Ladies Who Lunch…and the Men Who Love Them
The next morning, the male guests enjoyed the beautiful weather – playing tennis, swimming and sunning by the pool, enjoying the Financial Times on their private terraces. All the action for the women, however, was taking place in Suite 150. Hair and make-up artists who have been responsible for the red carpet looks of Scarlett Johansen, Angelina Jolie and Cate Blanchett began to transform the female guests using products from Sue Devitt’s 24 Carat primer line and Ken Paves Hair-Do. “Chloe and Lilia made us look like movie stars, and it was non-stop giggles through all the naughtiness in the back,” laughs Texas clotheshorse Margaret Krasovec. “All that, with mascara and champagne…it was combustible.” Ron Davis, a Texas-bred television producer agreed by saying, “These women really looked like something out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s era…of another place and time.”
Shriftman arranged to have the spring collection of wunderkind designer Peter Som flown in from New York for the female guests to wear “It felt like something out of Pretty Woman,” says Nancy Golden. Som’s creations are in high demand and looked delicate on every socialite-turned-ingénue guest. “I felt like a queen, and there's something to be said about how nurturing that can feel,” remarked guest Kristin Nicholas, of Travel & Leisure magazine.
Right This Way, Your Table is Ready
Climbing up several steps to the hotel’s private wine terrace, guests were greeted by savory beverages and crudités served on trays laden with fresh flowers. The chiffon draped tent created especially for the event was a vision. On each of the 16 white chairs surrounding the grand table was a blue Tiffany & Co. box containing one of the party favors – a blue patent leather passport cover. “The décor was intended to be simple, chic, white and classic because the guests were really the décor for this lunch,” Shriftman says. “We used all of my favorite flowers – gardenias, peonies and calla lilies. With plentiful arrangements set down the center of the table and flowers in small crystal votives at each plate, the Tiffany crystal bowls filled with flowers added to the collection, it created an extremely stylish look.”
At each place setting was a hand-calligraphied place card personally written by Bernard Maisner Calligraphy and Fine Stationery. Photographs from the golden era of Hollywood glamour bearing resemblance to each of the guests were placed in sterling silver Tiffany picture frames. From Dr. Greg Mueller’s star turn as Cary Grant to Stephanie Greyson’s interpretation of Lana Turner, the tone was set. “Lunch was a complete throwback to old Hollywood,” remarked New Yorker-turned-Texas socialite Carla McDonald. “Between Dani Janssen waxing nostalgically about her infamous Oscar parties and the framed photos of the ’40s movie stars we supposedly resembled, I really felt like Ava Gardner sitting at lunch between Kirk Douglas and Howard Hughes. For a brief moment, I actually believed Frank Sinatra might walk in.” And according to Lara Shriftman, “A surprise guest is always a great addition to any party. That’s why I invited legendary Hollywoodhostess Dani Janssen to come up.”
“From the draped tent to the beautiful chandelier and magnificent flowers, it all made for a very luxurious ambiance,” says Austin social diva Ava Late. “Every fine detail was perfectly in place to make us feel beautiful and special. So when all these gorgeous people arrived…it was pure fantasy.” Guests were poured champagne and wine while the conversation began to flow over the delectable meal of sea bass and filet mignon, the freshest of salads and vegetable side dishes. The Bel-Air’s executive chef, Douglass Dodd, created the menu with Texans in mind.
Glasses were raised high as toasts were made about the day, the hotel and about the event. “One of the most beautiful moments at the lunch was Carla McDonald’s articulate toast honoring the magazine, the hosts and comparing them all quite eloquently to Brilliant’s recent interview with Roger Horchow about his book, The Art of Friendship.” says Nancy Golden. When a breathless Brooke Davenport, in yellow chiffon, croc Hermes’ Birkin bag in hand and dripping in Lori Rodkin diamonds, arrived a tad late, everyone forgave her. They understood the demands of a busy schedule – she had just hosted an event earlier in the week honoring Sharon Stone and Christian Dior Cosmetics at her home.
For dessert, guests were astounded by what happened next. “One simple party tip of mine is to always do something unexpected, to bring something in from out of town,” says Shriftman. “Celebrity cake creator Sylvia Weinstock is legendary, and her cake was the hit of the party because the design and the floral trimmings were incorporated into the rest of the theme.” The final touch to an already magnificent day was a goodie bag for each guest filled with Hotel Bel-Air and Tiffany & Co. must haves.
The weekend concluded with another dinner party that evening in the upstairs private room at Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills. "Brilliant magazine is the best thing to happen to Texas since the discovery of oil, the birth of Bob Wills and air-conditioning,” says Ron Davis. "It felt like a party in the Hamptons re-imagined by Texans and our California friends." Then it was off to private planes for the Texas set and waiting cars for the Los Angeles-based guests. “Most of all, it was the people who also made it special,” shares Kristin Nicholas. “I love you Texans with your irresistible accents, and everyone I met was truly warm and engaging. I hope to see them again soon.”
Chesapeake Style Crab Cake
House Smoke Salmon
Chinese Chicken Salad
Grilled Vegetable Salad
Truffle Whipped Potatoes
Chantarelle Mushrooms and Asparagus
Roasted Sea Bass
Compote of Salsify, Zucchini and Baby Corn Port Wine-Truffle "Vinaigrette"
Hotel Bel Air Dessert Sampler
Third Anniversary Cake by Sylvia Weinstock
Shriftman’s Lunch Soiree’ Tips
The Hotel Bel-Air is the perfect setting for any party. It’s sexy, it’s private, the grounds are beautiful, no attention to detail is left to chance. The food is incredible, the service is even better and there are so many different options to create different themes and different looks.
I always think it’s important to have a variety of desserts. Barry Diller’s annual Oscar lunch is always my favorite party of the year. He serves five passed desserts trays so everyone can have an assortment. That was my goal here, and everyone picked a different dessert.
Give the guests options. When you are having a seated lunch, you want the food to keep coming so that the lunch doesn’t last forever. As the guests were seated they had an appetizer sampler, a choice of three butler-passed salads and then they picked their entrée.
Everyone loves a gift bag. A general tip would be to give people something they ordinarily wouldn’t buy themselves, or something different and classic. Everyone loves Tiffany & Co., and guests were able to take home their crystal votive and flower arrangement. The Tiffany & Co. box on each chair is a terrific keepsake and gave the room a hint of color.
It is always good to have cocktails as people arrive, because inevitably some guest will arrive late. It should generally be no more than an hour and serve one signature cocktail.
The guest list is the most important part of the party. Nothing matters unless you have a great list. For a lunch of 15 people, over invite by three. Someone is always going to cancel or come late.
MAKING A TOAST
The toasts were very special because they were unplanned and came from the heart. It really made this special lunch and will be recalled for many years to come.