Monday, January 5, 2009

All Good Things Must Come to an End

I am a pack-rat, I collect cookbooks, elephants, friends, memories, and information. I subscribe to several Google news alerts in the food industry and for the past several days, I have been following the story of the Rainbow Room. For those of you who may not be aware, the Rainbow Room is one of the most famous restaurants in New York City. Long before there were the Twin Towers with their restaurant overlooking Manhattan, there was the Rainbow Room.

The Rainbow Room sits on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the tallest building in the complex that was built by John D. Rockefeller in 1934. The Rainbow Room opened in October of that same year. In 1974, David Rockefeller undertook at 25 million dollar restoration of the building to restore it's opulence.

In 1998, the Cipriani Family were approached to take the restaurant over. Owning several prominent restaurants both in New York City, Venice, London, and Hong Kong they took the challenge adding this gem to their crown of their New York City Restaurants.

When I was very young, my Aunt Fifi used to work with a very close family friend, our Aunt Dottie at Royal Globe Insurance in Manhattan. They, along with a group of women from their office, would go out every few months to the theater and dinner. They were allowed to bring guests along, and usually it was a close family member or friend. In my Aunt's case, it was always my mother and I.

L: Aunt Fifi, My Mother, (Katherine) and Me

I must have been about eight or nine, when the group was going to the Rainbow Room for dinner as part of their pre-theater dinner plans. I remember my mother telling me that we had to get dressed up for this special occasion and since I was going to be with all the grown-ups that I had to behave myself. I anxiously awaited the day, or rather evening, with bated breath.

It didn't disappoint...the thrill of riding the elevator to the 65th floor, and the view from the walls of windows was mesmerizing to a young girl. I don't remember what we saw later that night, but I will never forget, the view from the restaurant, the lights, the magic. When Uncle Jimmy who was Aunt Dottie's husband picked us up that night after the show, I was still talking about the lights of the city.

Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Dottie

In later years, I was living in Manhattan, as a nursing student at Roosevelt Hospital and I again had the opportunity to return to the Rainbow hadn't lost a single drop of it's magic!!

I imagine that many New Yorkers in particular, and visitors to the city have their own memories of the special time they may have spent in the Rainbow Room, I bet there were more marriage proposals done in that restaurant than in any other...

But. like all things, we are living in tumultuous times, our economy is in the toilet, and the Rainbow Room, on January 12th of this year will become another tragedy in the collection that is growing day by day. The landlord of the building wants to up the rent to 8+ million dollars a year, and with people cocooning, the feasibility of keeping the doors open is no long feasible.

Such a sad ending for such a romantic, and majestic jewel in the Cipriani crown of restaurants. By to those of us who had the pleasure of dining there, we will never forget the memories that we have stored in our hearts. We bid the Rainbow Room a fond farewell, and hope that maybe one day, when we rebound, it will once again take it's place at the top of Rockefeller Center.

As for the starring players in the theater outings, sadly, my mother is no longer with us, Aunt Fifi is in a nursing home, (I spent the afternoon with her today, as I do most days), and Dottie and Jimmy are living in Albany, both in their 90's and they are great!

I like to keep my friends close to the heart. I have friends
since kindergarten that I still keep in touch with

This photo was taken at my friend David's wedding
(we've known each other since kindergarten)
and the rest of us in the photo have been together
since elementary school, through junior high school, and high school.

We try to meet at least once a year, usually in NYC (this was taken there)

we keep in touch by e-mail after reconnecting

My friend Kurt and his family

My friend Debbie on the left with the clarinet

is now a grandmother (with baby Olivia)

My friend Carol (found me by
finding my cookbook on line)
our daughters were lab partners
in Cornell we
found out later

As I took this trip down memory lane that started
yesterday, I got to thinking about some of my
other groups of friends. I belong to a birthday club
that has been meeting for almost 20 years

and to top it off, this morning I got an e-mail from
my friend Kathy who went to nursing school
with me. She is now awaiting the birth of
three more grandchildren, making her total 7
(shown with her children)

and my friend Tina, also from nursing school
(shown below is her son Mike, recently back from Iraq)
I remember visiting them in the hospital when Mike was born!!!!

Where is this all leading...back to yesterday's cookbook post.
I got to thinking that Cooking with Love was
not my first cookbook. When Kathy, Tina, and
I were in Nursing School, we put together a cookbook
with our classmates. So of course,
I had to go find it and thumb through it
this is after all a food blog, LOL

There were some great recipes in there, and some great memories as well. There were only 5 men in our class, the poor things, they were outnumbered. We had some wonderful instructors,
Delia De Santis, Miss Foti (who would invite us to her house in New Jersey for dinner), and a host of others. So today in there honor, I flipped to a page in the cookbook, and I am reprinting one of the recipes. It happened to be from of the men, Ron Liburdi, and it was for Lentil Soup
which in this weather, seems quite fitting. I must confess, I never tried it, and picked it out at random, but it sounds awfully good.

Ron Liburdi's Lentil Soup:

2 cups dried lentils
2 1/2 quarts of water
1/4 cup diced salt pork
3/4 cup chopped carrots
3/4 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ham bone
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the lentils and water in a kettle. Saute the pork five minutes. Add the garlic and the vegetables, cook 10 minutes. Add to the lentils, add the ham bone, bay leaves, and cloves (which have been tied in a cheesecloth), salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 2 hours. Discard the cheesecloth. Force the mixture through a food mill, adding meat from the bone.Reheat and adjust seasonings.

To all of you who provide me with old memories, and new memories, this post is for you!

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