A Tale of Two House Parties

Jean-Georges Vongerichten 50th Anniversary
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s 50th Anniversary. Image courtesy of BFA.

On a recent evening in downtown Manhattan, Jean-Georges Vongerichten threw an extremely expensive house party. Hundreds of guests flocked to his latest headquarters, the Tin Building—an opulent, sprawling food hall three blocks south of the Brooklyn Bridge—to celebrate 50 years in the kitchen with JGV himself. As an architect who had flown in from Athens put it beneath the buttery glow of lantern pendants in the House of the Red Pearl speakeasy: “Every single room in this place has such a different vibe tonight.” 

Indeed, each of a dozen bars, fast casual counters, and full-service dining rooms within the 53,000-square-foot marketplace were not only open for foot traffic; they were erupting with discrete displays of each storefront’s wares. 

In lieu of an unfinished basement lined with bongs and beers, or an upstairs bedroom filled with hookah smoke, there were tiny tacos in individual taco holsters and wedges of vegetable quesadillas rotating through a coiffed crowd in front of Taquito. At Shikku, a sushi counter on the ground floor, a Sake-Sommelier poured sweet, cloudy rice wine into black masu cups as men in suits and sneakers plucked made-to-order tuna maki from platters with chopsticks. An upstairs bakery contained a single long table, festooned with a fever dream-quantity of mirror glazed layer cakes, stacks of pistachio-green eclairs, some sort of torte tiled with thinly sliced figs, canelés, jars of jelly beans, and several towers of delicate macarons that dissolved on the tongue instantly when wrenched from their structure. Nearby, two performers dressed as 1950s housewives detailed the ingredients within cookie dough as they grabbed for great blobs of it, to portion it out for baking: “Eggs, sugar, flour, amphetamines,” they cried out in unison. 

The French chef spoiled 800 of us, Jihae, Kwame Onwuachi, Daniel Boulud, and all. At one point, whispers— and then slightly louder, liquor-thickened pronouncements—zipped around the room: someone had seen Martha Stewart, David Burtka, and (a local celeb to be sure) the man who founded Citarella. Another person had even seen JGV himself, out front, no wait, inside by the three-tiered seafood towers. A woman danced in front of a backlit grocery store wearing only thigh-high boots, fringed lingerie and, for a reason that went unaddressed, a lampshade over her face that may have been beamed in directly from a John Cheever story. 

It was, in certain ways (decor, energy, “A Blonde Moment” by Dr. Packer pulsing through the space), diametrically opposed to another lavish house party thrown uptown last week by a JGV-peer, Eric Ripert, at which the loudest exclamations occurred when the lobster egg rolls made rounds through the carpeted Le Bernardin Privé.

Eric Ripert showing off "Seafood Simple" at his "house party" at Le Bernardin Privé.
Eric Ripert showing off “Seafood Simple” at his “house party” at Le Bernardin Privé. Image courtesy of Eric Ripert.

To toast his latest cookbook Seafood Simple, everyone from Candace Bushnell to Tim and Nina Zagat gathered in the muted private dining space adjacent to Ripert’s lauded temple of seafood for bites of hamachi tartare and grilled oysters. Sommeliers donning shiny silver medallions around their necks (“tastevins” to those interested) poured Bollinger, and everyone more or less kept their acts together. If JGV threw a total rager, Ripert had us over to sip his parents’ Grand Crus while they were at Cannes. But as the fine dining scene enters its next act worldwide, it felt fated that many of the same People in Impressive Footwear should congregate in one seven–day period to pay homage to some of the greats of a certain era. They nibbled on imported cheese shavings arranged like an endangered coral reef, deconstructed an obelisk of oysters with surgical precision, and toasted to an age when excess flowed oh so freely.

Ella Quittner is a screenwriter and Family Style‘s writer-at-large. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Man Repeller, Bon Appétit, and across many group chats.