The Event: Every Day With Rachael Ray first
The Date: Nov. 7, 2006
The Venue: The Altman Building
The Bar: Heavy on the Absolut sponsorship, but light on pouring and sadly understaffed
The Food: Let's call it Rachael Ray Delish
The Swag: The December issue, recipe cards, ads for Folonari wines and GMC's Acadia, a deck of Absolut recipe/playing cards, all inside an Ann Taylor Loft weekend bag
The Crowd: NYC magazine peeps revealing their flyover-state roots and one dietetically challenged Freeloader
After a couple weeks blissfully bereft of tired Halloween-themed parties, Freeloader ventured out again to help Every Day With Rachael Ray -- one of Advertising Age's two 2006 Launches of the Year -- celebrate its first birthday.
A campy kind of party. Click to see larger photo.
The atmosphere in the Altman Building was campy -- literally. Fake evergreens, real picnic tables and lanterns (of the Coleman-esque persuasion) were mixed with an assortment of Rachael Ray-themed road signs (correct us if we're wrong, but if they really wanted to evoke the essence of Ms. Ray, shouldn't "Olive Oil Way" have been "EVOO Alley?"), all falling under the bailiwick of "What a trip!"
The crowd also fell in line with the laid-back, anything-goes theme -- denim and cable-knit sweaters abounded. It is important to note here an inherent bias on the part of the Freeloader: We don't do laid-back and we are having our birth certificate legally changed to show Madison Avenue as our place of birth. Rachael Ray is definitely geared toward a more relaxed, all-American crowd than Freeloader hobnobs with.
Which brings us to the food. We assumed the spread would be of Ms. Ray's own creation and laden with the cheese, carbs and meats that make most of America cheer, but make lactose-intolerant and waist-line-watching Freeloader cringe. What we found were trays of foods clearly meant to be eaten with two hands. Case in point: While we talked shop with Readers' Digest Association President-CEO Tom Ryder, pork-fried rice came around in paper boxes with chopsticks. Mr. Ryder had to put his drink down and eventually chucked the chopsticks in favor of shaking the rice into his mouth. Recognizing defeat, we quickly followed suit.
We'd like to tell you that the rest of the offerings were mouth-watering guilty pleasures, but we never truly saw the full extent of them. Each perusal of the two "No recipe zones" left us thinking they should have been called "No food zones" -- all we found were lots of platters empty of anything but the errant slice of red cabbage or shrimp tail and bowls of sauces and spreads with cute traffic signs.
Don't worry, Freeloader didn't starve: We managed a mini-chicken taco and lavash with tapenade ... and a couple of little spinach-and-mushroom pizzettes. Eventually we also scored a mini-sausage and cabbage dog. And of course, there was the pork-fried rice. Maybe we did rack up plenty of calories after all.
The heavy-handed sponsorships in the party made us wonder if the Mall of America really has taken over the entirety of the Midwest. On the lighter side, the bar boasted an array of Folonari wines, but the little signs that described the selection were dwarfed by giant bottles of Absolut.
Otherwise, leggy model-types were walking around in Ann Taylor Loft fashions taking Polaroids of the revelers and posting them on a board declaring "Models' wardrobes provided by Ann Taylor Loft." Finally, a GMC Acadia was parked in back, a "No Recipe Zone" spewing from its open trunk. Boy, good thing the theme was "What a trip!" (otherwise the crossover vehicle and "road trip specialist" would have seemed mighty out of place).
You will note that while the magazine is about all things Ray and thus the evening was about all things Ray, Freeloader has not mentioned Ms. Ray. This would be because she was in absentia for the hour we were present. As far as we saw, the only name-tagged individuals were employees of Every Day and its publisher, Reader's Digest. The rest of us had the joy of being anonymous for the night -- well, except for Lara Spencer of "The Insider" fame. We have been assured that Ms. Ray did show up before too long and, after speeches and photo ops, mingled with the crowd.