Goodies, Gems and Gala

Chocolate, galas and showcased gems have sparked activities all over Manhattan




GOODIES
A century and a half after it was founded by a Swiss apothecary, Belgium's leading chocolate maker Neuhaus, has opened a shiny new flagship store in midtown Manhattan.  It was Jean Neuhaus, Jr., son of the founder, who in 1912 concocted the "praline," the now classic bite size chocolate enclosing luscious fillings.  Gleaming cases show off such signature pralines as the "Tentation," a freshly ground coffee-flavored ganache coated in milk chocolate and the vanilla cream chocolate coated "Caprice" -- both introduced at the 1958 World Expo in Brussels. The new silver dollar sized dark chocolate praline marked with a milk chocolate "M" is christened the "Madison" and sold only in the new Madison Avenue store.   

Along with the tempting merchandise, video displays show how chocolatiers hand craft the bonbons and a museum displays historic molds for lobster and Teddy bear chocolates.  A workshop corner will accommodate parties or private tastings. Neuhaus, 500 Madison Ave., 212-644-4490, www.neuhaus.be.



At Verdura FIT Couture Council's Eleanor Kennedy tries on the Rothschild Lily of the Valley brooch
photograph by Annie Watt

GEMS
Treasured jewels from Verdura’s museum collection were put on display at a reception held for the Couture Council of FIT.  Greeting guests at the door, evening co-chair Eleanora Kennedy was wearing one of the pieces, an intricate bouquet of muguet crafted for the Rothschild family with twenty-one tiny pearl blossoms representing the children's baby teeth.  In another room Liz Peek, wearing triple turquoise earrings, was looking for a matching brooch,    

Arranged in lighted cases, pieces ranged from the classic seashell earrings and Maltese cross cuffs to a spectacular brooch of diamonds and sapphires encrusting a lion's paw scallop shell crafted at the request of Ambassador's wife Betsy Whitney for her presentation to Queen Elizabeth. Also showcased, a delicate tiara is an elegant ring of upright golden feathers --an intentionally ironic take on an Indian headdress.

Customarily stored in a bank, the firm's collection is rarely shown according to owner Ward Landigran, because "it's too much trouble when customers come in and try to insist on buying them." Through Labor Day for Couture Council purchases of standard fare, diamond earrings and malachite clocks, Verdura is donating a portion of sales to FIT's own fashion museum. Verdura, 745 Fifth Ave., 212-758-3388, www.verdura.com, www.fitnyc.edu.



Vicki Reiss of the Shubert Foundation ,Kenny Leon, Judith O.Rubin

GALA
New Yorkers like to think of Broadway as the center of the theater universe, but in the five boroughs alone there are more than 300 small local theater groups and close to 2,000 across the country -- including four Connecticut companies presenting shows in May and June.  The Theatre Communications Group was organized to act as a connecting force – supporting nonprofit professional theaters. The TCG celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala held at L'Espace, just steps away from the Great White Way.

Honorees Judith Rubin, a beloved supporter of TCG and Playwrights Horizon, acclaimed director Keith Leon, and the Shubert Foundation were lauded.  Spunky emcees Sally Struthers and Jennifer Cody introduced musical acts culled from potential hits in New York, Dallas and La Jolla.  And helping keep it stage authentic, actors Ben Vereen, Beau Bridges and Tony winning costume designer William Ivey Long were among those in the crowd. www.tcg.org

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