Go #BTS of an intimate dinner party for Gotham magazine cover star Taylor Schilling in The Lambs Club's uberexclusive upstairs room.
Chef Geoffrey Zakarian goes over the menu with his team in the kitchen.
"I love sharing plates, don’t you?” Geoffrey Zakarian, the dapper culinary icon, leans in and whispers to me. “That way you have to interact with people.”
He’s talking about the teeming family-style platters of his dishes such as polenta agnolotti with forest mushrooms and black truffle confit and Colorado lamb porterhouse drizzled in aged balsamic that keep arriving on our long, elegantly set table. This is only part of his plan to throw the perfect dinner party.
Tonight, the famous and wonderfully cheerful chef is sandwiched between the editor-in-chief of Gotham, Sarah Bray, and myself in The Stanford White Studio, a landmark private dining room at Zakarian’s restaurant The Lambs Club in Midtown Manhattan. Zakarian tells us both a bit about the one-of-a-kind historic room with its own private terrace and how it was painstakingly restored piece by piece to re-create the original design of architect Stanford White. The other part of his expert plan is a location with some exclusivity and cachet.
Taylor Schilling and Geoffrey Zakarian.
This is not his first rodeo.
On the cusp of the final season of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and Netflix’s sci-fi movie The Titan, Taylor Schilling is across the table from us gathering with friends, New York notables, photographers, fashion designers, social media influencers, stylists and more to celebrate her first cover with Gotham magazine. It is the perfect match as she is as charming and casual with the crowd as Zakarian.
To give Schilling some reprieve, the chef has planned the dinner’s flow from top to bottom—even popping into the kitchen to check on everything and show his team how he wants the evening’s pasta dish plated. Later, mammoth bowls of roasted cauliflower atop cacio e pepe are placed deftly around the arrangements by Winston Flowers, and Zakarian waits only a half-second for one to hit the table before turning to me and asking, “May I serve you?”
A polenta agnolotti entree with forest mushrooms and black truffle confit.
Well, sure, Chef.
“It’s all about cauliflower right now,” he says while he spoons the smoky vegetable expertly onto my plate and then onto Bray’s. “I can’t keep enough of this stuff in the kitchen. Restaurants are fighting over cauliflower right now! Can you believe it?”
His eyes are wide and animated. Another part of a great dinner party is a fabulous host.
Maybe he can’t keep the heads in stock because Zakarian’s cauliflower tastes more like a well-seasoned steak than what I remember my mom forcing on us during childhood dinners. By the time yellowfin tuna with sesame white miso vinaigrette arrives next, Bray and I are laughing hysterically at Zakarian’s story about another small Valentine’s Day dinner party he threw in this room with single guests like Martha Stewart and Donny Deutsch. On that occasion, the chef served some kind of chocolate dessert that attendees had to shatter with mini mallets to symbolize breaking hearts.
25 guests gather in The Stanford White Studio at The Lambs Club. Floral arrangements provided by Winston Flowers.
There’s no doubt Zakarian has a way with desserts, and tonight is no different. Eight of them begin to arrive gingerly placed all down the table to finish off the evening. Housemade cookies, bonbons, macarons and pâte de fruits have everyone daintily reaching for one or two bites. But then prodigious, robust tarts—dark chocolate, lemon meringue and mixed berry—begin to be set out on cake stands. One can only wonder if Schilling has to avoid their decadence so some wardrobe department doesn’t go loco on her tomorrow.
Luckily, I get to write about these fabulous movie stars, not eat like them. So I dig in. I soon realize another part of Zakarian’s plan is finishing with flair before sending his guests off into the night.