Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Discover Gooseberries

Have you tried a Cape Gooseberry? A little orange fruit the size of a cherry tomato with a sweet, grape-like tang, it’s in season from early summer until early August. The fruit is so beautiful that a couple of centuries ago in Peru, it was perfumed and worn decoratively. Nowadays it’s eaten raw or dried, made into jams, sauces, and chutneys, and cooked in desserts.

After flowering, the calyx of the plant forms a husk that acts as a natural wrapping for the berry. It's toxic and shouldn’t be eaten, but the husk allows gooseberries to stay fresh at room temperature for three months or more.

Though native to South America, It earned its name when it was cultivated by settlers on Africa’s Cape of Good Hope in the early 1800’s. In the U.S., you're most likely to find it in Pennsylvania Dutch country or parts of the Midwest.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Next Big Thing

Nowadays, many people go “out to the movies” in their own media rooms. The new must-have accessory? Entertainment systems from companies like Kaleidescape (, Fusion (, and Axonix ( These free you from the bother of cataloging and storing cases by allowing you to upload your entire DVD and CD collections onto a single server. The system may even dim the lights, draw the curtains, and display a customized on-screen introduction.

It’s incredible fun to play with these easy-to-operate machines. And they stream independently, so anyone can make his or her own selection, from in the living room, kitchen, bedroom, or elsewhere.

These systems are expensive now, but my bet is that they are the flat screens and cell phones of tomorrow. Eventually, we’ll all have one.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Do As They Do

Al Gore’s efforts on behalf of global warming and Oprah’s show “The Big Give” have inspired me lately, not only because of their particular achievements but also because they’re educating people about doing good and hoping those people will influence others to do the same.

Some scientific studies suggest that positive emotions are less likely to be genetic than negative ones. So the question is, can compassion be taught? It seems so. Researchers have found that the environment can affect the parts of the brain involved in positive emotions. And a landmark study found that kids with compassionate parents tend to be more altruistic, suggesting that you can teach by example, findings that have been confirmed elsewhere.

That’s good news for the future. The Giving USA Foundation at Indiana’s Center on Philanthropy reported that the contributions of individual Americans are huge, far exceeding contributions by the government as a whole. A couple of years ago, in just three and a half months, individual contributions for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita came to $3.12 billion, “a record for a single disaster and recovery effort.”

Americans are all about caring and giving back. And by example, they are teaching the next generation to do the same.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Berry Good News

What’s purplish-black and green all over?

It’s the açaí (say “ah-SIGH-ee”) berry, a true superfood. Açaí has way more antioxidants than blueberries or pomegranates, it’s rich in omega fatty acids, fiber and vitamins, and it’s delicious: imagine a chocolate-flavored plum or wine with a chocolate infusion.

The berry is “green” only in the ecological sense, since it may help save some of the Amazon rain forest, where it grows in bunches on palm trees. Harvesting açaí has become an economic alternative to forest-destroying industries like logging and cattle, and it provides jobs for the impoverished local residents.

An American surfer who tasted açaí in Brazil introduced it to the US in 2000. The berries aren’t eaten as snacks, but their pulp is used in drinks and other dishes. Want a taste? Andrew Pudalov serves açaí smoothies and “bowls” —dishes that combine it with natural ingredients like yogurt and honey— in Rush, his two Boulder, Colorado shops. He’ll overnight ship frozen bowls or packs of açaí for blending your own smoothies. (Go to, or call 303-532-7315.)

Photographed above is one of Rush's delicious açaí bowls.

Monday, April 21, 2008

For Earth's Sake!

Those of us who have all that we need should resolve this Earth Week to do more to cut waste and keep the planet clean for ourselves and future generations. I’m always on the lookout for uncomplicated, meaningful ways to do so—like these.

• Recycle your old electronic equipment. Every year, New Yorkers dispose of 34,000 tons of electronic waste such as TVs, computers, printers, etc. It’s legal to put it in the garbage, but recycling it keeps hazardous materials from the waste stream and the environment. Check with to find out about the next recycling event, and plan to bring your stuff.

• Deliver your dead cell phone to any cell phone provider (in New York, they must accept and recycle them) and drop off your batteries at Radio Shack (which will recycle them).

• Put your junk mail in with the recycled papers. Better yet, stop it from coming. The average person gets 41 pounds of junk mail a year, but and can help you stop it coming.

• Don’t drain energy with appliances on standby. We spend $1 billion a year to power TVs and DVD/VCRs that are turned off but still plugged in—and that doesn’t count toasters, coffeemakers, hair dryers, PCs, printers, cable boxes, and cell phone chargers. Plug adjacent equipment into a surge protector, and flip it off at night or when you leave the house.

Friday, April 18, 2008

You're Invited...

As Spring rolls around we are very busy planning lots of events. Click on the link below to see the story Fashion Week Daily did about our record-breaking invitation delivery!

Puppy Love

As a dedicated dog lover—I bring my King Charles spaniel to the office, I am especially outraged by irresponsible breeders who run puppy mills. Lisa Ling had an eye-opening expose on a recent Oprah that you can view on If you want a pet, you should consider a rescue dog. The American Kennel Club website ( has lots of information.

Another dogs-in-the-news story affected me deeply—but this time in a good way. It was about Puppies Behind Bars – an organization that uses inmates at New York prisons to raise puppies that will be trained as service companions for the disabled. The inmates keep the dogs in their cells, and what they learn about trust, teamwork, responsibility—and unconditional love—changes their lives.

The puppies go on weekend furloughs with volunteers to learn about things they can’t experience in prison (like doorbells) and some regularly visit the elderly housebound to become familiar with equipment they might need as service canines. If they qualify, the dogs go for advanced training; otherwise, they’re placed with blind children. To be amazed by this great program, go to

Can you tell I love animals? Here’s my own best friend and office pal, Sammy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Isn’t it nice to have an “addiction” that isn’t bad for you? Mine is fruit tea, which I buy by the pound at McNulty’s Tea and Coffee Company, a New York institution. At McNulty’s, most fruit “teas” don’t contain any tea. They’re all-natural, caffeine-free blends of rose hips, hibiscus, and various pieces of dried fruit­. Dozens of flavors include apple, blueberry, lemon, mint, raspberry, wild cherry and tropical fruits (coconut pieces with pineapple).

The difference between high-quality loose tea and supermarket-brand teabags is in the leaves. Teabags generally contain ground leaf bits called fannings that don’t hold in the essential oils that gives tea flavor and are quicker to release tannins that make tea bitter. To compensate, manufacturers of low-end teas often add artificial flavorings.

To brew a proper cup, says David Wong, a tea expert at McNulty’s, measure a heaping teaspoon of the loose tea mixture into an infuser, put the infuser in a cup, and then pour boiling water over it. Let it steep 3 to 5 minutes for fruit or black teas, 5 minutes for oolongs.

For green and white teas, turn off the water when it has come to a boil and let it stand 3 or 4 minutes before pouring it over the tea; then let the tea steep 1 to 3 minutes only. “The boiling water draws out bitterness, and green and white tea can be bitter if they steep too long,” says Wong.

McNulty's Tea & Coffee Co., Inc.
109 Christopher Street

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Magnolias in Bloom!

For me the telltale sign that spring has truly arrived are the few days when the magnolias are in bloom outside the Frick Collection. If you live in New York I highly suggest stopping by and witnessing the beauty in person. And for those of you who are not New Yorkers here are some pictures of these beautiful trees.

Spring has finally arrived!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Observing the Rules

Having just read the debate that there are no rules for table settings, I am here to tell you there are—and for good reason.

As Margaret Visser says in her fascinating book The Rituals of Dinner – “The active sharing of food—not consuming all of the food we find on the spot, but carrying some back home and then doling it systematically out—is believed…to lie at the root of what makes us different from animals.” And then she goes on to explain the reason for the conventions of dining in every society, from the elaborate rules of cannibalism to who gets served first to why we use white linen.

Customs change, of course. When a Byzantine princess introduced the idea of the fork to Venetians in the 1100s, a bishop of the church condemned her. He said, in effect, that’s why God gave us fingers—to pick up food! Using a fork—which distanced us from the food we eat—gradually became commonplace along with a new cultural idea, “civility,” which had to do with all kinds of bodily propriety. (No spitting at the table, no sharing utensils.)

“No society exists without manners, and specifically without rules that govern eating behavior,” Vinsser writes. Most important she explains convincingly that all the rules come down to this: being considerate of others. That’s reason enough to keep them going.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Autism: the Musical

If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of not quite fitting in—hasn’t everyone? –you will relate to the HBO special Autism: The Musical. It tracks five kids with autism (and their families) as they spend six months preparing a show that will help them socialize and express themselves.

The best part (other than the fact that makes you cry AND laugh, which to me is the definition of a perfect entertainment) is that it shoots down every one of the myths about people with autism— especially that they can’t relate to others, feel love or communicate affection. Now that autism affects 1 in 150 people (shockingly up from 1 in 10,000 in l982), it’s time to raise our awareness and understanding.

The show was telecast to kick off National Autism Month in April, but you can catch a rerun on HBO on Demand until 4/28 or order your own copy at (and show it to everyone you can!)

Applause to the creators for bringing attention to this issue in such an engaging way. As for the kid performers and their adult supporters, there aren’t enough words to praise them. You want American idols? Here they are.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Night at the Biz Bash Awards

Last night I attended the Biz Bash Awards, an awards show that recognizes the best of the event business.  I was elated and honored to bring home four shining "B's" for overall event decor, table top design and nonprofit event concept for the Guggenheim's International Gala and best entertainment concept for the Plaza's 100th Birthday.  We had a great time and cannot wait to go back next year. 

Here are some highlights from the night.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spring Harvest

Right about now, and only briefly, you may find fiddlehead ferns, wild morels, and fresh tarragon in markets. If you haven’t tried them, you’re in for a treat. Chef Jean-George Vongerichten (who masterminds some of New York’s top restaurants) says, “Fiddlehead ferns taste like a walk in a moist forest, especially paired with their seasonable companions, morels.”

Fiddleheads aren’t a special kind of fern. They’re just the coiled-up, as yet-unfurled head of any new fern, and they’re only in season for about two weeks. They’re not good raw, but should be prepared and served like asparagus. So steam and serve them with cheese or other sauce, or parboil them, refresh in cold water, drain, and serve at room temperature with a vinaigrette.
Inspired by Jean-George, you might add fiddleheads to the simmering liquid of partly-cooked morels, drain them, add butter, and toss them with pasta. Though a cultivated version appears year-round, wild morels are a mild-flavored mushroom that appears in early spring or summer. The smallest are berry sized, the largest as big as a fist, and they’re excellent in all kinds of sauces.
Morels are also frequently paired with tarragon. Though you may know tarragon as a dried herb, you can sometimes find the stalks in spring markets, to cook like asparagus. Fresh leaves added to chicken stew, or a fresh stalk placed inside a roasted chicken, gives a faint flavor of anise that the dried herb doesn’t have.

Monday, April 7, 2008

"Green" Cleaning

Spring cleaning is a throwback to the days when housewives had to get the layer of coal dust off everything at winter’s end. That’s no longer necessary, but the coming of spring still inspires the urge to freshen up our homes.

It’s impossible to think about cleaning up these days without thinking about the environment. That’s why I like the Seventh Generation line of cleaning products that I found at Whole Foods. (For a comprehensive list of “green” products, you might want to check out

And as someone who is very affected by the power of scent, I am a great fan of eco-friendly Caldrea cleaning supplies from the General Home Store in East Hampton. Products like their lavender-scented laundry supplies, wild lily dishwashing soap and basil blue-sage countertop cleaner give you a little extra reward for doing the most mundane chores.

Friday, April 4, 2008

There can’t be an idea more win/win than this. Click onto the website, and amuse yourself by playing a multiple-choice vocabulary game. (For example, Clobber: Bash, oversee, jiggle, or act?) For every word you get right, the website donates 20 grains of rice through the United Nations World Food Program to end hunger. They get the money to fund this project from the advertising that appears on the bottom of the screen when you play.

These tiny little bits really add up, thanks to website visitors intrigued by the game and the idea of doing good. From October 2007 to April 3, the site had donated 25,230,699,310 grains of rice. (At an estimated 29,000 grains of rice in a pound, that’s 870,024 pouds.) So feed your brain one word at a time and feed the hungry 20 grams of rice at a time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sugar-and-Nut Case

It didn’t surprise me to learn that marzipan, the ground almond-and-sugar paste, was originally considered medicine—it certainly makes me feel better! It probably originated in the Middle East, but by medieval times in Europe, decorative figures made with it (people, trees, buildings) were served at the end of feasts. Once sugar from the New World became less expensive in the l8th century, its popularity grew.

Italians became masters of painting gorgeous marzipan fruits, the Spanish make it with egg yolks, but Lubeck, Germany calls itself the world capital of marzipan. Marzipan from Lubeck must be only 30% sugar to 70% almond paste, compared to 50-50 elsewhere.

Here in the Yorkville section of New York, which once had a large German population, the recently-departed Elk Candy company specialized in marzipan candy including large pigs that were sent as good-luck presents. Varsano’s in the West Village sells an outstanding chocolate-covered green marzipan, but if I’m not in that neighborhood I get my local fix at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market.

Photographed are five different fruit shapes from Buon Italia.

172 West 4th Street
New York City

Boun Italia