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T&L Travels to Gracie Mansion

August 1, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Travel & Leisure's World's Best awards party Gracie Mansion Thursday, 07.26.01, 7 PM onward
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Michael Bloomberg may be blowing through a reported $8 million to get into Gracie Mansion, but Travel & Leisure got in for free. The mag used New York's stately version of the White House to host a party and ceremony for its World's Best awards, which honors the winners of a readers' survey of the best hotels, cities, spas, cruise lines, airlines and islands.

So how did T&L score the swank venue? Readers voted New York the “Best City in North America,” and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani--pleased with the award's publicity--opened his house for free. So guests got a rare peak at a house that has witnessed all sorts of contretemps, both political and otherwise. Although the mansion hosts official city-related meetings and receptions (and maybe some divorce lawyers), the mayor's home rarely hosts special events like T&L's bash. Many guests commented they had never been to the house before.

The event started with cocktails on the mansion's back porch, which overlooks a rather large suburban-style back yard and the East River. Next guests--a mix of award winners, T&L advertisers, hospitality execs and PR folks--moved inside for the ceremony, in the mansion's yellow-walled ballroom with chairs from TriServe covered in cream-colored burlap. T&L publisher Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio and editor Nancy Novogrod welcomed the guests and introduced Dave Price from Fox 5's Good Day New York, who proved to be an energetic, humorous M.C. A frequent traveler himself, Price was an appropriate choice for the gig, and he had clearly prepared well-targeted remarks for the event's hospitality crowd. After some brief remarks from Giuliani (who we spotted tasting the Monkey Bar's new menu with friend Judith Nathan earlier in the week), Price introduced the winners in a nicely paced, quick-and-easy ceremony.

(By the way, Asmodeo-Giglio told us her staff is planning numerous events across the country this year to mark the mag's 30th anniversary. And although she and Novogrod already hosted an anniversary party at Strip House in January, they're planning another, bigger anniversary blowout in September.)

Then guests moved outside to a small terrace and area of the lawn set up with two bars and some tables and chairs, and waiters circled with some of Matthew Kenney Catering & Events' trademark Asian-inspired hors d'oeuvres, including sushi rolls and cucumber soup shooters (one of the soups the company served from an ice bar at BiZBash's networking party). And after the chairs from the ceremony were cleared (quickly) guests could come back inside for a buffet including a carving table with beef and pork, plus a more summery spread with seared tuna, lobster salad, cucumber salad and ceviche.

A five-piece band featuring guitarist Tomas Rodriguez played a great mix of Latin-influenced jazz and pop tunes that added great background music to the various areas where people were talking and eating. The good food, fresh music and pretty, original setting had guests milling around and chatting well past the invitation's 9 PM end time. T&L senior events manager Laura Aviva told us the event's layout changed frequently throughout the day--the ceremony was going to be outside, but a light rain brought it indoors--but after guests arrived, everything seemed to flow very well among the numerous rooms and outside areas.

As the party thinned, T&L had two shuttle buses from Campus Coach drive guests from Gracie Mansion to a small after-party at another legendary New York location with an only-in-New York host: Elaine Kaufman's writer-and-memorabilia-packed Elaine's.

--Chad Kaydo

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