- - Monday, May 7, 2012

A teacup and saucer used only once by pop diva Lady Gaga has sold for more than $75,000 at auction, the sale’s organizer said Monday.

There were more than 1,300 bids for the teacup in the weeklong charity auction, according to Yahoo! Japan, which managed the event.

Payment was required before the winning bid could be confirmed, AFP said.

The cup was used by Lady Gaga at a news conference in Tokyo three months after the massive March 2011 tsunami swamped a large stretch of coastline.

Lady Gaga told reporters at the time that she would auction the cup, marked with her lipstick and bearing the Japanese message “We pray for Japan” along with the star’s autograph.

All the money raised will be used to help young Japanese artists who want to study in the United States.

The teacup was one of a number of items being sold to raise money for those affected by Japan’s worst post-war calamity, and was the second-most expensive.

The top-priced item was a Kawai crystal piano used by Yoshiki of rock band Japan X, which went for more than $137,000, Yahoo! Japan said.

The natural disaster killed some 19,000 people on Japan’s northeast coast and sparked the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, leading to a plunge in visitors to the country.

Lady Gaga visited Japan twice after the disaster and called on tourists from around the world to follow suit.

The songstress is due back in Japan this week as part of an Asian tour.

James Beard Foundation names cookbook of the year

Six volumes, 2,438 pages, 46 pounds and $625 added up to two hefty awards Friday for Nathan Myhrvold’s cookbook, “Modernist Cuisine.”

The massive and much-lauded tome on the science of food and cooking by the former chief technology officer of Microsoft Corp. was named Cookbook of the Year by the James Beard Foundation, a nod to the growing influence over food culture being wielded by the so-called molecular gastronomy movement.

“Modernist Cuisine” also took home a second Beard award in the category of cooking from a professional point of view.

When it was released early last year, Mr. Myhrvold’s work left many in the food world awestruck at both its breadth and eagerness to question and test many of the assumptions under which both home and professional kitchens operate, from the shelf life of lettuce to the best grilling techniques.

Some critics panned it for catering to a tiny subset of chefs fascinated by an often laboriously deconstructive approach to food, using gels, foams and fancy laboratory equipment the likes of which few cooks — or even restaurant pros — ever will encounter.

But Mr. Myhrvold has defended his book — which has more than 1,500 recipes and thousands of rich, sometimes stunning photographs — saying it helps readers, even those who have no interest in modernist-style cooking, to understand what is happening behind the scenes when they are cooking.

The foundation’s awards honor those who follow in the footsteps of Beard, considered the dean of American cooking when he died in 1985. The ceremony was held in New York, where the Beard Foundation is based. Friday’s ceremony honored winners in media and publishing; a separate ceremony was to be held Monday for chefs and restaurants.

Novelist and Gourmet magazine writer Laurie Colwin’s “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking,” were added to the foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame on Friday. She died in 1992.

Food Network personality Ted Allen took home two Beard awards, one in the studio television show category for his show “Chopped,” the other for top food media personality.

Gabriel Hamilton, chef/owner of New York’s Prune restaurant, won the writing and literature award for her acerbically funny memoir, “Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef,” while longtime food writer Paula Wolfert won the international category for her cookbook, “The Food of Morocco.”

New media also were represented at the ceremony. National Public Radio’s the Salt food blog (npr.org/blogs/thesalt ) won for group food blog, while Elissa Altman’s Poor Man’s Feast (poormansfeast.com) took the award for individual food blog.

Maestro Muti to conduct for pope in Vatican

Maestro Riccardo Muti will conduct a concert in the Vatican in honor of Pope Benedict XVI.

Mr. Muti will lead Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera in selections from Vivaldi and Verdi in Friday’s concert, which is being offered to the pope by Italy’s president in honor of the seventh anniversary of his election to the pontificate, according to a statement on Muti’s website.

La Scala opera house announced last week that Daniel Barenboim will conduct Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony when the pope visits Milan on June 1.

Benedict is a classical music aficionado and plays the piano.

It’s not the first time Mr. Muti will conduct for a pope: He conducted selections of Verdi in 1983 when Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to attend a performance at La Scala.

Mr. Muti left La Scala in 2005 amid bitter controversy over artistic and programming differences and currently is music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Compiled from Web and wire reports