Life’s a Banquet … Don’t Starve: Van Cleef & Arpels Dinner

Carolyn Murphy Nicolas Bos Jason Wu



At an occasion fit for Cinderella (though in my case, an advanced-aged one), I spent several delicious hours in a mansion, ogling the ultimate objects of temptation.

No, dear reader, I wasn’t locked up at Hugh Hefner’s pseudo-Tudor manse with Chris Noth and the rest of the cast of That Championship Season, I was at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (a former Carnegie abode) for the dinner launch of the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit “Set in Style.”

Women in jewel-toned gowns and men in tuxedos meandered through the neo-18th-century rooms, referencing brooches, bracelets and minaudières on museum-provided iPads.

Treasures such as jeweled flowers (ruby peonies shimmering on stems of channel-set diamonds), woven-gold handbags, and Marlene Dietrich’s belt-shaped diamond cuff bracelet (everyday jewelry to her) were invitingly displayed in large plexiglass bubbles and were viewable from all sides.

The exhibit’s ingenious creator, Patrick Jouin (my dinner partner), described these cases as echoes of the bubbles and fairies that are signature designs of Van Cleef & Arpels (the ultimate purveyors of fairy tales for grown women).

After being blinded by the beauty of the jewels, we entered a tent transformed into a magical teal forest complete with trees and flocks of butterflies (another signature Van Cleef & Arpels design), which were suspended above the silk-covered tables for 10.

The crowd, a mix of international jewelry collectors, high-profile jewelry borrowers, and supporters of the museum, settled in for a six-course meal prepared by Jean-Georges.

Two women in the room outshone even the gems: Cate Blanchett, glowingly beautiful in a long-sleeve black taffeta gown, and Marisa Berenson, this year’s winner of the Dorian Grey Where’s the Portrait? award, an ageless sylph swathed in slate-colored silk jersey.

At the stroke of 11, it was time to leave the enchanted forest and flag a cab home. Happily, for the price of admission to the Cooper-Hewitt, I can wander through the bubbles and dream again.

What we ate: Caviar nestled on a bed of Meyer lemon gelée, tuna tartare, squash soup, chicken sprinkled with truffles, and a dessert medley of key lime pie and molten chocolate cake.

First time I’ve had six courses and not felt like I needed a crane to lift me out of my seat. Special mention must be made of the light-as-air chèvre and truffle fritters passed around at cocktails. But then, I love truffles so much I could give those prize pigs a run for their money rooting them out of the ground.

What others wore: Muffie Potter Aston, a stunning strapless black and silver beaded Naeem Khan and her own Van Cleef pearl and diamond suite; Carolyn Murphy, a golden gossamer lace Jason Wu that evoked ’50s glamour.

What I wore: A pale pink and black-jet-beaded Elie Saab that gives an instant lift to the décolletage. Those aren’t store-boughts, that’s my nearly C cup, courtesy of Eli’s velvet bandeaus. Didn’t try for jewels as I was a pygmy among bling giants.

What we received as gifts: As if the evening weren’t enough, special-edition catalogs of the exhibit.

Photo: Nicolas Bos, Carolyn Murphy, and Jason Wu at the Van Cleef & Arpels event.