Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From an Author's Perspective: Authors Night 2013 & The Hottest Ticket - The Hamptons Magazine Dinner Party

You could never dream a better evening. 
As an author and writer to be considered an invited guest, the evening’s homage to literature and books is unmatched.

Just look at the pedigree of authors who attend the event “Under the Tent” – as the Library refers to the book signing and the more formal element of the annual East Hampton Library fundraiser:

As an “L” or as a former boss, Bob Dorf used to refer to me, “Double L” – I was thrilled to be next to Padma Lakshmi – in the listing and at the Tent event.  
(As shared previously, Lakshmi didn’t actually show at the Library event but was a featured author at the Hamptons Magazine dinner afterwards.)

But we’re getting ahead of things.

When asked last month to provide a quote to Hamptons Magazine and describe how I felt about being a participating author at the East Hampton Library’s annual benefit for the library, I trembled a bit.

I wanted to strike a balance: I didn’t want to be viewed as too dramatic even though it was clearly operatic for me.
Nor did I want to be too familiar. Or cavalier.

I wrote from the heart. 
Honestly, I didn’t struggle too much with the words and sentiment.
I rather deliberated how it would be received.

I sent it to my Mother and husband Bill for review and feedback. 
Bill said it was too long and Mother said it was perfect.
See the ying and yang of my life??
Now that it was settled (ha) - I spell checked for the umpteenth time and hit “Send.”

The background to this adrenaline-inducing swoon is somewhat layered.

First there was the outreach from Hamptons Magazine initially sent to my publisher’s marketing pro, Katie that I somehow didn’t see.
Turns out, there was to be a feature in Hamptons Magazine for my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook. 

I was over the moon.

So jpegs were sent of the book cover and a telephone interview was coordinated and before you can say Hampton Heaven – the season’s premiere issue of the magazine was out with a mind-bending, full-color page feature:

But then in the fairy tale magic of the East End – this miracle was a “mere” prelude.
Or a Homegrown, “literary foreplay,” of sorts.
This – and the summer season of my lucky year ’13 (yes, admittedly – I am Very superstitious) was all turning into a fun, celebrity-filled Hamptons summer for the Homegrown book – and me…

In July sometime, I got an email from Michael Braverman, editor at large for Hamptons Magazine and contributor to Edible East End magazine - and someone who I’ve long admired, asking me to send a book to him for the feature he would write for the next issue of Hamptons Magazine next issue. 

This was kismet! 

I sent the Homegrown book posthaste – taking it myself to the local, marble-rich Post Office in Gotham near the apartment.  (Why the Stalin-era lines all the time?? They can’t think we’ll enjoy the architecture more, do they?)

Upon receipt of the book, Michael wrote that he "loved the organization, content and look of the book” and that it will be “Fun to write about.”
I replied with an enthusiastic and heartfelt thanks and then teased, “Where were you when I needed a blurb for the book jacket?!”
And I thought, who needed that Baldwin bad-boy, anyway?

Michael’s feature was Hottest Tickets - “Turning the Page. A Major Fundraiser for the East Hampton Library, Authors Night Honors the Area’s Many Wordsmiths With Readings, Signing, And Celebratory Dinners.” 
He asked if I would provide a brief quote on what it means to be at Authors Night – writing that I had a lot of latitude in how I could answer. He said he’d edit for length – but gently. 
I felt I was in good hands.
I didn't realize what good hands until he clasped them at the dinner party…

So working against what was now a tight deadline, I wrote how this was such a big deal for me to be included in Authors Night.  
Here is my submission:

What it means to me to be to be at Author’s Night
To receive the offer to participate in Author’s Night was akin to a dream invitation to a special world – a blink-back moment that revealed a portal to a magical place filled with established, popular, and famous artists. 
Books and literature are the coin of the realm, I imagine, where writers, authors and their books are revered.
As someone who has been deeply, madly, in love with books and reading and writing and telling stories for my entire life, this is somewhere over the rainbow.
It’s a wonder to be a part of this literary tribe.  I feel a bit in simpatico with an Academy Award nominee who says it’s just so great to even be nominated…
It’s truly a “clutch your heart” thrill to be a part of Author’s Night. 
And the discerning audience makes it all the more so. 
The respect for the written word and the story telling is palpable and joyful. 
And I am most honored to be able to inscribe my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook for the guests and share their genuine pride for their local chefs and artisanal food makers and the relationship they have to each other and to the land and to the sea that is Long Island’s romantic East End.  
I was much blessed in that the quote text was well received by Michael.  
He wrote reassuringly that there was so much good stuff to choose from.

And the Cinderella moment continued. The bubble still hadn’t poofed.

I was asked if I would be a co-host author at the Hamptons Magazine premiere dinner event following the East Hamptons Library event.
Say it again?

If there was ever a hallowed moment for a writer it was to alight upon Mr. Braverman’s garden pool side-scene – straight out of a Slim Aarons’ Vanity Fair page  -- and have him clasp my hands and with a joyful cherubic smile, I remember him saying something like: “Thank you for the quote – so much good stuff  – and I had to use just about all of it!”

I melted with joy and humility.

See, like other great and accomplished artisans and leaders, Michael is someone that you immediately gravitate to.  
There is a quite confidence that radiates from this literary enthusiast and gracious host. He is the kind of person you want to like you. 
You are committed to earning his respect. 

Here is what Michael included in his feature about The Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook in the Hamptons Magazine feature:

My special Plus+1’s for the evenings' two events were Toni Sabatino, kitchen designer and Homegrown enthusiast extraordinaire
as well as Bryan Futerman, chef and owner, of Water Mill’s Foody’s restaurant – and a featured chef in the Homegrown Cookbook. 

As noted in the previous blog post, we made our way from the Authors Night under the tent at Gardiner Farm posthaste. 
And in hindsight – that was probably a tad too hasty! 

It was only a short distance to Michael Braverman’s home and, speaking for myself, we could’ve taken a few minutes to freshen up.  We were still rather wilted from the ambient temperature under the tent, the celebrity buzz, and the excitement of the authors, the fans and selling out of The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook cases of books.

But it was the zeitgeist.

Hopping onto the chariot, er, golf cart, that whisked us down the allee driveway marked by flaming torches, I had the sense of driving through an enchanted woods.  Crossing the passageway to another world, we alighted a short distance away in front of the house. 

Here, the cart’s emergency horn blasted our arrival. The poor driver couldn’t get it to stop – and I had never had a cart sound off like that – whether at the country club or at the botanic gardens where I’d worked (they utilize golf carts for plant or visitor transportation.)

Oh well, it was a grand entrance in more ways than one!

Straight ahead I couldn’t help notice the lit walkway that ran away from the house and ended in a small fountain hugged by grove of shrubs.  That garden room led to a deer-covered edible garden.

I was transfixed.

But the front door beckoned – the home was rather glowing – lit golden from within. 

The short hallway opened up to the most magnificent room I think I’ve ever seen in a home.

It was like a multi-tiered wedding cake: two floors of the owner’s top-to-bottom private collection of books!  

So many beautiful books -- it was overwhelming…
As I later wrote to Michael:

“Your library continues to make me swoon.... I so felt a little bit like Daisy Buchanan who upon seeing Jay Gatsby's shirts bends her head and cries.  
I wanted to touch those books, caress their spines and explore the stories and authors...  I was embarrassed by my immense love of your literary beauty - I felt as if I was experiencing more than a bit of Stendhal Syndrome :) “

There was no doubt that room is the centerpiece of the night – we took the Authors’ photos there later, with Padma draping her loonnng legs ‘round an antique library ladder that Michael noted upon entering the room and seeing Padma with the other authors holding on to the iron banister while trying to squeeze into the photo. 
We also took several shots near the center table, piled with yet more books. 

Before I go on too much about the sensory experience of the evening, allow me to formally introduce the other authors, especially if you haven’t read the Hamptons Magazine feature piece yet.  I can’t wait to get the rest of the books not included in the evening’s swag bag and pray I can carve out some time over the long weekend to read these wonderful books.  You should too.
The featured authors are:

Suzanne Corso: Brooklyn Story

Padma Lakshmi: Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day

John Searles: Help for the Haunted: A Novel

Jessica Soffer: Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots

The other authors at the dinner event and highlighted in Michael’s feature story have agreed to meet in town - with the exception of Padma who admittedly would be unlikely to hobnob with us up-and-comers – although Searles is not a first-time author and has quite a literary sash of badges to his credit.  Yet even Padma seemed in awe of the evening's spectacle and reverence.  At her dinner remarks, she cited her humble roots and begininngs, commenting about how she arrived in the US -- and living in Queens with her mother at that time -- never expected to be a “brown person” in such a Hamptons setting as this one and further, to be so well-received.  She was also grateful Hamptons Magazine has featured her – a person of color - on the cover more than a few times.

On another note, the funny Searles was egging us on to join him in the pool after our photos.  Sorry I couldn’t jump in the pool with him.  What a Gatsby-like moment!

The Dinner Scene
Gliding through the library to the dining room and then the outside terrace to where the authors’ books were placed on a round table, in front of a cozy fire, I couldn’t help but chuckle as I heard the woman ahead of us joking, “This room is SO like ours, just a different color!”   

Farther on, was the tony garden and pool area that looked like that Aarons magazine layout.
It all hit just the right note.

Guests were mingling or seated near the pool; waiters passed hors d’ouevres and Rosé with Ch. d’Esclans wine, compliments of Paul Chevalier, National Fine Wine Director for Shaw-Ross International Importers. We enjoyed two of the vineyard’s Rosés with dinner too. They are light, delicious and oh-so-pretty. 
Paul handed out a Rosé barometer – a way to describe and depict “The Many Shades of Pink Wine” on one side and the “Whispering Angel” bottle of Rosé on the other side. Appropriately, the barometer was like a bookmark.

The entire garden-scape milieu was all so dazzling.  And sublime. 

Stepping down a few steps to the pool area is where our gracious and cosmopolitan host, Michael, clasped my hands in his and made me feel so welcome and renewed.

I also met Samantha Yanks, editor-in-chief of Hamptons Magazine--the goddess of all things Hamptons - and the warm, sophisticated and gorgeous publisher, Debra Halpert.

My eyes were distracted somewhat by the serene garden design surrounding us. I couldn’t help notice there was a stone wall around the pool lawn area, filled with plants and twinkling candles on the wall that was surprisingly very similar to a garden design I did for clients some years back.

Refocusing, I could see the dinner tent was off to the right, already glowing…

After chatting it up and meeting so many guests and the authors, cocktails were soon over and we were ushered to the tent.
Tablescapes were designed with linen-draped tables set for a sumptuous meal and topped with gorgeous floral designs of white hydrangea, designed by BFloral.

The dinner was catered by Elegant Affairs.
The menu consisted of First Course:
·      Kobe Beef Carpaccio with Black Truffle, Mache, Crostini & Chateau D’Esclans Rosé 2012 

The Main Course:
·      Baby Turbot, Lobster Sauce, Baby Spinach, Roasted Leek, Chervil Potatoes & Chateau D’Esclans “Garrus” Rosé 2011

The arrangement was that each author was seated at a table and their guests were mixed among the tables to better facilitate conversation. My guests sat at my table; lucky for us.

Following the appetizer Debra and Samantha took turns reading each author’s bio while the author stood and all could see whom the writer was.  Polite and sincere applause followed. 
It was the "jewel in the crown: for me that Debra Halpert read my bio.

More than a few guests remarked afterwards how privileged they felt to be there and to meet such accomplished artists.  After a few such compliments and understandably unaccustomed to this, I had to restrain myself from looking around to find out whom they were referring to!

Toni Sabatino, me, Chef Bryan Futerman, Foody's

Photos in the Library
As the dessert of Butlered Sweets was served, the call for the authors to gather for the group shot was heard. 
Toni asked if I wanted her to accompany me.  I thought it was just one or two photos and preferred she enjoy her dessert, so shook my head. 
I should’ve said ‘Yes.” 

It would have been so extraordinary to have some behind the scenes, "private" images of the authors in the library, cavorting and enjoying this mutual, hypnotic moment that was being documented. 
Plus the other authors had either their publicists or significant others with them…

And I should have freshened up before all the photos. I was already wilted from the Tent event and never got back the mojo.
Missed opportunities…
The other missed was that – unbelievable as it sounds – I never got a photo of Michael and me.  
Do over! 
As I wrote to him, there was just so much assaulting my senses that I wasn’t thinking clearly…

It wasn’t long before the rest of the party soon made their way to us in the library. 

Here, we enjoyed some coffee or a last glass of wine.. There was lots of picture talking too.
Gorgeous Debra Halpert, publisher Hamptons Magazine
Michael’s dog was a star and center of some attention, basking in the limelight and the luxury of the library’s divan.

Padma was leafing through a book about India and pointing out things she remembered as a child.
At one page she said, “See, the Indians invented polo – and the British stole it.”

Some of the authors also got a tour of the upstairs rooms. Others looked at the kitchen design. Most basked in the library’s collection and the moment of so much glamour and talent.

But all too soon, the perfect evening was drawing to a close.
It was Homegrown hugs all ‘round.

Me/author, Hamptons Magazine Editor in Chief, Samantha Yanks & Foody's Chef & owner, Bryan Futerman 

And then, just like that, we were trailblazing back through the enchanted woods to reality.

Not willing to have the evening end just yet, Toni and I made our way to Bostwick’s restaurant across from the hotel and we arrived just in time to order a bottle of the bubbly.  Ended up it was a Toni-treat!
It was a splendid way to indulge and recap what we’d just experienced and try to hold onto the glamour and magic for just a little longer….

It was all just this side of Hamptons Heaven…

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Magic of East Hampton Library Authors Night

There was never any doubt.  It was the best night of my writing career. 
If I never write another thing (god forbid) I will always have this Authors Night memory and be content.

While I regret a few things and would have changed a few others things there is so much pure, inescapable joy, pride and satisfaction that I’ll fold up those thoughts like a familiar lace handkerchief and put them in my pocket for now.

The morning of August 10th sparkled.  By the time I arrived in East Hampton, the day was shimmering -- as if in anticipation of the star-studded competition the evening would bring to the glory of the day.

I had taken the jitney to the East End, and alighting in East Hampton, a taxi driver suddenly appeared just as I retrieved my bag from the belly of the bus, and we made our way posthaste to the East Hampton Hotel.  This low-slung motel looked like something straight out of a Rat Pack Las Vegas-styled 1960’s film.

 Don’t get me wrong – the hotel/motel was clean as a whistle, scrubbed white and green but its Jetson-styled slooping roof and open cinderblock design reminded me of the early Caesar’s look right out the award-winning Martin Scorcese film, “Casino.”

It was sweet. And simple. What’s not to like?

I readily unpacked my few things, hung up my lace dress and jacket for the evening.  I was glad I hadn’t rolled the outfit into the travel bag – transporting it in a garment bag instead.  So all was still crisp.

I had plenty of time before the East Hampton Authors Night book signings under the tent was to begin so I figured I’d indulge in something to eat.
I learned from the front desk that Bostwick’s was within walking distance and headed over but not before spotting the stack of the Hamptons Magazine that included a full-length feature story about the East Hampton Authors Night – and the Hamptons Magazine-hosted dinner at the home of editor Michael Braverman that was to follow the Library event.

And I was included in that feature story!  Page 54 in the magazine:

I still had my head in the clouds from reading the digital version the night before, having discovered the link on the East Hampton Library’s Facebook page while doing some social networking. 

So with the glossy and glamorous copy of the magazine in hand, I sashayed over to the restaurant. 
Well, in fact it was more that I picked my way along the mini highway that is Pantigo Road, as the cars race by, not unlike La Mans. Which is kind of a crazy contrast to the bumper-to-bumper snails pace getting to the Hamptons.

Ensconced in a seat at the bar, I indulged in a lobster roll and Brooklyn beer and the magazine. Perfect.  I was so elated by the story and the sensual delight of holding it in my hands.
This was no digital deceit!  The feature was real. 
I had to share it with somebody – anybody.  The bartender was my likely candidate so – like a kid who brings home refrigerator art, I asked, “Do you want to see a story about tonight’s Authors Night?  I’m in it.”  Hopeless, I know…

Now being properly satiated, it was time to get ready for the evening.
Like a warrior getting ready for battle – or perhaps a better analogy is a thespian preparing to take the stage, I got changed and applied some make up and got my hair looking good.  In fact, I thought overall, I did look good.  The poison ivy on my face had cleared up pretty good.  There was little to no humidity and so there was no make up melt and, overall, a good hair day.

How quickly things can change.

I waited for my Homegrown friend and enthusiastic supporter, Toni Sabatino to arrive.  Toni is a very talented kitchen designer.  She (not a he) was to be my roommate and one of my guests for the evening’s festivities.  She’d come across the Forks and had run into someone’s medical emergency on the Shelter Island ferry – but no worries, I reassured her.
She composed herself and looked great and we were ready.
She drove us to the Authors Night under the tent.

I got my gold bracelet stamped “Authors Night.”
Normally I do not allow these branding bracelets – aka wristbands anywhere near me – I find them offensive and degrading.
Not this one. I felt the bracelet was a badge of honor.  And Tiffany or Cartier could not have designed a more dazzling piece of jewelry even if I was the Duchess of Cambridge.

A volunteer escorted me to my book-signing table; I was overjoyed and relieved to see it was right near the entrance: up front.

Squeezing between my table and the author’s to my right, I saw that my table-mate was Padma Lakshmi.
If you’ve been under a rock – Padma was the host of Food Network’s Top Chef, was married to Salmon Rushdie, graces the cover of countless magazines, including this issue of the heretofore mentioned Hamptons Magazine and was part of the same feature I was included in.  She was to be a fellow, author co-host for the evening’s dinner party, too.  Our paths had truly crossed. We were fellow scribes…

I silently gulped.

While it would no doubt be fun and exciting to spend the event signing books with Padma, the honest truth is she is so very famous and beautiful and tall and has a new book out plus will be starring in a new TV show - that attending guests would look right past me.  They’d have eyes only for the very tall (did I say that again?!), very talented Padma. 

The good news/bad news is Padma was a “no show” for the Author Night event under the tent…
Only a few people took her book to purchase, which is a shame for the Library. Some others asked me where she was and I had to say I am not Padma’s keeper…”
But I am here,” I smiled.  

It was controlled chaos under the tent.  In fact, from the time we arrived, there wasn’t a moment I wasn’t signing books and posing for pictures or taking photos of the Homegrown fans. 
Me and Dan - from East End's beloved & popular Dan's Papers (newspaper)
It was work.
And still more guests were arriving. 

Swedish Culinary Students, me & Chef Bryan Futerman, Foody's

In about an hour, I was sold out of two cases of books! 
Nothing left to sign for the last hour.

It was then I realized how hot it had gotten under the tent.  I whipped out my hand-held fan and began to stylishly but earnestly wave the hot air.
Too late. 
I could feel the make up melting off my eyes fearful I was looking more Emmett Kelly than even author Kitty Kelly – who, by the way, was the next author over from me since Padma wasn’t there. (I rarely to never wear face make up so at least I could be thankful there weren’t rivers of foundation puddling on my cheeks.)
And then the hair tragedy.  It was now flat. Limp.
I was looking more old-school librarian than Hamptons Library supporter.
Dawn Watson, The Press, caught my "glow"

But there was nothing that could be done…
It wasn’t for me that I cared. Well, maybe a little. It was I wanted to uphold the glamorous, East Hamptons Authors Night provenance…

I was proud we had done so well and in such a short time. 

Post event, the East Hampton Library wrote of the event's overall, soaring success: 104 authors under the tent along with more than 2,000 guests.  In addition, 700 guests attended the 26 dinners.  Donations were still coming in but estimates are that the tally exceed $300,000 in revenue for the Library! 

Bryan Futerman, Foody’s restaurant owner and chef and a featured Homegrown chef in the Cookbook was my other Plus +1 for the event and dinner guest. 
Chef Bryan was so kind – he stayed at the table and autographed books right along with me. 
That was a lucky-strike extra for the Homegrown fans! 

For those who are not familiar with the evening’s format, I’ll describe it for you. 
Plus, I saw a News 12 TV piece where Authors Night co-founder Alec Baldwin pointed out that the format has now become a model, inspiring other libraries’ fundraising outreach.
But I doubt that others can match the East Hampton Library’s star power and setting. There is nothing like the literi gliteri there.

Guests pay for tickets to the benefit.  They are able to taste fabulous treats – from hors d’ouevres to sweets, along with wine and other drinks – while walking around, chatting up famous, favorite or new authors, and getting them to sign the guest’s books of choice.
When they have gathered enough for a small library – they check out – with all the monies benefitting the East Hampton Library.

So, I had planned for Chef Bryan to simply enjoy the food and drink there at the event and walk around and meet the famous authors who were present. 
But he elected to stay with me. 
Bryan is adorable and I welcomed his company and support.

When we depleted our book inventory, except for one, I turned my gaze and attention to what was happening around me.

Gwyneth, Goop and Good Food
It was then that I saw all this sustained commotion to my left. And there in our table pit – meaning the center of our Author table area – was Gwyneth Paltrow.

I could see right away she was not having a bad hair day.
Smart cookie – she had it tied back in a sleek ponytail.
And that was complemented by a stunning and equally sleek white dress. Tom Ford?

As I was remarking about how lucky I was to be at this table pit intersection – Chef Bryan and Toni urged me to give my last book to Gwyneth.

Yes, why not?

So as quickly as each of us could tap her name into our smart phones to insure proper spelling - my Plus +1’s were spelling her name and I was penning, “G-W-Y-N-E-T-H, Enjoy the beauty, romance and taste of Homegrown Long Island.”
And I signed my Leeann with a particularly dramatic swirl of the L, if I do say so myself. 

Holding my book in arm: school style – I took the few steps over to where Gwyneth was signing up a storm.
I really didn’t want to interrupt her. 

I started by sidling up to her penning side – her children Moses and Apple were on her left – beaming for all the guests, clearly so happy and proud.
Husband Chris Martin, Coldplay musician, was on the guest side of the table – in the book-loving melee chatting it up and looking like he’d made the rounds of the other Authors by the look of the books he was holding.

Chris Martin with his Authors Night books

How cute are the apple cheeks on Apple?!

After mugging it up for my camera that Toni was snapping – it was getting silly with me smiling next to Gwyneth and she intent on book signing so that the images would look like I was standing next to a cut-out or Madame Tussaud figure of the Academy-Award winning actress. 

I took the plunge and sat down next her saying simply, “Sorry, I hate to interrupt but I so wanted you to have my book – my last book.”
And she turns, inches from my face – so I can’t help notice she doesn’t have any pores… She is glowing. In a good way. Not in a melt-down glistening way.
No, she is the cover girl of healthy, authentic luminosity.

Then Gwyneth chirps – in an altogether too adorable way:
Your book?!  

“I have the book!”

“I Love the book!”

“What?!”  I reply, stunned, 

I am gobsmacked Gwyneth loves the book.  Hey, I’m just thrilled she knows of it. The fact that she already has it and loves it starts to settle on me like a warm spring day.
Life is good.

But wait. Now I’m in a pickle.

I blurt how great this is and say: “I’m thrilled you have and love the book!
But, but, ohhhh I just signed this one – my last one – to you!”

We both start laughing like startled school friends who just discovered another’s secret boyfriend.

She returns to signing books while keeping an ear.
I put on my thinking cap and pull what I think is a rabbit out of my hat.
“Why don’t I add your mother’s name?” I ask hopefully.

“That’s a Great idea!” she offers. 
But seriously, what is she gonna say when I’m just inches away – “That’s a Homegrown re-gifting if I ever ...”?

While we both agree on this Homegrown solution – and for the record -- I adore her mother, Blythe Danner and have loved her stage work especially, as well as her films.

Then I make a strategic blunder.  Rather than add Blythe’s name there and hand it directly to Gwyneth -- for some inexplicable reason, I return to my Authors Table and pen “Blythe” in the comfort of my Authors turf while pondering how one family can have such kingdom names: Blythe, Gwyneth, Moses, Apple…
When I grew up I was the only Leeann but that doesn’t seem to be in the same league as these marquee names.

As a big aside, the other simpatico connection I – and my cousin Maryann – share with Gwyneth – is our abiding, unconditional love for our fathers. 
All of who have left this world for that part of heaven reserved for first-class fathers.

I rather wear my feelings for my father on my sleeve and so I sometimes felt that perhaps others might think me too personal or dramatic when sharing my deep abiding love for my father.
Then I read Gwyneth saying her father was the love of her life. 
I shared that with Maryann.  If others can accept Gwyneth’s declaration of filial love, then they could accept and understand mine. And Maryann's...

And Maryann is putting the finishing touches on her homage to her father with a cookbook filled with healthy comfort food and family meals – not so unlike Gwyneth’s “My Father’s Daughter” cookbook that “celebrates the joy preparing food for loved ones, a passion she learned from her beloved father,” according to the book’s overview.

The other link I have with the culinary cutie that is Gwyneth clearly is the food.
We both advocate for whole foods.  I emphasize locally grown and seasonal ingredients. 
And taste…

Back to the event.

Before I could return to Gwyneth with the signed book, there was more Hamptons royalty who’d just arrived.

I turned to see Alec Baldwin and his gorgeous wife, Hilaria.  There was a phalanx of photographers and lookers now surrounding the already buzz-worthy Gwyneth table.

I could see and capture the sweet, courteous exchange among the stars and then the introduction to Gwyneth’s children and photographed them shaking Mr. Baldwin’s hand.

Mrs. Baldwin was radiant. While very, very pregnant, she wears it so well.
In fact, as the two of us talked in the Authors table “pit” she said they were returning to town that night because their doctor said they were pushing the envelope.
me/author & beautiful Hilaria Thomas Baldwin

Hilaria is my Gotham yogi master.  Her studio is around the corner from our apartment.  
After trying several yoga studios in my Greenwich Village neighborhood, I found my yoga home. I love her, the studio, and the staff.
And in fact, Hilaria had me do my first headstand. After success, we joked I wasn't a headstand virgin any more J

No Baldwin Blurb
In terms of the book, I have somewhat of a history with Mr. Baldwin.

I will explain. 
And I wish I had shared this funny and somewhat tortured connection with Hilaria as we talked in the Authors pit.

The Baldwin blurb saga began a few clicks earlier.   

I was so fortunate and thank my lucky stars that Brian Halweil agreed to do the Forward for my book. Brian is the editor of the New York magazines: Edible New York, Edible East End and recently – Edible Long Island (did the Homegrown book influence this direction?  Hope so!) Brian is also a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute covering food and agriculture and he is also co-director of Nourishing the Planet.

I had wanted to find a way to ask Mr. Baldwin if he would do a book blurb for the Homegrown Cookbook.  After all, he is a Long Island native and I read he frequented a number of the restaurants featured in Homegrown.  It was a natural fit, I thought. 

Then not long after, Edible East End ran a story with Mr. Baldwin and Brian rhapsodizing about the Peconic Bay and East End oysters.  (Which are very, very spectacular if you haven’t tasted this bit of the Milky Way on your tongue!)
I called Brian and well, one thing led to the next.
Eventually, I met up with Mr. Baldwin at a benefit for the Two River Theater in Red Bank in the Garden State – near our country house.  I thought it was an ideal situation to bring up our mutual points of interest: culture, politics, humor, Long Island, restaurants and food and – but before I could explain in clear, complete sentences about the book and my modest request for a blurb, the moment was gone.  I get very unnerved around him.  I blather. To the point he leaned in and asked, “So what do you want me to do?”  Before I could respond, I resorted to pictures.  Thinking it might help if like a proud parent I could show off the progeny – (and a picture is worth a thousand words – and since I hadn’t progressed too far past monosyllabic conversation, I took out a few pages of the then-almost complete manuscript that I thought would trigger warm recognition of cozy dinners at 1770 House and Nick & Toni’s and…. But before I could unfurl a page, he stopped me. Or rather demurred.   
Is it a legal thing?  Not sure but I respected his request. 
I did get a nice picture of us together that night... (Too funny - or sad -  that I was wearing the exact same ensemble!) 

He suggested I contact his business partner and manager, Monica.
Which I did, eventually.
Monica is a true professional and has a great sense of aplomb, discretion, and humor. 
While she appreciated my request, she had to decline due to Mr. Baldwin’s oversubscribed schedule.  Even if I wrote it and he/they edited – there was no way.
While clearly disappointed I accepted it and her kind offer to help with the book when it was published.

It wasn’t until spring of that following year that I started taking yoga at Hilaria’s Yoga Vida Studio.  Almost the same time that Mr. Baldwin and Hilaria discovered each other, now that I think about it.
I was taking the Friday morning class because there was no sense rushing out of town – our country house was under renovation.  Hilaria taught with such joy and exuberance I think I was falling in love with her, too.
When I saw her on ET, I couldn’t believe it!  How exciting!
And suddenly, it seemed, she and Alec were an inspired couple. 
When she told us at the end of a class in June or so that she’d be taking some time off – her first real vacation in like forever – we all knew it was to help celebrate the engagement.  In fact, I went up to her after class to congratulate her and just like a best friend, she showed off her beautiful engagement ring.  I took her hand and wished her the very best, saying she deserved all the joy and happiness in the world.  She brings so much of that to all of us…
As things turned out, Alec was waiting for her after our class siting on the sofa.  I had to stop in the ladies room, as I wasn’t returning to the apartment, rather I was on my way to the Greenmarket to compost.  In the powder room, the women were all giggling and tweeting.  Cute. 
I thought the soon-to-be Baldwin couple would have left by the time I got ready to leave.  But no.  I tried to avoid his gaze as this was about the same time that woman was stalking him.  But then we all ended up in the same elevator.  Arrghh. Head down.
Nice elevator conversations though…

When the Homegrown book was published, I wrote to Monica and offered to send the now happily married couple a Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
I could’ve dropped it off at their apartment building, which is also around the corner from us. 
Monica suggested I send it to 30 Rock. Why didn’t I walk it up?
I mailed it the same day as another book going to Canada.  I did have a signature request for the Post mailing at least.
Weeks later, I remembered to check in with Monica.  No, they hadn’t received the books, she said. I sent one to Mr. & Mrs. Baldwin and one to Monica.
She said things were crazy as Alec was doing the “Orphans” play on Broadway, the TV hit "30 Rock" had ended and there were so many baby gifts that had been sent to the office - so things were kinda’ crazy.  We had some funny email exchanges. I had the signature from the 30 Rock mailperson who signed for the books, at least.
And then, Monica then wrote that she found the books – they were sent to the apartment, after all.

So you see, this abbreviated story would have been a lot more charged than me asking the banal questions about baby names.  Sigh.  Hilaria might’ve gotten a kick out of the intersections of New York lives.

This was one of my regrets of the evening.

The other was not taking some time to get fixed up for dinner following the heady and hot Authors Night under the tent.
But we were giddy with anticipation and were soon heading over to the Hamptons Magazine dinner at Michael Braverman’s.  The biggest and most prestigious of all the dinners that night…