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Renovated guest room at Cornell Club

One of the club's 48 recently renovated guest rooms. Photo: Cornell Club-NYC.

Programming, hospitality of Cornell Club offer 'oasis' in New York

"I really love mac and cheese from scratch," said Mollie Katzen, author of "The Moosewood Cookbook," during a September discussion at the Cornell Club in New York City.

To Katzen, a pioneer in vegetarian cooking who spent part of her undergraduate career at Cornell, macaroni and cheese involves more than just a block of cheddar.

Cornell Club-New York City exterior

The Cornell Club-New York City, located at 6 E. 44th St. in Manhattan. See larger image

"Instead of macaroni with a little vegetable, it's a lot of vegetables blended with the mac and cheese," Katzen said, describing the garlic and onion-seasoned spinach and mushrooms that she folds into a white cheddar beer sauce.

This method of transforming a traditionally not-so-healthy food with a generous dose of vegetables, a method Katzen calls a "flip," occurs frequently in her new book "The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation."

The discussion with Katzen, co-hosted by the Cornell Club and Hudson Union Society, is just one of many events that pepper the calendar of the Cornell Club.

From a discussion with Fredrik Logevall, a 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner and Cornell's vice provost for international affairs, to a pig roast with Ian Knauer, former editor of Gourmet magazine, event programming at the Cornell Club echoes the diversity of Ezra Cornell's "any person ... any study" philosophy.

"We have such a broad range of interests and capabilities; it's just staggering," said Matthew Palumbo '83, the speakers' committee co-chair, of his fellow alumni. When planning programs for the club, Palumbo draws on that diversity, attracting alumni like Ryan Silbert '02, a 2011 Academy Award winner for his film "God of Love," or Gordon G. Chang '73, Law '76, an Asian affairs expert.

Whether they are guest chef dinners, lectures or panel discussions, events offer an opportunity for the club's 6,300 members to connect.

Mollie Katzen at Cornell Club event

Mollie Katzen, right, at a September discussion at the Cornell Club-New York City. Photo: Cornell Club-NYC. See larger image

"We have lots of events where members will sign up to attend solo," said Kerry Strassel, director of marketing, who has been working at the club for 12 years, "because they're confident when they get there they're going to meet someone and make a friend, that they'll have a connection and company for the night."

Palumbo, who regularly makes the 2.5-hour trek from Connecticut to New York, said the Cornell Club offers welcome respite. "It's a tremendous oasis for me in Manhattan," he said.

The club recently completed a major renovation of its 48 guest rooms, which were fitted with granite-lined bathrooms and new furniture, carpet, wallpaper, drapes and moldings. It is the third renovation since the club was established in its current location in 1989, but the most comprehensive.

It is the programming and hospitality, however, more than the rooms or facilities, that define the club, according to Tom Inglis '70, general manager and chief operating officer, who has been with the Cornell Club for 22 years. "I really believe we have the best staff in any club," Inglis said.

Craig Lasnier, assistant manager for 21 years, expressed the same thought: "What I'm most proud of is the culture we've created at the club," he said. "It's a culture of service. It's very sincere and people pick up on that right away."

Claire Lambrecht '06 is a freelance journalist based in New York City.


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