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Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges Hosts a Literary Luncheon for Ruth Reichl

THE morning of Tuesday, May 19th found me hustling out of my apartment at 8:45 to catch a Metro-North train for the first in a series of literary luncheons hosted by The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges. I'd thought I had planned plenty of time to prep myself to, quite possibly, be the only male patron amongst eighty-something Westchester County ladies who lunch; alas, I'd set my alarm for the time I had to leave my apartment, rather than the time I ought to wake up--nothing a yellow taxi couldn't fix.

From the Fordham Metro-North station, JG's Inn was no more than a 90 minute expedition (including a 20 minute cab ride from Mt. Kisco to Pound Ridge). As much as I'm not partial to most passenger trains outbound of New York City, I've always associated boarding the Metro-North rail with an air of excitement! Below grey clouds, ominously hung above Pound Ridge's Inn, I was taxied behind a semi-circle of suitably polished vehicles awaiting employable valets. Walking toward The Inn's front entrance, a blondish woman remarked on my bag as I was passing: I know OpenTable--what's that? "Oh, it's a blog that I write for!" We met again in the foyer where she'd pointed to a crate of baby artichokes placed for decoration; I'd sensed she was awaiting a reaction so I bent down to touch them: Oh, they're real!

Within the grey-chic lighting of The Inn, a bevy of well-dressed middle-agees--plus a handful of younger female companions (youth by association)--busied themselves milling about, white wine in hand. Although I didn't recognize any faces among them, I could tell that this was a Who's Who of Westchester County "high society." Ducking out for a moment to ensure that my attire and visage were in check (during the dayspring dash, I'd chuted my lot of grooming balms directly into my bag), I'd made my way to a washroom at the front of The Inn; peeking out from behind an opaque shade, I spied a parade of tall-heeled women marching past the semi-circle of idling cars at the valet stand, toward the front entrance of The Inn.

PENETRATING through the darting eyes assembled at the foyer, I was suddenly halted by Jean-Georges' VP of operations, James Liakakos who welcomed me warmly--JG is here, he'll be happy to see you. Straightaway thereafter, I'd waded toward the edge of a bar, grasping hold of its marble top; handed a wine list, I was thrilled to find Pierre Gimonnet & Fils champagne offered--its 2007 vintage.

Tasting the Gimonnet on a previous visit  to 
Perry St, the wine is sheer perfection!

Confidence in hand, I'd milled about The Inn's 'bar room,' waiting for the lot of us to be seated. Among The Inn's welcoming committee was General Manger, Jason Worflar and Jean-Georges' (long-time) President, Lois Freedman. Knocking into my confidence, Are you by yourself?, Ms. Freedman inquired; The question is, where will you sit? Mr. Worflar's innate hospitality offered solution: Would you show Mr. Bradley to table 20? I was then escorted by a plaid-shirted, long-aproned server to a wide table at the front of the dining room; before long, and after a few formal introductions, I'd realized I was sitting at the editors' table, with Ms. Reichl herself.

Ms. Reichl addresses attendees, post 
a family-style dessert course

Among my lunching companions for the afternoon was executive editor of Serendipity, Amy Levin-Epstein, and Brooke Shepard who's spearheading the magazine's annual Greenwich Food + Wine Festival; WAG editor-in-chief, Georgette Gouveia; staff from Elm Street Books; and at the head of the table, Ruth Reichl plus an open seat for chef Jean-Georges. Once all luncheon guests had been seated, the first course dishes began arriving.

In typical Jean-Georges fashion, all the food was outstanding--in particular, the house-made ricotta with compote, olive oil and grilled bread (which The Mercer Kitchen has recently begun serving as a part of its "Market Table" offerings) and the spinach pizza with mint, black pepper and lemon. And how will I forget the stalks of warm asparagus, so generously topped with morels (of which I may have taken more than my fair share)? The answer is, I will not.

family-style appetizers at The Inn

Following appetizers, we all enjoyed individually plated portions of slowly-cooked halibut served with a silky spring onion and carrot stew with peas and saffron.

slowly-cooked halibut at The Inn with 
stew as silky as freshly-broken yolk

While I'd expected Ms. Reichl would speak at some point during our meal, it wasn't until post-dessert that our attention was drawn to the front of the dining room (not that one should expect such a food dynamo as Ruth Reichl would want to forgo a single second of chef Jean-Georges' culinary marvel).

pastry chef, Melody Farrar serves up 
fabulous sweets at The Inn

Just when I'd thought that The Inn could do no more to impress any further, my table mates and I were inspired once again with a stunning dessert spread by Melody Farrar, pastry chef of The Inn since day one. Fat kid at heart, I impulsively reached for chef Farrar's carrot cake with candied lemon and cream cheese frosting; what appeared as dense and heavy, ended up being oh-so-light! (And I won't mention the editor that avoided the candied lemon from her fair share to which I'd wasted no time in claiming like I did those extra morels!) In my effort to quell any (further) temptation of gluttonous misdeed, I'd ordered a cup of Earl Grey which arrived just in time for me to enjoy during the introductions to the afternoon's keynote speaker.

An Afternoon to Remember

Wireless mic in hand, Ms. Reichl began by answering the first--self-directed--question: How did [I] become a restaurant critic? She went on to tell the enamoring story of the first restaurant review she'd submitted to a major publication; soon panicking over of a sudden loss of confidence; only to (later) find out just how much the editor had loved the piece (needless to say, she did get the job). Throughout the thirty-some minute Q & A session, Ms. Reichl told stories of her time at Gourmet (of which she was editor-in-chief of the magazine from 1999 to 2009)--and of its unforeseen closing--and eventually meandered toward her latest novel, Delicious!, based on the letters of fictional character, Lulu Swan, written to Gourmet over the course of years.

AT THE END of it all, The Inn had emptied itself more quickly than it had been filled; it seems Westchester County ladies are not the type to linger over mimosas. As I awaited a suitably polished black cab beneath cleared-up Pound Ridge skies, devising a return to The Inn was presently of circumstance. But do be forewarned, if you're reading this, Mr. Worflar: my city friends and I do like to linger over mimosas (or rosé for that matter!) and please do ensure that we will have somewhere to sit!

The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges, 258 Westchester Avenue, Pound Ridge, NY (914) 764-1400
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