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An Elegant Dinner in a Room with a View

September 26, 2000, 12:00 AM EDT

Florim USA Launch Party Astra Wednesday, 07.19.00, 6 PM to 10 PM
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Appropriately held at Astra in the Decoration & Design Building--the interior design hub of New York City--the ceramic-tile flooring company Florim USA hosted a class-act dinner event. The shelter magazine editors and home afficionados who gathered to meet Florim's new president, Mino Baldini, were indulgently wined and dined in a fantastic setting.

We hardly got through the door before a waiter offered glasses of wine or mixed drinks. We then took full advantage of Astra's long balcony with 14th-floor views of Upper Manhattan, the 59th Street Bridge and the Roosevelt Island tram. One event-goer had a tiny collapsible telescope that guests used to spy onto balconies of the facing building.

Astra serves as a swanky lunch spot for D&D tenants and other ladies (and gents) that lunch--but managing partner Spero Plavoukos opens the intimate space to special events for breakfast, lunch or dinner. (One notable Astra event: the American Beauty premiere party.) Chef Dan Shannon prepared exquisite hors d'oeuvres that circulated frequently. The steamed shrimp purses with coriander and lime were very popular.

While most attendees mingled on the balcony and enjoyed the unusually mild July weather, those who ventured inside were treated to jazz from the As-Is Ensemble, formerly the house band of the Blue Note. Irene Steelman, manager of PR at Florim's PR firm, Nashville-based Gish Sherwood & Friends, told us that the bass player was a grammar school playmate of hers.

Dinner was served a little late--to accommodate the fashionably late crowd, no less--but no one seemed to mind. For dinner, our crisp lump crab cake with julienne vegetables and tarragon essence sauce first course was quickly followed by charcoal filet mignon with portobello jus potato leek gratin. Coffee, much needed after the continuous refilling of wine glasses, was accompanied by a chocolate hazelnut pyramid praline anglaise with phyllo crisps.

During dessert, a tile video was shown and Baldini spoke. After he finished, Brenda Agee, merchandising manager at Florim, drew the door prizes, which included gourmet gift baskets from Provence Breads and Caf? in Nashville. The grand prize was 250 square feet of tile, plus a $1,000 installation allowance. Those who didn't win received a delightful ceramic bowl specially designed for the event by Illinois craftsman Charles Jahn.

--Ellen Sturm for BiZBash

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