two restaurants, Nobu and Gordon Ramsay.

You do have the Midas touch. You can bring a horse to water, but if the chef doesn’t follow suit, you fail. Fortunately, we’ve tried with great chefs and great staffers. Restaurants should be showcases for food and not for design. I’ve been called a “portrait artist” or a “custom tailor.” I try to do spaces that reflect the personality of the owner, their brand of hospitality, their aspirations, and in the process — especially when you work with celebrity chefs — you end up doing a portrait of them. It’s true for Per Se’s Thomas Keller, and Daniel Boulud.

How’d you end up in this business? I believe I’m the first person in this country to call themselves a restaurant designer. I didn’t coin the phrase, but I started it. I went to school in Milan in the late 60s. During my time there, there was really not much work in architecture in Europe, particularly in Italy, so designers and architects designed furniture and graphic art, product design, anything they could put their hands on. That was the birth of contemporary Italian design, When I immigrated to the States, people would ask me what I do, and I’d say, “Give me the problems, I’ll design the solution.” But they wanted me to be specific. Everybody needed a niche, so you had to specialize. For years I refused to do it. I got involved with everything from night clubs to department stores and apartments, and then in the late 70s, somebody asked me to design a restaurant, and it so happened to be that it was to be one of the grand cafes of the city: La Cupole on Park Avenue South. When they opened, they became instantly famous. I did the architecture, the furniture, the uniforms, lighting, everything. I found in restaurants all of the things that I like to do. I bought a sign: Adam Tihany, Restaurant Designer. A roll of the dice, and here we are.

What are your spots? First, the new Cigar Bar and Lounge at the Lanesborough in London. Always Daniel in New York City and Jean-George’s Market at the One&Only Palmilla in Cabo San Lucas.

Who’s doing it right in the restaurant business? There are so many incredible people, and today we’re at the threshold of sensory overload with food and restaurants with what’s on television alone. There are people who are wonderful, long standing people I have learned from tremendously, among them Sirio Maccioni. We‘ve been working together for 25 years. George Lang is a person I met early in my career who is a friend and mentor. From the contemporary group, I would say Thomas Keller.

How do your operations run? My employees used to have to work and live in restaurants to see what it was really like — the back of the house, away from the silver and pretty flowers. That accounts for a lot of my clients, who see me as a colleague, but as a designer who’s got it inside and out. I know the business. When you deal with bigwig hotel suppliers or small boutique owners, we’re not just doing the interior; we live and breathe what we profess. Can’t make too many mistakes.

Current trends in restaurants? It delights me that in the past 26 years, dining is a day-to-day activity, and so much a part of the psyche. Restaurants are clean and safe. You go for two hours to another environment, another culture where people can’t really have their own kitchen and treat going out as second nature, a complete necessity, not a choice. With that comes responsibility and sophistication and people are selective. They really care. I like it when people send food back, although some people will eat garbage rather than return a dish. That alone keeps anyone in the kitchen on their toes as they’re working for a discriminate customer.

Anything you want to change? Cooking shows drive me nuts. Not the ones that are actually about cooking but the chef talk and the reality shows. They’re about success and failure, and I find that humiliating.

Guilty pleasures? I love the travel end of my lifestyle. I’m an avid traveler and an avid hotel dweller. If it was up to me, I would live only in hotels. I am a cigar aficionado, and I know a thing or two about single malt scotch whiskey.

Industry Insiders: Chris Lee, Aureole Ingénue

Formerly executive chef at the decadent GILT restaurant, chef Christopher Lee recently re-opened Charlie Palmer’s legendary at its new location in the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park (that’s him in the photo above at right, Palmer smiling paternally at left). The Top Chef Masters competitor talks about manning the kitchen as executive chef at Aureole, his modest perspectives, and having a green thumb. Aureole will beoffering a 15% discount on all menus until the grand opening benefit gala for Citymeals-on-Wheels on September 15.

How would you describe your occupation? We’re chef-entrepreneurs — business people who create food. A chef’s title these days has expanded from just making food to running and creating a business. I call myself an Average Joe, and I never thought I was God’s gift. As a trade industry, we train ourselves and develop a passion for what we do. I wasn’t born with a palate for this business. I walk to work. I do the same things everyone else does. If I do some things better than others, okay, but I think of myself as a service provider.

Aside from Aureole, what organizations are you affiliated with? Among the philanthropic organizations CityHarvest has the hardest rules, and when we have food waste on some nights, we donate. The idea is that they have certain parameters that are difficult to meet. For instance, when I was at Oceana on every holiday, we used to make holiday meals and drop them off — one-by-one — to the homeless. Now Citymeals-on-Wheels has been a favorite charity of mine for years, and throughout those years we’ve supported them and raised money. It’s a sad thing when elderly or home-bound people can’t feed themselves. I might be there one day, so one motivation for me is to give back to those who might have to be there for me in the future.

How’d you get your start? It’s one of those age-old questions that people ask. In junior high and high school, guidance counselors always asked me what I wanted to do, and from the time I was 14, I was in the restaurant business, busing tables, dish washing, whatever. When it came to going to college, culinary school crossed my mind, but my parents on Long Island really wanted me to graduate from college. So after I did that, I bought a car and drove to California and enrolled in culinary school. I was born and raised here, and I wanted to see the diversity on the west coast. People are different; they talk, live and act differently. I didn’t want to stay where I was comfortable. I wanted a challenge and went as far as I could without leaving the country.

Where are your spots in the city? I have a lot of personal favorites in this city, and I like the rustic world more than anything. I go down to my favorite Italian restaurant, Il Bagatto on Second Street. It’s owned by one of my favorite couples, Beatrice and Leo. Beatrice is cooking in the back of the house, and Leo is out front. She cooked some authentic cuisine and said to me, “Know what makes me different from you? I cook from the heart; you cook to compete.” She really hit it on the head. Even though we all cook from the soul, when you play in the upper tier of the game, we’re all about stars and ratings. Then there’s this woman in Alphabet City who doesn’t care about being better than someone else; she just cares about making people happy. She makes the best lasagna there. I buy two or three extras just to put in the fridge for the week. I’m also a big sushi fan, and Sushi Seki is a favorite of mine. Bar Coastal on 78th and 1st Avenue is fab. The bartenders have great stories to tell, they make amazing frozen drinks, and they make the best chicken in the city.

Who do you look up to? There are so many of them. One of the reasons I came to work for Charlie Palmer is because I admire him. He’s not just a great chef, but a savvy businessman — one of the many reasons we began our relationship. Food and creating something I love to do is as important as learning to run a business. Daniel Boulud is someone I consider to be the “Dad” of the industry. He’s the headmaster — the one who gave us all the answers.

What’s going on in the hospitality industry now? The best thing about food is that it’s evolving all the time, especially American cuisine. We’re developing a soul in this country, a style that is all-American. For awhile, we were jealous of European countries and their cuisines, and American food was soulless. But now we’re developing our own cuisine. Maybe it came a little after Europe, but we’re on track. Now Europeans come here to find out what we know.

Anything that peeves you about American cuisine? I know there’s a place for it, but I definitely dislike the fast-food trend this country. We should be a lot healthier and wiser than to feed ourselves a Happy Meal with saturated fats. That’s been a bad trip from the start. As a realist, I understand the value behind it. For certain people, it may work, but as a country we could do a lot better at offering great, high-nutrition food for a lower price.

What is something that people might not know about you? I live in Brooklyn, and I love gardening. We built our deck out with about 400 pounds of soil in a trough around it. Squashes, jalapenos, sweet peppers, shallots, eight different variety of heirloom tomatoes, cherries, strawberry plants, cucumber. My wife and I are really good at it. When I have time, I like to play golf, and in my retirement, I want to built motorcycles, but my wife won’t let me do that right now. I didn’t have the passion for motorcycling until I was involved with my wife, and when I put it to her, she put a big “NO” on that one.

Biggest obsession? I’m a giant Yankees fan.

What are you doing tonight? Working at . I’ve got a service to go through, every day, I’ve got to go to the kitchen and throw it down.

Photo: Chris Lee with Charlie Palmer by Pete Thompson

First Look: The New Aureole

“This isn’t a facelift,” Charlie Palmer tells me of his new Aureole. “I cut things off and start fresh. That’s just the way I do things. I don’t even go to class reunions.” The chef and owner of the Upper East Side eatery is set to open a very different Aureole, expanding the dimensions to include a bar area, cozy dining room, large dining room, and a outdoor patio facing the Conde Nast building at its new home at One Bryant Park. Chef Christopher Lee of GILT maintains that the food will be progressive American, but the menu will essentially be completely different. Experimenting with seafood and staple comfort dishes, options will include small plates, plus lunch portions to appeal to different “economic backgrounds and lifestyles.” Palmer promises, “The only way we’ve kept Aureole the same is we’ve decided to keep it comfortable.”

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Over 1,000 wine selections are available, and to prove their size and girth, 15,000 bottles are stored on-site with 3,500 showing off in a glass “wine bridge” called the wine mezzanine, that looks like a glass-bottom boat protruding from the warmly lit ceiling. To keep with the new economic theme, they’ve selected 100 bottles to price under $100.

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While the new space is certainly slick with modern touches thanks to silver and metal details, sharp lighting fixtures, geometric carpet prints, and severe edges, Aureole is still quite cozy. Pleasant lighting and rich reds and dark oak keep the atmosphere intimate.

Jennifer Lee runs the pastry department, churning out sweet confections with a focus on seasonal treats, specifically chocolate tortes.

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Still a work in progress, Aureole is taking reservations for seating in July.

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Las Vegas: Top 5 Places to Spend Your Gambling Winnings

imageC’mon! Big money! Big money!

1. Aureole (Strip: South) – Nothing says “winner” like a $500 bottle of wine before dinner. Nothing says big winner like ordering a $1,000 bottle of wine with the appetizer. 2. Fred Leighton (Bellagio) – Because an 8-carat diamond ring is vulgar, but a 16-carat emerald, diamond and platinum art deco bracelet is not. 3. Pinball Hall of Fame (Off-Strip East) – Go ahead, buy that Kiss pinball machine. You’re on your own getting it home, though.

4. Restaurant Guy Savoy (Strip: Central) – Order the 10-course “prestige” tasting menu and savor how much more important it is to be rich in taste, experience, and joy than money. 5. Fashion Show Mall (Strip: North) – A Levi’s and a Louis Vuitton. Whether you won a little or a lot, you’ll find a way to spend it.