Last Night's "Autism Speaks to Wall Street" gala at Capitale was a power scene, all right; any event where tables cost up to $100,000 and Bob Wright is there making small talk has clearly left the foodies behind. Which is a shame, because the level of the food was magnificent. The gala's format called for chefs who had been previously “bought” at auction to cook a dinner right there at the table: Thus, Eric Ripert cooked at an oven right next to Wylie Dufresne, Michael Psilakis next to Larry Forgione, who was next to Chris Lee of Gilt, and so on. The tables were close enough to allow tasting and trading, had anyone been interested in doing so (it didn't look like they were). Maybe Darrell Hammond's painfully unfunny routine at the evening's start put off their appetites. Or maybe it was just all the deal-making.
Gastronomically, the event was all over the place: The two most popular dishes during the cocktail hour were George Mendes's butternut-squash soup with injected grape “ravioli,” and Joey Campanero's meatball sliders. But inside, the most intriguing thing was probably Paul Liebrandt's dinner. It looked (and from what he handed us, tasted) amazing. His menu, carrying his new restaurant's presumptive title, Restaurant Liebrandt, included a ballotine of foie gras with chicken and Hon shimeji (delicate but intense); slow-poached hamachi flavored with Bombay curry and leek (also awesome); and a beef duo featuring steak in a partially melted cassis gel. (Didn't get to try, but want to!) Sam Mason, still stinging from his mixed reviews earlier in the day, did a typically brilliant dessert of manchego cheesecake with concord sorbet and sage. For one night, Mason was just another working cook, something he, and the various other superstars, seemed to really enjoy.