I was bummed when I missed the 12-12-12 concert right around the corner at Madison Square Garden. Music acts that I grew up absolutely loving, coming together to benefit people who lost everything. I donated to Hurricane Sandy relief, but I never felt like I had done nearly enough. I even have some “survivor’s guilt” about the fact that we were not impacted by the hurricane AT ALL. We were the last block south to keep our power, so we weren’t even slightly inconvenienced. We got so incredibly lucky.
I watched it all happen in absolute impotence.
But all of that is sad, and New York is nothing if not resilient and I like to think that focusing our energies into the positive is how we overcome. So back to the positive…
I read about Shame on Sandy on Eater.com a few weeks ago and immediately bought my ticket. Not only was it benefiting something that touched my home so closely, but it was also a day to focus on the positive and celebrate some amazing freakin’ chefs and talented entertainers. (Here was the summary from Eater: “Shame on Sandy benefit at Highline Stages. The event will feature bites from Jonathan Waxman, Michael White, Nick Anderer, the Seersucker team, and several others, plus entertainment from actors and musicians like Reggie Watts, Patrick Stewart, and Abigail Breslin.”)
We went in and had NO idea what to expect. We arrived a bit early and found ourselves in a big open room with Batali, Bourdain, and Bastianich. I had a bit of celebrity dumbstruckness (yes… chef’s make me dumbstruck but actors do not… do not know why) and didn’t take any photos. Damn.
But I did manage to sneak out my camera as the space filled up, before the food got too killed by the patrons. They had sandwiches from ‘wichcraft (Tom Colicchio).
These little truffled egg tarts were SO GOOD. Something about the combination of eggs and truffles that just can’t be beat.
And a number of items from Blue Ribbon Bakery.
Including this pork scratchings (pork rinds) with this cute label.
And this AWESOME caramel corn.
There were couches to lounge on and a number of tables (thank goodness we got there early and had a seat). The opening band was Bluegrass style and very good.
And Mario Batali himself started handing out gelato (unfortunately, it was all gone by the time we were ready for dessert).
And the hot girls shucking oysters somehow made their way to all the tables around us but not ours. Boo.
The entertainment started (MCed by John Salley) and it was immediately apparent that the acoustics in the hall were not meant for this type of entertainment. Behind us was a full cacophony of people chit chatting. But the worst part about it was that they would NOT. SHUT. UP. Even after countless celebrities asked them to be silent to be respectful for the entertainers, we actually couldn’t hear a lot of what was happening on stage, even though we were only about 20 feet away. It was actually pretty shameful, and I can’t believe grown adults were that rude.
But we tried to be extra attentive because of that.
Tracy Anderson performed a fun dance routine and sang some songs from Chicago (the musical) and danced some Fosse.
Followed by Mario Batali…
…trying unsuccessfully to shoot an apple off of this lovely lady’s head.
Gail Simmons read a poem about New York (that we could hardly hear due to the rude talkers in the back by the bar).
Lady Rizo, a cabaret performer, tried to sing what sounded like a funny song about Googling a man she was crushing on, but that was so drowned out by the crazy talkers that she switched to a more Cabaret style torch song.
Rachel Feinstein (from Last Comic Standing) was very funny, when we could hear her. Mike is a big fan (see pic at end).
And then this kid got up there and played an AMAZING cello set. His name is Joshua Roman and he was fantastic.
Then adorable Abigail Breslin got up and sang a song she wrote. Who knew this little actress could sing?
Then an impromptu Joe Bastianich got up and performed a song he wrote. This is where I nearly lost it on the talkers. He was giving a touching speech, and then a touching song, about talking to his kids about the horrific shooting in Newtown, CT (near where he’s from) and the group would not even be quiet for that. I was embarrassed for all of them. But what we could hear, and the cello accompaniment (all improvised) was great.
Then a performer named Vera Flash got up there and thankfully had music loud enough to drown out the asses in the back.
Then someone (I’m not sure who… whoops) from “Real Actors Read Yelp” read a very funny Yelp review.
Followed bya band (who I didn’t snap a picture of) then Marsha Stephanie Blake, who decided to take the noise level into her own hands and perform her Yelp review from the middle of the room on top of a stool.
Then the very funny Reggie Watts got up and kept us all laughing throughout his set.
It was at this time that Mike motioned to me that someone important was standing beside me. Hello Patrick Stewart!
And then someone finally shut up the crowd… Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain took the stage and gave each other a blind taste test to see if they could identify certain flavors. Bourdain was up first.
Eric Ripert challenged the long-time smoker to identify wine. He somehow pulled it off, down to the vineyard. I’m not sure if I was impressed or tricked… but it was entertaining to watch.
Then they switched places and Bourdain told Ripert that he would be trying a staple of every stoner’s cabinet…
Turns out, Eric Ripert has NO IDEA what Captain Crunch tastes like.
Then Bourdain had him taste some McDonald’s chicken nuggets. He didn’t ask for Ripert to identify exactly what it was, but only what type of MEAT (or tofu) it was.
Ripert absolutely couldn’t do it.
But boy was it funny to watch.
And then Sir Patrick Stewart graced the stage.
He read about a secret restaurant he discovered that specialized in none other than sandwich ARTEESTS!
Eric Ripert (and everyone in the audience) absolutely adored Stewart’s incredible essay and reading about the very special, very unique… Subway.
It was fantastic.
And pretty awesome to see them talk to each other in awe just afterwards.
And then a woman who was spending a good amount of time with Stewart got on stage and wowed us. Sunny Ozell is a Jazz singer and, as it turns out, Patrick Stewart’s current partner (who Wikipedia tells us is half his age). She was stunning and super talented.
And then people who know food people got wise and brought in some late night pizza. Some deliriously good pizza with vodka sauce. This must have been from someplace famous, because it was just too good, even eating it cold out of a cardboard box. But sadly, I do not know where it came from.
Then another real actor did a Yelp review. It was again, very funny, but again, I couldn’t hear who it was when they announced her.
Olivia Arciero then came up and sang. She is part of a country group with her sisters called the Lunabelles. She was also very talented.
And then the last act, Bliss Blood.
I can’t help but love the ukulele. She was a fun way to end the show.
At the end, most of the food was gone and most of the celebrity chefs ran out of there. But a few people stuck around and we got pictures with Rachel Feinstein (who was incredibly nice).
And I got a photo op with John Salley, who was so insanely tall he had to LEAN DOWN to put his arms on my head.
The Shame on Sandy benefit was a hell of a lot of fun and absolutely delicious. I really enjoyed the variety show and thought everyone up there was talented, with some good fun thrown in from some of our favorite chefs. The people who wouldn’t stop talking were absolutely horrid, but besides that, we had a great time and I felt very lucky to be in the room with such amazing talent.
And watching Ripert and Bourdain crack each other up was pretty awesome.