Allure Of Private Dining Will Remain After the Pandemic
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Allure Of Private Dining Will Remain After the Pandemic

The 5-star soiree is here to stay.

By Tracy Kaler
Mon, Jun 7, 2021Grey Clock 5 min

During the height of Covid-19, private dining was an alternative to sharing a restaurant meal with loved ones. But even as the pandemic dwindles and eateries welcome guests again, intimate, five-star hospitality remains in high demand.

“People are eager to reconnect with family and friends, and there’s no better way to do that around the table than with great food and wine,” says James Henderson, CEO of Exclusive Resorts, an elite vacation club based in Denver, Colo., with locations across the globe.

While private dining has long been associated with celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries, guests are gravitating toward intimate environments for everyday occasions as well. “Casual private dining experiences are starting to play a larger role in the hospitality industry, and I think these experiences will only continue to grow in popularity moving forward,” Henderson adds.

No matter the circumstances, the allure of private dining lies in the intimacy, exclusivity, and extraordinary experience that accompanies it, according to Brian Mommsen, founder and CEO of Resident, a New York-based company hosting bespoke dinners in unique venues. Launched in 2018, Resident collaborates with Michelin-trained chefs from Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and other top-tier New York restaurants to curate upscale events for small groups.

Since March, the startup has collaborated with Exclusive Resorts to offer its members multi-course food and beverage tastings in the vacation club’s Residences at Park Avenue Place in Midtown Manhattan. A member can host a table for up to eight guests for US$2,000. Resident’s chef-driven menus include dishes such as roasted corn, prosciutto, miso, and grits; carrot mousse tartlet; and Long Island crescent duck with lentils and cabbage.

While the chef presents and tells in-depth stories about each dish tableside, an expert sommelier describes the wine and dining guests participate in the conversation.

“We have found that guests thrive on the opportunity to personally interact with our talent, learning about their inspiration for each course firsthand, and getting to know the face behind the food, which is an impossibility at most restaurants,” Mommsen says.

Resident, a New York-based company hosting bespoke dinners in unique venues, collaborates with Michelin-trained chefs from Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and other top-tier New York restaurants to curate upscale events for small groups. Resident

David Pan and his wife, Tillie, of Orange Beach Concierge, based on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, have hosted intimate dinners for years. But due to the pandemic, the duo has restructured their well-received Chef’s Table to bring the concept to their guests, rather than have their guests coming to them.

Pan believes the attention put into each menu, the locally sourced ingredients and thoughtfully paired wines, along with dining in the comfort of one’s own home, all contribute to the appeal.

With an uptick in business over the past year, his team hosted more than 100 private dinners in 2020 and they’re on track to triple that number this year.

“We predict a heavy increase in 2021 and beyond, and from what our booking calendar looks like today, we are posed to beat 2019 bookings which was our most successful year in the history of our business,” Pan says. His menus include jumbo lump crab cake, goat fromage salad, and sous vide filet mignon with sable rice. Experiences range from US$175 to US$250 per person.

Lawrence Fairchild, proprietor of Stones Wine, Perrarus, and Fairchild Napa Valley, is set to debut House of Perrarus: A Stones Wine and Michelin three-star experience at his picturesque California estate. Deemed the “Hermés of wine” due to the exclusivity of his bottles, Fairchild offers his 95 to 100 point wines to members only, but will make them available to the public at his afternoon soirées, beginning in June.

The winemaker and the acclaimed Single Thread Farm—a farm, inn, and three Michelin-starred restaurant in Sonoma County—will curate five seasonal small plates paired with his wine collection: one Chardonnay, three Cabernet Sauvignons, and a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc blend.

“This idea stemmed from our clients’ desires for a more private and tasting dining experience,” Fairchild says. During the mid-day fête, guests can sit indoors or outdoors, depending on their preference. Cost is US$500 per person with capacity up to 10 guests.

In October, Chef de Cuisine Michael Vitangeli premiered The Chef’s Table at Scarpetta in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Rooted in Italian tradition, the six-course interactive dinner is personal for Vitangeli. “My grandmother Emelia Vitangeli played the largest role in shaping my culinary career, so it only made sense that she influence the Chef’s Table experience itself,” he says.

Last summer, Chef Yann Nury outfitted a 1971 Airstream Safari and hit the road, cooking up warm weather-inspired fare for small groups. Courtesy Yann Nury

Vitangeli’s menu features homemade burrata, hand-pulled pasta, porchetta (pork belly), among other classics, plated alongside wine pairings presented by sommelier Kyle Asato. Staged in a dedicated dining room, the six-seat table overlooks the famous fountain show and Scarpetta’s kitchen, providing guests “a show from kitchen to table.” Vintangeli shares details and history on the dishes and wine to create a familial atmosphere. The cost is US$200 per guest.

The private fine dining trend has become more of a moveable feast, too. Last summer, Chef Yann Nury outfitted a 1971 Airstream Safari and hit the road, cooking up warm weather-inspired fare for small groups. His customized dinner parties start at US$15,000 for 12 people.

Although he and his team had always catered on the road, both domestically and abroad, they had never prepared gourmet dishes in a food truck. However, the chef considers the mobile kitchen to be a condensed version of what he had done before: focus on local delicacies and ingredients.

“It is in our DNA to bring our food and culinary experiences all around the world, but when Covid came, all this stopped suddenly,” Nury says. “I had to find a solution to stay afloat, but also to stay relevant.”

The French chef outfitted the Airstream with 19th-century oak floors, Charlotte Perriand lighting, Gaggenau appliances, a wine cellar, French copper pots, vintage Michelin guides, and fancy tableware before heading up and down the East Coast. In 2021 and beyond, Nury plans to spend summer in the East, fall out West, and winter in Florida, but he remains open to any destination.

“I believe it is the future of fine dining, a world that no one has paid enough attention to,” he says about the private dining trend. “It is, in reality, the ultimate luxury of culinary experiences.”

Reprinted by permission of Penta. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 5, 2021


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Private club memberships and luxury cars are some of freebies on the table.

Mon, Aug 15, 2022 6 min

When Ryan Wolitzer was looking to buy an apartment in Miami Beach late last year, several beachfront properties caught his eye. All were two-bedroom homes in high-end buildings with amenities aplenty and featured glass walls, high ceilings and an abundance of natural light. But only The Continuum, in the city’s South of Fifth district, came with a gift: a membership to Residence Yacht Club, a private club that offers excursions on luxury yachts ranging from a day in south Florida to a month around the Caribbean. Residents receive heavily discounted charters on upscale boats that have premier finishes and are stocked with top shelf spirits and wine. Mr. Wolitzer, 25, who works for a sports agency, was sold.

“The access to high-end yachts swayed my decision to buy at The Continuum and is an incentive that I take full advantage of,” Mr. Wolitzer said. “It’s huge, especially in my business when I am dealing with high-profile sports players, to be able to give them access to these incredible boats where they experience great service. I know that they’ll be well taken care of.”

Freebies and perks for homeowners such as a private club membership are a mainstay in the world of luxury real estate and intended to entice prospective buyers to sign on the dotted line.

According to Jonathan Miller, the president and chief executive of the real estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel, they’re primarily a domestic phenomenon.

In the U.S. residential real estate market, gifts are offered by both developers who want to move apartments in their swanky buildings and individuals selling their homes. They range from modest to over-the-top, Mr. Miller said, and are more prevalent when the market is soft.

“When sales lag, freebies increase in a bid to incentivize buyers,” he said. “These days, sales are slowing, and inventory is rising after two years of being the opposite, which suggests that we may see more of them going forward.”

Many of these extras are especially present in South Florida, Mr. Miller said, where the market is normalizing after the unprecedented boom it saw during the pandemic. “The frenzy in South Florida was intense compared with the rest of the country because it became a place where people wanted to live full time,” he said. “Now that the numbers are inching toward pre-pandemic levels, freebies could push wavering buyers over the finish line.”

Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a real estate salesperson for Douglas Elliman in Miami and New York, said that the gifts that she has encountered in her business include everything from yacht access and use of a summer house to magnums of pricey wine. “One person I know of who was selling a US$5 million house in the Hamptons even threw in a free Mercedes 280SL,” she said. “They didn’t want to lower the price but were happy to sweeten the deal.”

A car, an Aston Martin to be exact, is also a lure at Aston Martin Residences in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Buyers who bought  one of the building’s 01 line apartments—a collection of 47 ocean-facing residences ranging in size from 325 to 362sqm and US$8.3 million to US$9 million in price—had their choice of the DBX Miami Riverwalk Special Edition or the DB11 Miami Riverwalk Special Edition. The DBX is Aston Martin’s first SUV and retails for around US$200,000. It may have helped propel sales given that all the apartments are sold out.

An Aston Martin came with the sale for some buyers at Aston Martin Residences in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Aston Martin Residences

The US$59 million triplex penthouse, meanwhile, is still up for grabs, and the buyer will receive a US$3.2 million Aston Martin Vulcan track-only sports car, one of only 24 ever made.

“We want to give homeowners the chance to live the full Aston Martin lifestyle, and owning a beautiful Aston Martin is definitely a highlight of that,” said Alejandro Aljanti, the chief marketing officer for G&G Business Developments, the building’s developer.  “We wanted to include the cars as part of the package for our more exclusive units.”

The US$800,000 furniture budget for buyers of the North Tower condominiums at The Estates at Acqualina in Sunny Isles, Florida, is another recent head-turning perk. The 94 residences sold out last year, according to president of sales Michael Goldstein, and had a starting price of US$6.3 million. “You can pick the furniture ahead of time, and when buyers move in later this year, all they’ll need is a toothbrush,” he said.

Then there’s the US$2 million art collection that was included in the sale of the penthouse residence at the Four Seasons Residences in Miami’s Brickell neighbourhood. The property recently sold for $15.9 million and spans 817sqm feet. Designed by the renowned firm ODP Architects, it features contemporary paintings and sculpture pieces from notable names such as the American conceptual artist Bill Beckley and the sculptor Tom Brewitz.

But it’s hard to top the millions of dollars of extras that were attached to the asking price in 2019 of the US$85 million 1393sqm  duplex at the Atelier, in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood. The list included two Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a Lamborghini Aventador, a US$1 million yacht with five years of docking fees, a summer stay at a Hamptons mansion, weekly dinners for two at lavish French restaurant Daniel and a live-in butler and private chef for a year. And the most outrageous of all: a flight for two to space.

It turned out that the so-called duplex was actually a collection of several apartments and a listing that went unsold. It did, however, generate plenty of buzz among the press and in real estate circles and was a marketing success, according to Mr. Miller.

“A listing like this that almost seems unbelievable with all the gifts will get plenty of eyeballs but is unlikely to push sales,” he said. “Empirically, it’s not an effective tactic.”

On the other hand, Mr. Miller said that more reasonable but still generous freebies, such as the membership to a yacht club, have the potential to push undecided buyers to go for the sale. “A nice but not too lavish gift won’t be the singular thing toward their decision but can be a big factor,” he said. “It’s a feel-good incentive that buyers think they’re getting without an extra cost.”

Examples of these bonuses include a membership to the 1 Hotel South Beach private beach club that buyers receive with the purchase of a residence at Baccarat Residences Brickell, or the one-year membership to the Grand Bay Beach Club in Key Biscayne for those who spring for a home at Casa Bella Residences by B&B Italia, located in downtown Miami and a residential project from the namesake renowned Italian furniture brand. The price of a membership at the Grand Bay Beach Club is usually a US$19,500 initiation fee and US$415 in monthly dues.

The Grand Salon at at Baccarat Residences Brickell in Miami.
Baccarat Residences

Still enticing but less expensive perks include the two-hour cruise around New York on a wooden Hemmingway boat, valued at US$1,900, for buyers at Quay Tower, at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. The building’s developer, Robert Levine, said that he started offering the boat trip in July to help sell the remaining units. “We’re close to 70% sold, but, of course, I want everything to go,” he said.

There’s also the US$1,635 Avalon throw blanket from Hermes for those who close on a unit at Ten30 South Beach, a 33-unit boutique condominium; in Manhattan’s Financial District, a custom piece of art from the acclaimed artist James Perkins is gifted to buyers at Jolie, a 42-story building on Greenwich Street. Perkins said the value of the piece depends on the home purchase price, but the minimum is US$4,000. “The higher end homes get a more sizable work,” he said.

When gifts are part of a total real estate package, the sale can become emotional and personal, according to Chad Carroll, a real estate agent with Compass in South Florida and the founder of The Carroll Group. “If the freebie appeals to the buyer, the transaction takes on a different dynamic,” he said. “A gift becomes the kicker that they love the idea of having.”

Speaking from his own experience, Mr. Carroll said that sellers can also have an emotional connection to the exchange. “I was selling my house in Golden Isles last year for US$5.4 million and included my jet ski and paddle boards,” he said. “The buyers were a family with young kids and absolutely loved the water toys.” Mr. Carroll could have held out for a higher bidder, he said, but decided to accept their offer. “I liked them and wanted them to create the same happy memories in the home that I did,” he said.

The family moved in a few months later.