Novice cookbook writer Gwyneth Paltrow threw quite a bash in New York City on Monday night to promote her debut recipe collection, My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness (Grand Central Publishing). The father in question, TV producer and director Bruce Paltrow (St. Elsewhere, The White Shadow), who died of oral cancer in 2002, was a habitué of good restaurants in Los Angeles and beyond and a self-taught home cook, who in turn taught and/or inspired the daughter in question to know and love good, straightforward food — much of it with a Mediterranean (Californian?) tone.
"I made dinner for 60 friends and foodies," the new author enthused of the party on her curiously named website, Goop.com. The friends who were invited to the event — sponsored by the upscale home-decor website One Kings Lane — were pretty much a bold-face crowd, including the likes of Cameron Diaz and Alex Rodriquez, Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, Christy Turlington and Ed Burns, Jay-Z, Martha Stewart, Michael Stipe of REM, Chris Martin of Coldplay (who is also Paltrow's husband, though the book doesn't seem to include him in that "celebrating family & togetherness" stuff), and Paltrow's mother, veteran actress Blythe Danner. Among the "foodies": Ruth Reichl, Jeffery Steingarten, Adam Rapoport, Ed Levine, Gabrielle Hamilton, and April Bloomfield. Mario Batali — with whom Paltrow collaborated on a TV series called Spain: On the Road Again (and an associated book called Spain…A Culinary Road Trip) — presumably had a foot in each camp.
The 60 friends and foodies of record sat at two long tables — pretty much segregated along those lines — on a broad tented-in balcony at Palazzo Chupi, Julian Schnabel's "exploded Malibu Barbie house" (as a local preservationist once called it) in Greenwich Village. The food, straight from the book and served appropriately family-style, was the kind of solid, unpretentious fare you'd get if you went over to dinner at the home of friends (rather than foodies) who knew how to cook: salads of arugula with slow-roasted tomatoes and smoked mozzarella crostini, escarole with anchovy vinaigrette, and roasted red bell peppers with anchovies (serving anchovies twice in one course gave Paltrow a fair amount of food cred right there, it might be noted), followed by pappardelle in an authoritative duck ragù (there was a vegetarian alternative), finishing with assorted not-quite-ready-for-primetime berries in caramelized cream.
There was plenty of wine, plenty of talk. Jessica Seinfeld, wearing a white sheath dress and an expensive-looking tan, stood up at one point to inform us at some length that she had eaten many, many wonderful meals prepared by her very good friend Gwyneth, and that we were all very lucky to have been invited to this event. Blythe Danner offered a brief, low-key, heartfelt tribute to her daughter, assuring her that her father would have been extremely proud of this latest display of Paltrow talent.
But did the improbably willowy (and, it must be added, impeccably gracious) Paltrow, who looks as if she hasn't eaten since she was 17, really make the dinner? Apparently, yes — albeit with the help of Creative Edge Parties, a leading Manhattan catering firm, and food wizard Julia Turshen. "I spent all day yesterday roasting peppers," the hostess said, seeming utterly genuine. "Roasted peppers was one of the first things my dad learned to make." The duck ragù involved 13 quackers, 65 cloves of garlic, and more than two dozen cans of Italian tomatoes. "I lost count after a while," she confessed, sounding a lot more like a real cook than a movie star with a hobby.