Last night at an invite-only fund-raiser to benefit Citymeals-on-Wheels, Four Seasons owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder — the “Siegfried and Roy of the restaurant business,” per Drew Nieporent — were roasted by some of their best, and most famous, customers. The evening, one of several bits to celebrate the restaurant’s 50th birthday, started with ‘99 Dom in New York’s venerable power scene, the Grill Room. Then followed a five-course dinner in the Pool Room, where the food highlight was Lisa Niccolini’s artisanal honey, served with the cheese course. Roasters included Liz Smith, Martha Stewart, and Jon Tisch, plus food-world heavies Daniel Boulud, Drew Nieporent, Gael Greene, Cesare Casella, Sirio and Mauro Maccioni, and Michael Mondavi.
Some common themes on this fine, fine evening were Julian’s overcharged libido and The Four Seasons’ famous $40 baked potato (Tisch: “I’m really looking forward to their next creation, the $19 crouton”). Nearly everyone, in fact, took the opportunity to note the restaurant’s extraordinary and absurd pricing. “At the very least, these guys are extortionists,” said Liz Smith, and Peggy Siegal, having interviewed staffers ahead of time, noted that Niccolini’s favorite upsell has him sending over an expensive bottle of wine, drinking half of it, and then putting it on the bill. Pete Peterson of the Blackstone Group also chimed in on pricing — “To be sure, it is really no free lunch here at The Four Seasons” — and even commissioned a “never-before-seen” look at The Four Seasons kitchen. Siegal revealed the price of an attractive young lady’s nude swim in the pool, exactly the kind of risqué frolic the restaurant is known to quietly encourage: $5,000, paid either by the suit closest to the action or the drunkest banker in the room.
Other choice digs:
Martha Stewart: “The last roast I gave was a pot roast … The Four Seasons really is beautiful. On any given day you can see such wonderful works of art. And that’s just the plastic surgery … The walls here say Phillip Johnson and the foliage says Howard Johnson.”
Gael Greene: “The place has come a long way since it was run by Hungarians.”
Sirio Maccioni: “The average age of your clientele is 91, one year younger than mine. I’m jealous.”
Daniel Boulud, who noted that he is ‘intimidated’ walking into The Four Seasons: “Julian’s contribution to the wine list is drinking it.”