Like proud pappas showing off their new baby, chef Charles Clark and biz partner Grant Cooper welcomed scores of friends and followers Monday night to their latest culinary progeny — Brasserie 19.
Doors open for dinner on Wednesday on the new eatery that has sprung from the remains of the old Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen in River Oaks Shopping Center.
Charles, leaving the chef's toque and apron in the kitchen on this night, and Grant, forsaking his signature black for grey, received thumbs up from Ibiza regulars such as Joyce and Hugh Echols and from Mandola/Ibiza fans Carol Phillips and Bob Hopson, who found a comfy perch at the sleek 26-seat white marble bar.
Ibiza regular, Suzy Bergner, who loved the brasserie look (with a hint of New Orleans), declared, "I'm going to turn this place into another Galatoire's," referring to one of the the Crescent City's most revered and rollicking restaurants. Husband Dick Bergner nodded his approval.
Interior designer Julie McGarr explained that she had studied a number of French brasseries before creating the casual, light interiors that are accented with touches of brass and custom globe chandeliers and wall sconces. With white walls, oversized mirrors and dark floors, Brasserie 19 does ring a bell with Gallatoire's fans.
Houston Chronicle wine writer Dale Robertson made the scene, marveling at the Brasserie's unconventionally low wine prices, just above retail. How about a bottle of Dom Perignon for $150 or the yellow label Veuve Clicquot for less than what the neighboring Kroger grocery store charges?
Chef Michael Gaspard was in the kitchen, sending out endless waves of taste temptations that included steak tartare, Gulf shrimp and foie gras hors d'oeuvres as hints at what the brasserie-style menu will offer.
Among those exploring the clean, casual interiors and toasting the new spot with bubbly and wines were Lorie Elizabeth, Jennifer and Lance Gilliam, Olivier Ciesielski, Sharon Baker and commercial builder Leo Parker, who did the Brasserie transformation for the Clark/Cooper team.
Up, up and away
Since its quiet opening several weeks ago, Haidar Barbouti's Up Restaurant (above Cole Haan in Highland Village) has quietly been becoming the city's newest hot spot. And with its slick, walnut-paneled interiors and inviting patio wrapped in white sheers, Up (named for its third floor location) is attracting a fancy crowd.
Monday night, typically an off-night in the restaurant biz, the place was fairly packed with notables including Jay Rosenstein and Raymond Barron at a table with friends, Linda Gayle White dining in a booth with gal pals, Tina and Joe Pine at a center table, Reed Morian and Trey Lipsitz dining at one end of the bar, where Neda Ladjevardian and a lady friend parked before securing a table.
At the opposite end were Becca Cason Thrash and New York investment banker Euan Rellie, who was in town for the Offshore Technology Conference. (Pardon the lengthy call from Singapore, but business is business.) Euan's wife is designer Lucy Sykes, twin sister of popular author Plum Sykes — all great friends of Becca and John Thrash.
Alas, it was one of those rare chilly, windy nights that made the patio not so inviting. It was empty. We hear that most other nights, it is packed with movers and shakers.
Lunching at the Hyatt
That would be Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis, who flew in as keynote speaker at the "Success to Significance" benefit luncheon hosted by the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council. With a dry wit and great humor, Davis, founder of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, talked about gender bias in media that is aimed at children younger than 11.
Former Girl Scout and GSSJC board member Sharron Melton, Channel 13 ABC morning news anchor, served as emcee of the event that honored two community leaders.
Taking bows were Pam Gardner, the first woman inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, and Dorothy Goodykoontz, GSSJC board emeritus member and founder of the scouts' Emerald Circle, which awards college scholarships to qualified Ambassador Girl Scouts.
Also on the program was GSSJC CEO Mary Vitek and Girl Scouts of the USA national board chair Connie Lindsey, who recognized the honorees and who spoke on the 2012 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts and the associated $1 billion fundraising campaign.