Blog: An Evening of Fine Food
Hundreds of philanthropic supporters braved a particularly wintry January evening on Tuesday night and headed to Corona Queens‘ ballroom Terrace on the Park, an elevated space that provides picturesque views of the surrounding borough from its windows and remains untouched by the hands of time on the inside. The purpose was the return of the “Evening of Fine Food,” a perpetually spectacular food tasting event replete with dozens of local restaurants to benefit Queens Centers for Progress (QCP). And once again, the ‘Evening’ was nothing short of a smashing success.
A brief refresher on the focus of QCP first- an organization who for more than six decades have been providing services that promote increased autonomy for individuals afflicted by developmental disabilities. Running the gamut from job training and housing coordination to education, support and advocacy, QCP has been among the most successful such organizations in making real strides in our community with a current staff of more than 600 employees and a government funded budget of over $36 million. The annual “Evening of Fine Food” not only raises funds and awareness for QCP, but additionally it brings together folks from local business for an unparalleled opportunity to network and to hob nob under one roof, all while enjoying some eats courtesy of many nearby restaurants.
Although many of the reasonably priced tickets were likely sold to guests anticipating an evening of food sampling, the event would also honor two local notable representatives from the business world as the QCP ‘Chefs of the Year.’ Longtime advisor and advocate Joseph Sciame, Vice President of St. John’s University and the Honorable Claire Shulman, former Queens Borough President were selected as this year’s honorees, receiving an appropriate frying pan engraved with the award acknowledgement. Each took a turn thanking the crowd at the podium and in fact, January 28th was officially named ‘Claire Shulman Day‘ in Queens in perpetuity- a genuine honor bestowed upon an active city participant for her decades of service to the community.
With the program portion of the evening set to kickoff about half-way through the event, it was time for us to sample the “Evening of Fine Food” that stood in front of us. Inside the ballroom, the place was a true spectacle with a bevy of silent auction item lots surrounding the many tables for guests to sit and enjoy some of Queens’ finest cuisine, which seemingly encompassed all styles of food from a Chinese buffet to a kosher delicatessen. We began with Rego Park seafood staple London Lennies, who has been serving up dishes for more than fifty years. Their tasty “Fish Tacos” enveloped fresh filets of mahi mahi, lettuce, pickled onion, and guacamole inside of a warm flour tortilla. It took about three bites and three seconds for us to polish off the delicious taco. Just steps away, Bayside’s Maribella Restaurant was serving up equally as savory authentic Spanish dishes like “Arroz con Pollo” and seafood ensconced in their garlicky green sauce.
Between helpings on our plates, we downed some bottles from Brooklyn Brewery, the evening’s sole suds purveyor. The Williamsburg based outfit brought with them special bottles of ‘Bionda‘ and ‘Bruna,’ brewed via partnership in Italy and imported back home for a premium style of bottling. Hurricane Sandy may have ravaged Howard Beach, but Saffron Restaurant and Tapas Bar was here in full force serving up a creamy orange “Tomato Soup,” delectable “Cuban Sliders” and the aptly titled “Shrimp Stuffed with Stuffing“- each of which ranked among our favorites of the entire evening. We also really enjoyed the return of Bourbon Street whose “Pulled Pork” and “Jambalaya” (plus an outrageous corn bread prepared with beer and bacon hunks) alongside Tavern 18′s “Crab Cake Sliders” were both memorable amid an evening of great eats. Other highlights included Luigi’s Restaurant’s “Orechiette and Broccoli Rabe,” Deluge Restaurant‘s inspired “Shrimp with Mango Salsa” and Trattoria Neo‘s delicious “Veal” and “Potato Gnocci.” But our palates danced at the site of Buddy’s Kosher Deli whose halved sandwiches of “Pastrami” and “Corned Beef” joined the “Mini Pigs in a Blanket” as the stand out dishes based solely on flavor alone.
Somehow, we managed to grab some desserts courtesy of Nutty & Sweet, fruits from Edible Arrangements, and a quick cup of coffee from Caffe Sacco, all of which firmly put a cherry on top of an evening of outright indulgence. Candidly, controlling out appetites in front of the array of food in front of us proved even more challenging than selecting which restaurants to sample. Although we failed to win any of our attempts at the silent auction items during the course of the evening, the fact that the proceeds resulting from the higher bids went to as highly regarded a cause in New York City as QCP was enough for us to leave Terrace on the Park with our heads held high…despite the anchor in our stomachs.