Dispatch: The Fourth Annual Blossom Ball

March 16, 2012 | by —Jeffrey Slonim | Homepage

Tyra Banks and Padma Lakshmi at The Blossom Ball

The ugly truth about gala cuisine is that it usually amounts to an oversize slab of beef and a ho-hum dessert with height. Not so on Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s watch.

Through the Endometriosis Foundation of America, Lakshmi battles endometriosis, a painful disease that she herself has endured. Educating women on the subject is a cause dear to the television host’s heart. Indeed, Lakshmi spearheaded this year’s Fourth Annual Blossom Ball, which she founded, on Thursday. And the food did not disappoint.    

“She’s a life force,” Susan Sarandon said of her recent BFF Lakshmi. “Anybody who is so busy raising a child on her own, and who can take the time to make something like this happen ... to take all the suffering she went through and make it easy for another person ... you have to support her. And she’s got a great sense of humor. She’s so beautiful, like a creature from Avatar.”   

Lakshmi was also joined by America's Top Model host and altitudinous supermodel Tyra Banks, who Lakshmi has been buddies with since her modeling days. “Oh, yeah, Padma and I were backstage at fashion shows together,” said Banks on her way into Astor Hall at the grand New York Public Library Fifth Avenue branch, where the ball took place. "And we were on runways together in Paris. There were Linda [Evangelista], Naomi [Campbell], and Claudia Schiffer, and [Padma and I] were the very new girls, just babies.”    

  A tablescape at The Blossom Ball

Lakshmi’s Naeem Khan gown began with a bodice covered in silver disks and ended in feathery white flounce. “I saw a similar dress in his show, but it was huge,” she noted. Naturally, Khan created an abbreviated version. “I’m excited to report it’s a little big,” Lakshmi indicated, yanking it back up.   

Her thoughts on celebrating four years of Blossom Balls: “I’m really proud, but I certainly didn’t do it alone,” she said. “Ten million women have endometriosis in this country, and it’s very treatable.”   

Downstairs, the Celeste Bartos Forum had been transformed into a secret garden with seating for a sea of well-heeled revelers. Centered on each table were four-foot vases sprouting 12-foot branches dotted with blooms and tiny, glimmering lanterns. At Lakshmi’s behest, the room had been scented with three different essential oils, which resulted in a fragrant cloud of blooms.  

At the podium, Banks recalled every juicy detail of Lakshmi’s legendary Carl's Jr. burger commercial. “This big, fat, juicy, sloppy, disgusting, I-want-it-now hamburger is dripping everywhere,” she said. “All down Padma’s arms. And then she’s licking herself all over.”   

So what was Padma’s auction item? According to Banks’ speech, she was "offering to lick the face of anybody that will put big money down.”    

When Lakshmi took the podium, she gave heartfelt thanks and, when her dress suddenly dropped an inch, dropped an S-bomb. But she quickly found her composure and slithered back up into the dress. Turns out she wasn’t kidding about the gown's extra room.

We also spotted Deborah Harry and Alek Wek. But the breakout star of the evening was the delicious food: barbecue brisket and tamales and, for dessert, an airy cloud of chocolate decorated with mint leaves coated in sugar.    

The unexpectedly tasty plates would make for strong contenders in Top Chef’s restaurant wars."    

Brava, Padma.

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