Everyone’s Financially Fine at $350 Private Dinner

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This past Monday was a day when the Dow teetered near 6,000, but that didnt stop a group of die-hard New York foodies from putting on their eveningwear and heading to a private room in Le Bernardin for a $350-per-plate dinner of nineteenth-century fare, accompanied by four Champagnes and various wines. Its escapism, like going to a romantic comedy, said Vincent Parry, a wine collector who works in pharmaceuticals and lives in Park Slope. Ive seen photos of evenings like this, and I always wanted to experience one. For a moment you can close your eyes and get transplanted to a place that is far removed from our economic woes. This is very indulgent in ways we are not allowed to be now. He does concede that the health-care field is actually pretty immune from the financial downturn. We are actually doing well, smiles his wife, Carolyn.

Two others in the health-care field sit at the head of one table, watching tuxedoed waiters parade by with oversize striped bass on silver platters. Jaime Vazquez, an in-house computer expert at New York Hospital, and Randy Jacobs, a patient-and-staff-education specialist at Sloan Kettering, planned on attending three such period dinners part of a Vintage series organized by Tim Zagat but Jaime got food poisoning the night before he was supposed to attend a dinner at Per Se. This is a wonderful opportunity to try unusual food, and part of the proceeds go to charity, he says, scooping up his lobster salad. I dont make that much money, but I havent lost a penny.

Weve been going out a lot more, chimes in Battery Park City resident Pat Delcioppio, an accountant. Restaurants are having great deals and we are taking advantage of them. The time may come when we are affected by the economy, but not yet.

One man whose business has experienced the downturn is Eric Le Goff, who works in commercial real estate at Cushman Wakefield. I was invited by my friend, he confesses, eyeing the roast hare stuffed with truffles and foie gras. This is what I call civilized. When you watch CNBC in the morning, you want to shoot yourself.

Is this fiddling while Rome burns? chuckles Evangeline Morphos, a Columbia University film professor who lives on the Upper West Side. Maybe we should leave. But there is a reason to celebrate within moderation, isnt there?

People shouldnt be ashamed to be here, asserts retired capital-market specialist Paul Ford. This is the kind of thing people dream about, and you have to create the dream. Without emblems of success people will not strive or take chances. We have to preserve this sort of thing to give people a sense of opportunity and to make our system work.