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City Harvest Bid Against Hunger 2013

City Harvest TruckA City Harvest food collection truck

Last week, I attended one of New York’s premier fundraising events, City Harvest‘s “Bid Against Hunger,” a night where the culinary community comes together to raise money to feed its city’s citizens.  Seventy chefs provided tastings of specially-made dishes, beverages flowed, and wallets and pocketbooks opened to generate funds that will have a wide-reaching impact on getting much-needed food to people who might otherwise go hungry.  The moneys raised through the live and silent auction will go towards supporting the organization’s programs throughout the year, initiatives that help support 400 community food programs and to provide resources to more than one million New Yorkers a year.

Cronuts Auction - Nicholas Lowry, Questlove, & Dominique AnselQuestlove and Dominique Ansel auction Cronuts

After the initial walk-around tastings portion of the evening, everyone gathered around for the live auction.  I haven’t jumped on the Cronut bandwagon as yet.  Truthfully, I’ve been avoiding this food fad.  After this event, however, I might have to become a fan.  First to take the stage were Questlove and Dominique Ansel with an extra-special, off-program, unique additional item for guests to bid on that evening.  One dozen, freshly-baked, hand-delivered Cronuts.  The winning bid?  $14,000.  That’s quite a few people being fed from just one box of sweet treats.

The Auction - Nicholas Lowry, Aldo Sohm & Eric RipertThe Auction – Nicholas Lowry, Aldo Sohm & Eric Ripert

Other prizes for the auction featured special dinners cooked by top NYC chefs, including the top-bid item “C’est Magnifique.”  This was also the highest-bid item during last year’s auction as well.  A wine class for 15 people hosted by Aldo Sohm and Jay McInerney plus dinner for two a Le Bernardin prepared by Chef Eric Ripert.  It’s the kind of one-off experience that makes me wish I’d saved all of my pennies from every job I had ever had so that I could also have the chance to compete for it.  The winning bid for that was $42,000, enough to keep many bellies from growling from hunger.

The Auction - Star Chefs package - Amanda Freitag & Marc MurphyThe Auction – Star Chefs package – Amanda Freitag & Marc Murphy

The other live auction items were no less splendid or spectacular either.  How would you like to take a private sushi-making class for four at Morimoto followed by dinner personally prepared by the chef himself?  Or maybe take a tour of Harlem with Chef Marcus Samuelsson with dinner at Ginny’s Supper Club aftwards?  Chopped Chefs Marc Murphy and Amanda Freitag also teamed up to offer a meal prepared together by them complete with special wine pairings selected by Landmarc’s Beverage Director David Lombardo.

Picholine - Gorgonzola Semi-freddo w Pear, Port-red Wine Gel, Walnut CrumbPicholine – Gorgonzola “Semi-freddo” with Pear, Port-red Wine Gell, Walnut Crumb

In addition to the auction lots, everyone was gathered this evening to enjoy the food, and there were some amazing dishes to sample.  When I arrived there, I bumped into Rhonda Kave of Roni-Sue’s Chocolates (who had opened up a new store on the Lower East Side just the week prior).  She advised me to start with dessert first, which I was more than happy to do.  One dramatic, stand-out dish was the Gorgonzola “Semi-freddo” with Pear, Port-red Wine Gel, and Walnut Crumb offered by Picholine.  The “semi-freddo” was made on-site using liquid nitrogen and mixed up to order (see the slideshow below for a step-by-step plating).  It was a bit like eating the crunchy Astronaut Ice Cream of our childhood, for those who remember that concoction with a funky, blue cheesy backnote, and made an interesting contrast to the fruit and sauce.

Landmarc - Creamy Grits with Charred Kale & Sweet Italian SausageLandmarc – Creamy Grits with Charred Kale & Sweet Italian Sausage

On the savory side, there was so much amazing food to taste that it is really hard for me to pick a favorite.  I am going to give a special nod, however, to the folks with whom I work on a daily basis and highlight the Grits with Charred Kale and Sweet Italian Sausage that the team at Landmarc put together.  By way of full disclosure, I work with the events group for this company, doing culinary production, so I had a kitchen-eye view of the evolution of this dish.  I even had a hand in chopping up the cooked kale and getting it packed and ready to go for the evening.  Truthfully, I was a little bit skeptical when I first heard about it, but after trying that first bite, all hesitation melted away.  The creamy grits worked perfectly with the smokiness of the kale and that sweet meatiness of the sausage.  My only complaint is that I wanted more parmesan to sprinkle on top of it as the nutty, salty addition of the cheese really brought it all to an even more delicious level.  I enjoyed this plate so much that I was hoping maybe we’d get the leftovers for family meal at work the next day, but I’ll have to settle for re-creating it at home.

To see more of the evening’s activities and lots of plates of wonderful food and refreshing beverages, click on the slideshow above.  It was truly a remarkable event with a special mission of feeding not just those of us in the room, but using the power of food to assist others in our community to be able to feed themselves.  For more information about City Harvest, please visit their website.

Buon appetito!

Thank you very much to Rubenstein Public Relations for arranging for me to have a press pass to attend this event.