Sunday, March 2
Anyhow, to get to it... on Feb. 23 I was extremely fortunate to attend the FNSBW&FF Amex After Party as the guest of Ace of Cake's Mary Alice. This ultra-exclusive party was held at Casa Casuarina, also known as the Versace Mansion.
As soon as we walked into the mansion, we were completely awestruck. The main foyer featured an extremely ornate fountain surrounded by Spanish/Italian style columns opening up the biggest "skylight" (the roof actually opens completely to reveal the night's sky) that I've ever seen.
One of the first people I saw was Tyler Florence, who said hi to Duff and let him know he was a fan of the show. Awesome.
We made our way outside to the pool & garden area, which Gianni Versace added to the estate after he purchased it in 1992. It's hard to even describe this area with words. If you've seen and understand the grandioseness of Versace and his fashion line, you'd understand.
Ted Allen of Queer Eye, Top Chef, Iron Chef, etc. and his longtime partner Barry Rice moseyed over and let Mary Alice know he was a big fan of the show, too. I felt like a proud parent! ;-) I ended up having a long conversation with both of them about Ted's experiences judging Iron Chef, living in Chicago, their opinions on Rachael Ray, and our collective feeling of disbelief that we were standing in the Versace mansion. They're great guys and I'm so honored to have met them.
I convinced the Amateur Gourmet Adam Roberts to stop by, who had already had a big night interviewing Mario Batali, Giada De Laurentiis and Anthony Bourdain. He introduced me to Pat Neely of Down Home with the Neelys, who was chilling inside with his brother. Pat was very funny and kind in person. I brought up his record-breaking debut on Food Network, which Pat kind of brushed off as something he wasn't going to let get to his head.
Pat reminded me of Duff in that they both built their careers with a personal business that they continue to run. While a successful show on Food Network is great, it's hard to get that caught up in the hype when you're still running your business every day. It was refreshing to see just how down to earth both these guys are.
It was at this point in the night in which the celebrity sightings just became ridiculous. I try to remain cool during these situations, but it's hard when Padma Lakshmi, Ellie Krieger, Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray's husband John Cusimano all walk by within a matter of minutes. I never actually saw RR, but was told she did arrive with the hubby.
Near the end of the night, I mustered up the courage to say hello to Tyler Florence and thank him for blogging so well and let him know I was a fan. When he asked me who I was "with," I was totally taken aback when he called out to his wife, "Hey, Tolan... it's the Food Network Addict!" who I later found out was a big fan of this blog! :-) So very flattering.
Tolan, who is pregnant with their second child together, was as nice as can be and didn't even get that mad at me for comparing her wedding dress to the Bjork swan dress, a comment I didn't even remember writing at the time. Woops.
While these celebrities were great, the main star of the night was definitely the giant, multiple showerhead shower, located immediately next to the pool area. I can't even begin to imagine what went down there during Gianni's day. My oh my.
That should give you a pretty good idea.
It was a truly awesome night. Thanks so much to Mary Alice for inviting me!