Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Lee Bailey at Henri Bendel

I used to find it odd that there are people who buy cookbooks solely for the purpose of reading them. Actually preparing the recipes is beside the point. Strangely enough, I have now found myself as one of "those people." It's not that I don't want to cook, but I truly have no time! If there were 27 hours in a day, well, then maybe.

Some of my favorite cookbooks to read are those by the late, great Lee Bailey. His recipes look delicious, and I'm even planning to take a stab at his Rigodon soon. (It's a chicken custard with brioche topping.) But what really gives me great pleasure are the books' photos of Bailey's marvelously chic tablesettings. By the looks of the photographs, Bailey obviously preferred china, glassware, and linen that was minimal, slightly casual, not fussy, and enormously stylish. For someone with a background in design, Bailey knew the importance of creating atmosphere for one's dinner parties. He also knew that food looks its best against a simple setting.

Bailey once had a noted food and accessories shop within Bendel's (back before it was bought by The Limited) that later moved to Saks. People still talk and write about his boutique today- almost twenty-five years after it closed! It must have really been something, and I regret that childhood was what kept me from knowing anything at the time about Lee Bailey or his shop.

In the book
Lee Bailey's Good Parties, Bailey included photos of some of his favorite china, glassware, flatware, and kitchen tools and gadgets, some of which were available for purchase at his Bendel's shop. Below, I'm showing just some of the items that were sold at Bailey's shop. Even if many of us never got the chance to see it in person, perhaps we can get a little taste of what the magic must have been like.

Stainless steel all-purpose pots by Opa.

A Perfect Fish measure.

Left, a 12 1/4" Stainless Steel buffet plate by Bailey-Bannett Inc. At right, an 11" khaki porcelain dinner plate by Taitu for Lee Bailey.

Matte white Japanese flatware.

Chef Master plastic-handled flatware with nonstick Chefcoat.

Bailey-Bannett Inc. stainless steel dessert bowl and saucer.

Lee Bailey all-purpose bistro glass.

Taitu burgundy/brown porcelain dinner plate.

All images from Lee Bailey's Good Parties.


  1. The ground floor of the old Bendel's on E 57th Street was like a bazaar, very active and filled with new and exciting goods that shoppers could peruse before going on to the upper floors. Lee Bailey's little boutique of sorts was here and it was renown up through the early 80s as one of the country's epicenters of culinary/hospitality products despite the small size. The whole floor was a much-heralded concept that seemed to be very well accepted, but apparently the retail management skills required to start and keep it viable are part of a dying market concept.

  2. I do love a beautiful cookbook and am known to actually read them rather than Use them-I have been caught doing even That Too-on occasion. pgt

  3. I adore Lee Bailey and I am surprised to think we have never featured him on our cookbook site! You have inspired me to make amends. Good Parties is a favorite.

  4. LOVED all of Lee Bailey's books and had them all. Just the stories he told and the pictures were enough for me!

  5. I have cooked from his books for years and never did anything turn out to be less than divine!! It is a lot to say for a cookbook. I just found a note that I had made "In A Tree-Shaded Apartment" meal for my sisters birthday in 1985!

  6. I have all of his books. I purchased them at an antiquarian bookstore on Cape Cod, and I remember the owner saying to me, "This isn't what you normally go for," (I bought the entire set that day.) After that comment I thought, "How little you know me."

    Recently, Town and Country did an interview with Ina Garten and Nora Ephron, and they were both waxing nostalgic for Mr. Bailey. Now that you've reminded me, I think I'll pull a book from the shelf and put together one of his picnics.

  7. Anonymous12:24 PM

    Living here in Melboune I first discovered Lee Bailey in the late 1970's. I just love his books. His recipes are always wonderful. I have cooked from all his books for years. I especially love his writings, speaking about his Aunts and the women and family traditions in his life.