Atlanta restaurant Lazy Betty, a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner, is making its dining experience more inclusive and comfortable for those with sensory processing needs, such as people with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder. The restaurant’s team has been working toward this goal with nonprofit KultureCity, which specializes in helping businesses create sensory-inclusive environments.
"We're wanting to do this to better the team and better the restaurant," Lazy Betty beverage director Carl Van Tyle Gilbert told Wine Spectator via email. "We want to provide our experience to people who have special needs and the parents of children with special needs who typically can't go out to dinner. It's really important to me to create a welcoming environment for everyone."
KultureCity has been training Lazy Betty’s staff on the behavior and awareness necessary to help make people with sensory needs feel more comfortable. The restaurant will also provide guests with "sensory bags" containing items such as headphones and "fidgets" that can help lessen sensory overload. This might make Lazy Betty the world’s first sensory-inclusive fine-dining restaurant, according to KultureCity’s team, and puts it within a large, growing movement. KultureCity has worked with more than 550 locations, including other more casual restaurants, to create welcoming settings for those with sensory processing disorders, which may affect at least one in 20 people, according to the Star Institute for Sensory Processing.
Lazy Betty partner and culinary director Ron Hsu said that the restaurant was introduced to the nonprofit through KultureCity board member and former NBA player Dominique Wilkins, a frequent guest at Lazy Betty. “The work [KultureCity does] is life-saving,” said Hsu, “and they’re huge supporters of ours so we want to support them as well.”
To raise funds for KultureCity, Lazy Betty is also hosting a special dinner on April 6 that will reunite several alumni of chef Eric Ripert’s Grand Award–winning restaurant Le Bernardin in New York, where Hsu and Lazy Betty partner Aaron Phillips first worked together. Hsu and Phillips have invited chefs Jennifer Carroll, Adrienne Cheatham, Robert Sisca, Monica Glass and Kevin Adey to cook one course each. The dinner is priced at $275 per guest, with an additional $100 for drink pairings; guests will also receive a cookbook written by either Cheatham or Ripert. (Reservations are now open through Resy.com.)
While the menu has not been finalized, the Lazy Betty team will be offering its tuna roll with chive crème fraîche and citrus vierge sauce. The dinner’s wines will highlight several regions, grapes and styles, focusing on bottles made by woman- and family-owned producers.
Lazy Betty will also be holding an online auction that evening, which will feature a range of lots, from rare wines to private dinners to Atlanta Hawks tickets. A portion of proceeds from the dinner and auction will be donated to KultureCity; the restaurant’s team aims to raise $10,000 for the nonprofit.
“The fine dining experience should be for all,” said Wilkins in a statement, “and it’s truly amazing that Lazy Betty not only gets that, but is putting it into action."—Collin Dreizen
Since Feb. 24, Ukraine has endured a war with Russia and an ensuing humanitarian crisis. To help the country, Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner City Winery New York is holding a March 10 benefit concert at its Main Stage venue, hosted by American band Gogol Bordello, which is led by Ukraine-born musician and actor Eugene Hütz.
City Winery is donating all proceeds from the event to Come Back Alive, a non-governmental organization supporting the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The organization, which assists about 100 units, reports having raised $45 million since its start in 2014 to support defensive initiatives—including supplies such as reconnaissance drones and laptops and training for troops, medical workers and analysts, along with rehabilitation for veterans.
Though the live concert is sold out, City Winery is offering a livestream and will also be donating the proceeds from a limited-edition wine made for the event, available for purchase at the concert and online. Along with Gogol Bordello, rock icon Patti Smith, The Magnetic Fields founder Stephin Merritt, Matisyahu, Suzanne Vega and several other musicians also are scheduled to appear.
“Please help us to win this battle, help us to end this catastrophe immediately and bring the intruder to justice,” said Hütz in a statement. “Please stand with Ukraine in the battle for its democracy and freedom.”—C.D.
Kyle and Katina Connaughton of SingleThread Farms are no strangers to partnering with wineries for special dinners, both at its Healdsburg, Calif., restaurant and off-site locations. The Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner announced this morning that it will be collaborating with Silver Oak for a limited eight-night dinner series at the winery’s Alexander Valley estate.
“For us, this is a rare opportunity to expand beyond our own soil and take a deeper look at the terroir and biodiversity of Sonoma County,” said Kyle Connaughton. “The chance to welcome them in our home, share perspectives and push our team’s imaginations is a once-in-a-lifetime guest experience,” added Silver Oak CEO and proprietor David Duncan.
The dinner series developed, unfortunately, as a result of the restaurant needing to close for repairs after a small fire in its kitchen exhaust system on Feb. 18.
“I’ll never forget the Rudd family showing up with sandwiches after the kitchen fire at our Oakville winery in 2006,” recalled Duncan, now with an opportunity to pay it forward and highlight the Connaughton’s tireless efforts feeding the Sonoma community during the early part of the pandemic.
The Duncan family will open its winery to SingleThread and food and wine lovers for a dining experience that links both institutions' locavore ethos and commitment to sustainable and regenerative practices. Reservations will be released through Tock on Friday, Mar. 11, at 9 a.m. PT for the seven-course wine and food pairing dinners ($725) which will feature special bottles from the Duncan family of wineries, including Silver Oak, Twomey and Timeless.—Aaron Romano