On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending City Harvest‘s 18th annual Bid Against Hunger, an auction event to raise money for its programs and to feed the many New Yorkers who go hungry each day. Many acclaimed chefs donated their time and culinary talents to feeding the folks who attended, and several of them also donated incredible lots on which the event’s attendees could bid. This was the first time I’ve been at this gathering, and it was awe-inspiring to see the level of support that this organization has not just in the chef community but also from the people who put their hands in their pockets to help out even more by purchasing some amazing items and experiences.
Aside from enjoying terrific small plates put together by New York City’s notable chefs, the other goal of the evening was raising funds. Auctioneer Nicholas D. Lowry deftly guided the proceedings, keeping the bidding moving smoothly and encouraging everyone to dig a little bit deeper into his/her pockets by giving the numbers on how many more hungry NYC-ers could be fed by adding just a few more dollars to their donations. With prizes like A Taste of Italy hosted by Michael White, featuring a four-course dinner for 12 people cooked in your home, it was difficult for me not to get caught up in the excitement of the auction, too.
The highest bid of the evening went for an auction package that I think more than a few of my friends and I would readily enjoy, although I don’t know if we could have scraped together the funds to buy it. The last live auction item of the event was a private wine class for 15 with the Chief Sommelier of Le Bernardin, Aldo Sohm, including his guidance in building one’s own personal wine collection, and then a kitchen tour of the restaurant along with a private dinner for two with Chef Eric Ripert. It’s no surprise that this was a highly sought-after experience, which, in the end, went for $50,000, plenty to help feed many hungry souls. Aside from the live and the silent auctions, the other main feature of this event was the food.
Slideshow of the evening’s edibles (click “Show Info” in fullscreen view for details)
With more than 70 chefs participating, this was really one of the premier tastings that I’ve been to in the city. As you can see, scrolling through the slideshow, there were plenty of dishes to sample, highlighting the best of New York’s restaurants as well as showcasing the wide array of cuisines that we get to enjoy in the city. Among the fantastic-tasting items that I ate were the luscious Smoked Salmon & Caviar Cake from Caviarteria, the smokey-sweet Duck Pastrami plate from New Leaf Restaurant & Bar (this was a top-pick by several people), and I could have eaten the whole hotel pan full of the rich, creamy, heartwarming Polenta with Short Ribs and Gremolata by L’Apicio. For dessert, I noshed on the always-incredible Macarons by François Payard (so sorry to miss his masterclass during New York City Wine & Food Festival), a scoop of refreshing Allspice Gelato by Il Laboratorio del Gelato, and my new favorite sweet the Pear Palatschinken with Caramel Sauce by Wallsé.
I’ve worked a few events where at the end of the evening, unused food is gathered up to donate to City Harvest, and I feel as though many organizations have them in mind when wrapping up parties, so that food is not wasted and that as much as can be used is collected to be re-distributed insofar as is possible. It was really interesting to see how a large fundraising event like this one takes place and how the culinary community in the city chips in to lend its talents to feeding those who need assistance the most. I left the evening feeling fuller inside not just from all of the amazing dishes that I ate, but also from the feeling that there is a lot of good happening to feed others around us as well.
Addendum: The Live Auction raised a total of $196,000, which will enable City Harvest to feed 2,000 New Yorkers for a year. The Silent Auction brought in another $60,000. Their next fundraising event will be the annual “An Evening of Practical Magic,” to be held in April 2013.
Thank you very much to Rubenstein Public Relations for arranging for me to have a press pass to attend this event.