On the Town with HughE Dillon

Inside the new Le Méridien. Plus: Can the Village People's music bring Mayor Nutter and City Council together?, the Public House's anniversary party, behind the scenes at Dark Fields, and Laura Bush's visit

Today two long-awaited properties open in Philadelphia: the million-dollar condos with the automatic car parking system, 1706 Rittenhouse, and the luxury hotel Le Méridien (our second French hotel!) at 1421 Arch Street. On Monday I stopped by Le Méridien’s brasserie/wine bar Amuse to check out their new signature cocktails, a few of which will be unique to the Philadelphia hotel.  Tim Laird, CEO, brand spokesman, and CCO (chief cocktail officer) for Brown-Forman Corp., a producer of wines and spirits had spent the day training the staff and invited me to come by. Here he’s making a French Martini, which consists of vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice. The other cocktails that will be unique to the hotel are The William Penn (tequila, lemonade and pomegranate juice, $7.50); The Liberty Bell (Woodford Reserve, merlot, simple syrup and fresh lemon juice, $8.50); and one more drink they are still trying to find the perfect name for. Since I don’t drink, Annie Heckenberger from Red Tettemer (the hotel’s advertising firm) did the tasting for me. Her favorite of the day was Fleur De Lis ($8.50), which is Finlandia, Chambord, cranberry juice and lemonade, all shaken over ice. Tim tells me that this cocktail is only served at the Kentucky Derby, and now here at the Le Méridien. There’s also an extensive menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Every drink will come with a complimentary “Muse,” or pairing. Each coming week the musings will change, and in the end they will have 24 that the chef will pick to go with the drink that you order. Available the night I was there: sweet potato wrapped in bacon, crystallized grapefruit, caramelized apple, beet salad, crystallized ginger, and a gruyère cheese puff. They will be served on spoons (above). I like that idea, and I wonder what pairing will come with Diet Coke.
This could very well become the new political watering hole with its upscale food, beverage menu and beautiful views of local government buildings.

Last Thursday Public House celebrated its five-year anniversary with a packed party house. Entertainment for the evening was two hot sisters/DJs called Kissette. They used to spin at Public House’s GM Dino Minnelli‘s club Luke & Leroy’s in NYC. Also on hand to enjoy the festivities: Tony Piazza, Hacina Saadi, The Dusk Crew, Carson Andrew, Zach Seidman, Dustin Lotter, Kelli Disanto, RJ Cacciutti, Chris and Tiffany Nork (fresh from their honeymoon), Laura Powers, Christie Honigman, Tim Adams, Flyers’ Jeff Carter, 6ABC’s Kristie Gonzales, and the crew from Parx Casino—Vatche Manoukian, Darlene Monzo, Jim Gabriele, Dianna and John Martinelli, and Carrie Nork Minelli.

Dining Out For Life

On Thursday, April 29th, more than 200 area restaurants donated 33 percent of customers’ food bills to fund HIV/AIDS organizations. I hung out at the VIP restaurant Butcher & Singer and was surprisingly entertained by Mayor Nutter, Councilman Jim Kenney and a few others.

Ted Allen, of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame, (above with Kevin Burns, exec director of Action AIDS), and Julie Drizin (who created Dining Out For Life 20 years ago) received Friend for Life awards. Then Kevin Burns introduced original Village People singer Felipe Rose (Indian) as the new social media honorary manager.

Then before you knew it, Kenney began humming the song YMCA, and acting out the song discretely at his table … well maybe not that discretely because the next speaker was Mayor Nutter who said Councilman Kenney will now lead us in the song YMCA, at which point Kenney got up and started singing and acting out the song. I wish I was shooting video. In this picture you can see Kevin Burns, Mayor Nutter (both on the upper level), and Councilman Bill Green at the table, with Council President Anna Verna, Councilman Frank DiCicco, and PGN publisher Mark Segal. Also on the scene: former councilman Angel Ortiz, state senator Larry Farnese, Joan Bressler from the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, and CBS3’s Jim Donovan.

Above: John Hobbs, Casey Hughes (head brewer at Flying Fish), April Reynolds, Collin Flatt, Kristin Moore, and Stephen Lyford. On Friday I headed over to Ladder 15 to celebrate Collin Flatt’s birthday. Collin used to write Phoodie for Philebrity but left in January to pursue other interests, including teaching a class on wine at Penn, continuing to teach wine classes at the Wine School in Fairmount, and being the man in charge of picking out all the fine beers you consume at Ladder 15. (He may also soon do this for Specks.) It was blogger paradise: Allie Harcharek (City Paper and A Food Coma), Felicia D’Ambrosio (City Paper), Danya Henninger (Philly Design Blog), Suzy Woods (The Beer Lass), Kelly White (Living on the Vedge), Arthur Etchells (FooBooz), and Mike Ilagan (Unbreaded, Geekadelphia and Uwishunu). I had a great time and was also surprised at the extent of Ladder 15’s menu. Who would have thought bone marrow would be on the menu?

Celebrity Sightings
Dark Fields
is still in town, but most of the filming this week is occurring inside the Loews Hotel on a high floor. The scene has Bradley Cooper visiting Robert De Niro’s character at De Niro’s office. Even though filming is taking place inside a hotel, De Niro’s trailer is located on the west side of City Hall (above). On Thursday, a few fans told me they waited by the trailer; De Niro’s bodyguard came out, collected things to be signed, and then gave them back. After a few minutes, De Niro came outside, waved to the fans, and then jumped in his car. He’s here for another week. Also in town Thursday, former First Lady Laura Bush appeared at the Union League for a meet-and-greet on her Spoken From the Heart book tour. Before heading to the 6 p.m. start time, she popped into the Ritz-Carlton to freshen up. She probably wondered how a group of fans knew she was coming, but in fact what she saw was a handful of guys that had just gotten autographs from the Boston Bruins as the team got on the bus. Lorenzo Giuffra tells me the crowd was told to step back 20-30 yards and almost instantly four secret service SUVs pulled up to the side entrance and checked the area (a police dog had been inside at 4 p.m.). Laura Bush exited the car and waved to the crowd before entering the Ritz.

On Wednesday night, the entire Boston Bruins hockey team ate dinner at Del Frisco’s, occupying the upstairs mezzanine. I guess eating giant steaks didn’t affect their game. On Monday Del Frisco’s will play host to Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper as they film a scene inside the restaurant. Now that will surely draw a crowd.


Congratulations to Brett Perloff. For years, Brett has had a hand in running this town, promoting parties, and later as part owner of Denim, then Pearl, and lately Strongbox. I reported earlier this year he sold his interest in Strongbox and started Perl Media, which has opened a new door for him as he moves to “Manhattan to follow an amazing biz opportunity.” He promises to be back often.

G Lounge announced a new GM last week, Waylon Nelson. Nelson comes via Tampa, Florida, where he most recently owned and operated a full-service catering and hospitality company. Previously, the club was managed by Mark Marek, then interim managers Steve Tutelman and Brett Milstein, who will now return to the Govberg fold and continue to work for Danny Govberg in different capacities.

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