Ken Goodman Photography

Last Wednesday we had our annual Magic Martinis and Mario event at Del Posto. The event is a fundraiser for the Mario Batali Foundation and one of my favorite events of the whole year (and I go to A LOT of events!). Here are a few of my highlights from a fabulous night.

Together with my friends Billy Harris (the magic) and Tony Abou Ganim (the martini), we (MMM) put together what I thought was a really amusing and delicious show. And just in case you don't know these guys, Billy is the comedian/magician who MCs the night and keeps everyone going with wacky jokes and Houdini-esque magic tricks. Tony is the mixologist of all mixologists. His cocktails had everyone drunk 15 minutes in, which is, of course, the key to any great auction-driven event—get 'em SLAMHAPPY!

I was touched and humbled by my good friends that came out to support me. Old pals like Isabella Rossellini, Stanley Tucci, Mariska Hargitay, Jimmy Fallon, Isaac Mizrahi, and Tony Bourdain served as co-chairs, and they all lent their good style and all-around coolness to the big event. Iron Chef Anne Burrell came to support, and my partner Joe Bastianich was there along with Michael Stipe and Tomas Dozol and the super-talented photographer/couple Melanie Dunea and Nigel Parry. My friends and neighbors Jill Henessy and Paolo Mastropietro. And of course, my beautiful wife, Susi, just to name a few.

What we didn't know, of course, when we planned this event was that it would be just two week following our big four-star New York Times review (which I'm STILL flipping out about). That was pretty sweet. I have to say, it felt pretty damn good to throw that in my little intro to the crowd ... I couldn't help it, I'm just so proud of the whole team at Del Posto, especially Mark Ladner. He and I have known each other since the moment I got to NYC and have worked together since '97.

As soon as you came through the Del Posto doors, there was the "step and repeat" red carpet situation—and due mostly to the folks I just named, the scene was pretty fashionable. I myself was donning my usual orange Crocs but spiffed it up a bit in Leo Batali-custom created tie, made entirely out of orange and purple duct tape.

Tony started the demo sitch by demonstrating a cocktail he created for the event—called a "323"—made with rosemary-infused Hendrick's Gin, fresh lemon sour, balsamic vinegar reduction, basil and strawberries. I downed it too fast—it was intense but damn good!

Next up I demonstrated the next three courses of the menu for the night:

    • Antipasto: Lobster Salad alla Catalana with Tomato and Celery

    • Pasta: Pennette with Porcini and Tomato Strattu

    • Secondo: Lamb Rack alla Romana with Lemon Yogurt and Swiss Chard and Ceci Ragú

Jimmy Fallon got up and threw in some commentary and a hilarious joke about sleeping with a drifter he thought was Willie Nelson, and then came the auction. Darcie Purcell, director of the Mario Batali Foundation, put together a ridiculous selection of wild auction items, including a crazy trip to Louisville to play golf and hang out with Brook Smith (he later donated ANOTHER identical prize in the heat of a little bidding war). Double magnums of Aragone with custom labels designed and signed by Tony Bourdain and Gwyneth Paltrow. A signed photo of U2's cover shot of their new album "No Line on the Horizon," of which there were only 100 made in the world. The bidding war flew into a frenzy.

Following the very successful live auction, Billy, with the assistance of the lovely Anne Burrell, was strapped into a straitjacket and had exactly one minute to get out of it, amidst a cheering crowd and Iggy Pop blasting in the background. I'm not sure who was more nervous, Anne or Billy. They both survived.

At the end of the night, it was an awesome thing to see that my friends both in and out of the industry coming together to help support something that's really important to me. We raised over $200,000 total for the night. Which are no small potatoes in any economic climate. Nights like this inspire me to do more than I already do. In the end, I might run out of time, but I rarely run out of energy. I still have lots more to do and I'm already looking forward to next year's event.

About the Mario Batali Foundation:

Long before he was a household name, Mario Batali was a philanthropist. Whether donating his time, services, or dollars, Mario has been actively involved in the charities close to his heart for many years to raise awareness and support for children's disease research and relief, and hunger relief. Launched in 2008, the Mario Batali Foundation was established to feed, protect, educate, and empower children, encouraging them to dream big while providing them with the necessary tools to become an active force for change in today's world. In an effort to do so, the MBF strives to ensure all children are well read, well fed and well cared for. Visit for more information.

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