On Sundays, the always-entertaining Isaac Mizrahi gathers his friends for serious bridge and fun food.
We all know Isaac Mizrahi as the überfashion designer and the totally lovable subject of the documentary film Unzipped. (I'm still dining out on my tiny cameo.) Recently Isaac hung up his frocks to pursue a stage and movie career. In LES MIZrahi, his one-man show in New York City, he sang, dished the fashion world, regaled his audience with slices of his life and handed out Rice Krispies Treats. He's planning to direct a film: He and producer Christine Vachon (Boys Don't Cry) have optioned a script about a "walker"—a socially well-connected bachelor who escorts married ladies to parties their husbands would rather not attend—based on the Jonathan Ames novel The Extra Man. Isaac's own book, The Adventures of Sandee the Supermodel, is in development with DreamWorks Studio. The man has a lot on his plate, but that does not mean he's given up entertaining: After a crazy week, his favorite way to let down his hair is to throw a Sunday afternoon bridge party for four or eight. Needless to say, he pulls it off in pure Mizrahi style.
Comfort Food in Spades
Isaac is a true foodie. Not only is he a restaurant hound (Babbo in New York City is a particular favorite), but he also loves to cook and bake. He isn't into fussy, fancy dishes, however. He adores pastas and slow-cooked stews in iron pots, and for his bridge parties he prefers classic comfort food. Because everyone's so focused on the competition, they don't want to think too hard about what they're eating. "It has to go down easily," Isaac explains. "Forget about Mexican, or quail à la whatever." Think homemade macaroni and cheese (Isaac uses a recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook), Mrs. Paul's fish sticks (yes, the frozen ones), "a little green salad to make everything healthy" and a divine strawberry shortcake from Jon Vie Bakery, which is near his West Village apartment. I ask him if anybody tipples at his parties. "Oh no," he replies. "Well, maybe a little sherry or scotch toward the end of the day for some of the guests." We're talking hard-core bridge here.
Bridge to Bridge
"When I was 25, my mother told me, 'Isaac, if you don't pick up bridge, you won't have any friends by the time you reach 40.' She's always right, so when a friend told me he was taking bridge lessons, I said, 'Not without me!' After years of lessons, we started playing with two other friends on a regular basis." The call time for his Sunday bridge parties is usually 1 p.m. Lunch comes first, served on his beloved Queen's Ware Wedgwood plates (he's aching to buy more), a zebra-striped Gucci platter and a white salad bowl that he discovered at a junk shop. As for the food, Isaac says "the less you make, the more everyone will enjoy it." Another Isaacism: "The best way to get people to really dig in is to really dig in yourself." Which he does.
My introduction to bridge was at age six, during a visit to my paternal grandmother's summer home in Harbor Point, Michigan. She had a standing Wednesday-afternoon bridge game with "the girls"—three charming, blue-haired ladies. Her black poodle, Pepper, was always parked at her feet; I sat alongside, happily munching on tea sandwiches and provoking Pepper whenever I thought I was unobserved. Even as an adult, I must confess, my brief foray into the world of bridge was more about the chat and chew than about the game. My friend Sandy Hill and I took lessons through the Manhattan Bridge Club, at her apartment or mine, and she was definitely the winner in the inventive-hostess department. Out came endless plates of tea sandwiches and cookies, all in the shapes of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.