September 5, 2007 | BITE: My Journal

Lessons I Learned from Brooke Astor

Brooke was right. A hat and a generous donation are always fashionable.
Brooke was right. A hat and a generous donation are always fashionable.

*Live life every moment.

*The first time you marry, marry for love.

*The next time you marry, remember it’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man.

*Be thin.


*Everyone loves chicken pot pie.

*Arrange to sit next to the handsomest man at the party but don’t let anyone see you moving the place cards.

*If you’re wearing gloves and a modest neckline you can get away with bawdy limericks.

*Work out every day and try not to moan so much.

*If all your younger pals are going to gorilla country or a camel safari, you want to go too.

*Smile even if you’re sad.  It’s easier to have fun if you’re laughing.

*Don’t save the great wine for a special occasion.

*It doesn’t matter if the pearls are real or not but with emeralds it does.

*Talk to strangers, clerks in the shop or the hairdresser. Find out who they are.  Talk to the little people. If you don’t know who the little people are, ask Leona Helmsley.

*After a certain age you are not going to look that fabulous in a bathing suit. Swim with the dolphins and everyone else anyway.

*Looking old is not that bad if you weren’t Ava Gardner in your earlier years.

*Find a worthy cause you can really embrace and give it all you can, yourself as well as money.

*Ask to see how your money is used.

*Try to time your exit and your charity so there isn’t enough money left for your heirs to fight over.

*Always wear a hat.

The Rabbit vs the Snail in Argentina

            I admit my paramour and I would probably have seen more museums and fabulous shopping malls in Buenos Aires if we’d flown in for a week or a long weekend.  But we’d been loaned a perfect apartment not far from the famous cimitario and the Palace Hotel Alvear for the whole month of July (I keep almost writing February because it sometimes did feel like February). It felt like we had forever to see it all.   

            Then we took the two and a half hour flight to Salta north and west and drove through small colonial towns light years away from the urban city that often reminded us of Paris with its art deco apartment buildings and sidewalk cafes.

            I’m guessing we missed a few great impressionist paintings, and neglected a century of historic artifacts.  I could have tried harder to find a fabulous bag for a pittance that would look just as good as the $2200 monsters some of my friends are lugging around. One always rushes around insanely scheduling multiple stops when having only a few days in a new town.  Gazing down at the traffic from our terrace, I kept thinking we don’t have to go there today...we have forever.

What we didn’t miss, what we never miss was…dinner. We let local gourmands and passionate Porteños (that’s what Buenos Aires citizens call themselves) guide us to delicious dining and adventurous eats.  My roundup of the best is posted in the Travel section. Go to the navigator on top of the home page. Click on “My Buenos Aires Hot List” for where to find grilled pizza, exquisite sweetbreads, a monster antipasto buffet with a view of the water, a flaunting of tango and hugs for free.


A Serene Summer Lunch at Telepan 

Sweet and Local: Bill Telepan captures the taste of summer with his corn stew.

            With Jean George the restaurant closed for a fluffup (it’s open again now), I’ve been exploring my upper west side neighborhood for the occasional lunches I do. Really occasional. Lunch seems to take too big a chunk out of the day, especially now that I’m a slave to this website.  But sometimes there are Citymeals-on-Wheels events to organize, eager donors to woo, editors to seduce and old loves checking in to see if there is anything they can do worthy of a spicy paragraph in my next memoir.  Why does lunch always seem to be about seduction one way or the other?

            Telepan, a few blocks from my office, turned out to be a serene oasis for getting to know the men behind Leblon ( advertiser on this site) wanting to know more about Citymeals. Chef-owner, Bill Telepan, was off on a beach somewhere but he’d asked his bar meister to dream up five cocktails using Leblon – I especially like the purple basil mojito and something with ginger beer and cachaça called Leblon Stormy.

            I think I can honestly say my pleasure in the lunch had nothing to do with an unaccustomed five slurps of boozy drink. I think.  I can almost swear.  Telepan is cheerful by daylight, not even half full on this summery day, and the three course prix fixe, a neighborly $28, celebrates the summer harvest.  With an entrée of smoked stewed corn, blue corn biscuit and corn custard, I revel in that rare sweetness of just picked ears.  Eggplant, fried and stewed in roasted tomato oil, and the poached egg on frisée with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms in a mustardy vinaigrette are full-flavored starters.  And the sorbet is summer fruit, distilled to a tangy essence.

72 W. 69th St. btw Columbus and CPW 212 580 4300


 Zarela Counts Twenty

            After a brilliant flash of success at Café Marimba underneath David K’s restaurant on Third Avenue, Zarela Martinez, on her own, braved a move to Second Avenue around the corner from Lutece.  She had money for a tiny staff and groceries but couldn’t afford to redo the interior of the pubby British bar she had leased.  So she hung streamers and pastel paper doilies and piñatas, desperately trying to create a Mexican carnival.  I’m not sure how much she’s done since…except she does keep adding cactuses and dolls and Day of the Dead skeletons…and more piñatas.

            But the bon homie at the bar, the disinhibiting margaritas, her nurturing presence every evening, and her celebration of regional Mexican cooking is the design that keeps the place jumping. 

            To celebrate Zarela’s 20th anniversary she decided to support the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York with a raffle at the restaurant.  A $10 ticket buys a chance to win one of three trips-for-two to Mexico, hotel and airfare included, itineraries planned by Zarela, a $399 VitaMix 5000 blender, an autographed copy of Budd Schulberg’s book Ringside: A Treasury of Boxing Reportage and more.  For info:




Hanoi Chef Didier Corlou opens Verticale, a place of his own. 
Photo: Steven Richter

            From Hanoi comes an email sent by Chef Didier Cortlu, a maitre cuisiner de France who ran the kitchen at the Metropole for years and created the hotel’s fabulous Hanoi street food lunch.  Didier has opened his own place, Verticale, offering “seasonal French cuisine with a Vietnamese touch.”  The set menu is $12 US at lunch and $24 at dinner. 

            If you are only allotting a week for your first visit to Vietnam, skip Saigon.  Go directly to Hanoi where much of the old city still atands.  Make a two or three day side trip to the charming heritage village of Hoi An. 

            Click on “Travel” to find my advice on getting the most out of your stay in Hanoi.