Events — 18 September 2015
Sip For The Sea, a Feast for All Senses at the Central Park Zoo

Amid the stunning backdrop of the sun setting over the animals on display at the Central Park Zoo, the annual benefit to support, rebuild and transform the New York Aquarium welcomed a few hundred well-dressed guests and more than twenty different city chefs and vendors to the picturesque outdoor setting. 2015’s “Sip For The Sea” would again serve to support the continued upkeep and overhauling of the iconic New York institution, as the sparkling new construction will serve to house a state-of-the-art facility for our region in perpetuity. Fortunately, with the support of local philanthropists- and their unrequited love of delicious fare- Wednesday evening’s affair was once again as tasteful and as unique as any similarly run event that emanated in Manhattan all summer long.

Grabbing our commemorative wine glasses as we filed into the partitioned Zoo space, we were welcomed by the lively performance of a six piece band, setting the stage with some festive music as the evening would unfold. Instantaneously, we grabbed a flight of oysters courtesy of the folks at Brooklyn Oyster Party, who offered up three different east coast styles along with a variety of accompaniments from lemon wedges to mignonette to complement each brine-filled slurp. Though each table’s dish was carefully paired with a different wine, the nicely sweet and crisp Jekel Vineyards 2014 Riesling was especially refreshing given the warm weather evening- and the array of seafood being offered around the space.

After helping ourselves to some delicious “Maine Style Shrimp Rolls” from Luke’s Lobster, we quickly moved back toward the entrance where we joined many of the other patrons in taking in a brief performance by the Zoo’s collection of sea lions. With their seal-like features, the sea lions were already drawing a fair amount of attention just swimming around their pen and diving in and out of the water to the flashing cameras of the growing crowd, watching the animals catch Frisbee throws was one of the evening’s most memorable moments. And speaking of memorable, the collection of dishes being served during the course of the evening happened to be just that.

Fresh seafood seemed to be the most popular course of action for many of the participating chefs as Sushisamba’s Pedro Duarte (“Yellowtail Tiradtio with Jalapeno and Lemongrass”), The Wayfarer’s Chris Shea (“Yellow Pepper Marinated Fluke”) and Casa Mono’s Anthony Sasso (“Calamare with Tomato and Squash Blossom Vinaigrette”) were some of our initial favorites. Chef John Stevenson of Tavern on the Green and his staff served up an outstanding “Coquille St. Jacques,” a piping hot pan seared scallop over a brown butter infused cauliflower puree where the balance of flavors and temperatures was exceptional. The pairing with Jekel’s 2012 Pinot Noir worked surprisingly well with the each tender scallop as each rich, medium-bodied pour went down silky and smooth. Monument Lane Chef Camille Rodriquez prepared a delectable “Fluke Crudo” where the inventive pairing of pickled blueberries and charred jalapenos enhanced each thin slice of chilled fish wonderfully.

Those restaurants that veered away from using sustainable sea fare would focus on heartier dishes like Davio’s’ always phenomenal “Hand-Rolled Potato Gnocchi” and Almond’s “Moroccan Style Lamb Meat Balls,” which paired brilliantly with Bonterra’s 2013 “Cabernet Sauvignon.” The evening’s standout dish though came courtesy of Chef Andrea Montobbio of Asellina whose “Openfaced Meatball Sliders” laid a crispy slice of cured guanciale atop the sauce covered meaty bite. Somehow we managed to down the sizable sample in just one mouthful, but the combination of ingredients here seemingly exploded with each subsequent bite- savory and flavorful.

Live music, animal performances and some delicious food drew hundreds of guests to the Zoo itself, but the evening was not without its informative moments, namely the New York Aquarium’s need for funding and equally important, the importance of utilizing sustainable seafood around the City. Each of the seafood dishes served during the course of Wednesday evening’s classy affair were caught sustainably, proving it possible to source fish for restaurant use while also ensuring the health of many threatened species. The setting, the food and the cause all conspired to produce another memorable evening for the fortunate few hundred downing delicious dishes and swirling some balanced wines as day turned to dusk inside of the Central Park Zoo.

- Dave Gendelson


Food Highlights from Sip For The Sea 2015

Union Square Events: “Sea Urchin Custard with Corn and Smoked Caviar


Atlantic Grill Lincoln Center: “Marinated Faroe Island Salmon Crudo


Sirio Ristorante: “Crostino di Polenta”


Crave.It: “Frollanera with White Chocolate, Pistachio Ganache and Caramelized Nut”


Almond: “Moroccan Style Lamb Meat Balls”


Casa Mono: “Calamare with Tomato and Squash Blossom Vinaigrette”


Monument Lane: “Fluke Crudo with Charred Jalapeno Peppers & Pickled Blueberries”


Hundred Acres: “Pickled Carolina Shrimp”


Davio’s Manhattan: “Hand-Rolled Potato Gnocchi”


Sushisamba: “Yellowtail Tiradito with Jalapeno and Lemongrass”


Thalassa: “Lavraki Tartare – Caviar Mousse in a Filo Cone”


Brooklyn Oyster Party: “Assorted Oysters”

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Luke’s Lobster: “Mini Shrimp Rolls”


The Wayfarer: “Yellow Pepper Marinated Fluke”


Hudson Market Bistro at Sheraton NYC: “Scallop Crudo”


Robicelli’s Bakery: “Zucchini Squares” & “Pecan Blondies”

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Asellina: “Openfaced Meatball Sliders”


Ocean Grill: “Florida Red Snapper Ceviche”


Tavern on the Green: “Coquille St. Jacques – Pan Seared Scallop, Cauliflower Puree, Brown Butter”


Loveletter Cakeshop

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Butterfly Bakeshop

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