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…

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