Blog: Just Food's Let Us Eat Local 2012
It was a supremely classy affair on Wednesday night. The posh Altman Building in Chelsea was the site for the 5th annual Let Us Eat Local food tasting festival featuring a collection of some of Manhattan’s most notable head chefs representing their restaurants. Presented by Just Food, a local nonprofit organization that links communities with resources for locally grown ingredients, the evening would be a celebration of just that- New Yorkers utilizing locally sourced produce to serve hundreds of attendees. With the likes of Gramercy Tavern, The Darby, Dell’anima, and The Meatball Shop participating and serving made to order, all you care to eat samples, plus a festive pie contest, live music, and an online auction to boot, Let Us Eat Local resembled more of a high-end party than an outright fundraiser.
The two floor space of the Altman Building was transformed into a festive food court, with the pleasant jazz inspired tunes of the Chris Cuzme Quartet welcoming in the well dressed attendees, each of whom grabbed an empty wine glass at the registration table. Despite the lavish space being outfitted with some forty plus restaurants and artisanal purveyors, and although space could at times get crowded, lines were kept minimal and the room always managed to flow well enough for patrons to find sufficient space to nosh. Wasting little time, we decisively hit the brewery and winery tables to effectively wet our whistle before being overwhelmed by the different dishes. Recognizing some familiar vineyards from the Finger Lakes, we sipped on some tasty Rieslings courtesy of Hermann J Wiemer and Fox Run before switching over to samples from local breweries Kelso, Brooklyn Brewery, and Sixpoint.
Let Us Eat Local was selected as one of LocalBozo.com’s ‘Where You Need to Be’ October events, which we revealed shortly before the month commenced. And if you picked up a ticket to support the noteworthy benefits provided by Just Food, we’d give you a firm pat between the shoulder blades. But we wouldn’t fault you for picking up a ticket solely after perusing the who’s who of notable restaurants that lined up to participate in the evening. Back Forty & Back Forty West’s Mike Laarhoven unleashed an excellent “Beer and Vermont Leyden Cheese Sausage” on the crowd, served on house made sauerkraut on a wooden cutting board, while Chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern brought out a small taste of “Cheese Pumpkin and Black Garlic” on a bite sized cracker. BLT Bar & Grill’s “Mangalitsa Pork Sausage” was delightfully placed above a bed of red quinoa, celery root, and hints of grape mustard, while Perry St’s Cedric Vongerichten’s “House Made Burrata” made us swoon with hints of fig jam and a crusted sourdough bread.
No surprise to us, but our favorite samples of the night belonged to the folks at The Meatball Shop, who brought out a “Mini Mediterranean Lamb Meatball” topped with a walnut pesto sauce over skordalia, a thick Greek puree, Esca chef David Pasternack’s “Crudo del Mercato,” an insanely delicious fresh slice of fish smothered in olive oil on a bite sized cracker, and the “Fall Corn Flan” courtesy of Mary Cleaver from The Cleaver Co. and The Green Table. Honorable mention to our buds at Jimmy’s No. 43 (Pumpkin and Chorizo Shepard’s Pie) and Chef Jacques Gautier from Brooklyn’s “Palo Santo” (Tacos Surtidos), always active participants at fun, charitable food events of this ilk. Unfortunately with all the action going on upstairs in the main hall, we failed to leave sufficient room for dessert, despite having strolled the space of the pie contest emanating downstairs. First Prize Pies (clever name) was announced as the Judge’s Favorite with a “Candy Apple Pie” taking home the evening’s top billing.
Despite pulling off an incredibly successful event of this caliber, Just Food can always use more support from New Yorkers with big hearts and open minds. Whether attending one of their events, volunteering to help out, or simply making a donation toward one of the organization’s established programs, you can make a big difference simply by insuring that local agricultural producers have the support that they need to continue to generate healthy food systems. And whether you’re sipping a glass of locally prepared Chardonnay or taking a bite of a locally sourced heirloom tomato salad, you continue to make an impact in your surrounding community.
- Jane Van Arsdale