Monday, December 10, 2012

Reliefatinis for the Food Bank of New York

 When you lose someone you love, there’s a period of time where everyone is reaching out. They have you on their radar and call, email and want to help you through the unbearably tough time. Inevitably, your friends, coworkers and neighbors go back to their lives and somewhat expect you to do the same. However,  you can’t bounce back because for you it’s not a current event or a minor setback, for you it’s everything. I would bet so many people devastated by Sandy are feeling that sense that the world around them is going back to normal.  As we buy gifts, light candles and put up trees, remember that  “the things we take for granted others are praying for”.

During the storm, I reached out to my talented friends Marissa Alperin, jewelry designer,  and John Marsh chef/owner of Green Square Tavern (according to Dr Oz, Marsh is a food snob too, thank goodness) to put together an evening to benefit Food Bank NYC. Last Thursday night was the gathering.
As you may know, I love to plan, but also had some great help.

There were flowers from my favorite local florist Rachel Cho

Delicious organic bites from John Marsh of Greensquare Tavern

Resident taste tester, sampling before guests arrive
Shrimp with a homemade hoisin
When it came to cocktails,  Marissa and I knew we needed a Reliefatini but I was striking out with apple (for "Big Apple") concoctions. A friend found a description for a drink from a place in SF called Elixir. I emailed for a recipe and before I knew it had virtual mixology support from the proprietor of Elixir, Joseph Ehrmann. I infused Chopin (potato vodka) with cinnamon sticks for 48 hours, purchased apple bitters, had a bottle of Morris Kitchen ginger syrup and fresh lime juice. As I thought of more and more things to add, my cocktail advisor suggested "remember less is more" which just happened to have been one of my dad's mantras. 

 We also had white wine with a few pomagranate seeds for color and cucumber infused water.
And of course Marissa’s creations (with profits for Sandy) and a donation box for Food Bank NYC

There was a part of me that felt guilty “partying” in the name of Sandy. I decided we should share a story as a reminder of why we had all gathered together. My friend J. spoke of her babysitter Verna. Verna, mother of 9 children herself, is a special soul. When our kids were younger, on my most frazzled days I would see Verna at preschool and in 30 seconds she’d have me calm. My nanny sick? Verna would watch the baby so I could run to work. Verna lived in the Rockaways a couple of blocks from the water and lost everything in the storm. She and her children were in the shelters and then scattered with family. J shared this story and Marissa pulled me aside and said “why aren’t we giving everything to Verna”? I knew what she meant but there are so many Verna’s.

J talking about Verna
Can you spot Carolyn? I have a lot of tall friends, what's up with that?
At the end of the night, Marissa realized we didn’t raffle off a beautiful pair of earrings; she left them with me to use for the blog. Friday, as I was cleaning up and thinking about the night, the doorbell rang. I know it sounds like I’m making this up but you know who it was. It was Verna with a huge smile on her face, of course. My babysitter and Verna were friends and she had been calling her nonstop but hadn’t reached her. When I hugged her and asked that dumb question “how are you?” She looked at me and said “I’m getting there.” Wow.  I ran to my office and put together some money and then had a thought. I gave Verna the note with cash in it to help her family but then I remembered Marissa’s earrings. I told Verna, I know you’re not spending on things as silly as this, please accept these and know we’re still thinking about you.

Verna on the left and lovely Louise on the right
It was a really special night; I had friends together from many different parts of my life. Many of these women showed up for Sandy and the Food Bank despite not knowing anyone. Everyone mixed and mingled. The next day I received a bunch of emails thanking me for hosting but what touched me is how many comments I received about the group who had assembled. "Your friends are lovely" said one guest. The truth is they are. Hosting is  a way to have some fun with great food and interesting drinks but I don't take for granted everyone who showed up to support a cause that will continue to need our help.

I'm a fan of a party favor and we had a bowl of one of my favorite treats "Mounds" cookies from a fantastic restaurant Rockin' Raw. A note on the bowl read "thank you for supporting our Sandy Efforts, you rock." What really rocked was sending in a substantial donation to the Food Bank of New York.
My friend Aidan Donnelley Rowley recently posted on the ingredients for a good gathering, what do you think those are? Everyone talks about the importance of a relaxed host, can you relax when hosting? Do you think it's inevitable to "go back to normal" following a disaster? 


  1. Looks like a wonderful event Lauren. And for a great cause.

    I know it's hard to relax as a hostess, but I really try to. My mom has taught me to never start cleaning when guests are still here! That's the hardest part for me, I just feel like I need to start right away. I'm working on that :)

  2. Gina, I feel as much prep as possible and a "party timeline" as Ina Garten suggests. That being said, I feel a lot of my mood as a host has to do with how invested I am in hosting and the guests who are there.

  3. Such a lovely event! The story of Verna is so touching as well. It's definitely important to remember those hit hardest still need our help in the next few months...

  4. This looks amazing! I personally cannot host parties because I spend the whole time stressing out over whether or not my guests are having a good time - not fun for me at all! But I'd love to be able to be a gracious hostess.

    Also, I love using bitters in my cocktails, makes me feel a bit better about drinking when I know there are a few good for me ingredients in them!

  5. just started getting into bitters. I used Bar Keep, what brand do you like Kathy?

  6. absolutely important, it was fun. Hope you're well.

  7. I haven't tried Bar Keep, I really like NatureWorks Swedish Bitters!

  8. Great post, and what a beautiful event.
    I think good food and inviting places to lounge/sit/stand gather are key. Interesting themes/decor definitely help encourage conversation too. I'd love to have a huge kitchen someday so I don't have to stare at the piling up dishes from the living room--I think that would help me relax!
    I am so excited about my nutcase! Do i need to send my address somewhere?

  9. Wonderful post about a great event. I am happy you were able to help Verna and so many others ! :) great job!

  10. Me too, thanks Ayala. Verna has a new place...great news.

  11. yes, em us at
    I hope you find it superior to a ziploc bag.

  12. love this your a special lady hugs and we must never forget to support and help others

  13. That is great news...and by the way love the picture of your resident taste tester :)

  14. I think this is so wonderful you hosted this party Lauren, and I think that you are correct that, unless they are personally affected, people go back to their normal lives after a disaster. As for the elements of a good party, good food and drinks are a must (more and more, I am having potlucks instead of making everything myself and this does wonders to de-stress me before the big event), plus some flowers or fruit for decorations (i love using plants and flowers from my garden), and, of course, great friends~which it looks like you are blessed with too!