Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Dutch: Hurricane Sandy Relief Dinner

Living in South Florida, we are no strangers to hurricanes.  So, when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast leaving millions in New York and New Jersey without power, it hit home.  Outside of residents, many businesses were affected and some totally destroyed.  As the storm exited and slow steps to recovery began, many chefs from the tri-state area and beyond took to Twitter to encourage diners to eat at their local establishments to help by supporting the businesses and the employees who count on those paychecks.

When my Cobaya co-conspirator, Frodnesor of Food For Thought, saw that Cobaya alumni Chef Andrew Carmellini (The Dutch NYC, The Dutch Miami, Locanda Verde, The Sausage Boss) had to cancel a dinner event, he offered our assistance in any way to put together a dinner to help raise funds for recovery efforts.  Chef Carmellini loved the idea and suggested we get local chefs onboard too.  About 72 hours and 384 emails later, we had all but dotted the I's and crossed the T's on a great plan to raise money for NYC Food Flood, an effort to aid Sandy victims started by Carmellini and fellow chefs Marco Canora, Seamus Mullen, and George Mendes.  An insane lineup of badass local chefs and generous auction prizes assembled quickly.  It was a hurricane of awesomeness in and of itself.

The all-star lineup of chefs who graciously donated their time, money, and talent in the kitchen were none other than Chef Aaron Brooks (Edge Steak & Bar), Chef Michelle Bernstein (Michy's), Chef Brad Kilgore (Route 9, Exit 1), Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog (gastroPod, Freehand), Chef Andrew Carmellini, Chef Conor Hanlon, & Chef Josh Gripper (The Dutch), Chef Richard Gras & Chef Antonio Bachour (J&G Grill), and also Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods had his gang from his food truck, AZ Canteen, park on the property to welcome guests wtih a couple bites.  What do all these chefs have in common besides rallying to support our fellow Americans affected by Hurricane Sandy?  Yup, you guessed it.  They are all Cobaya alumni!

In addition to these chefs donating their time they also donated gifts for the silent auction to raise additional dollars for the charity.  Other area chefs and businesses like Chef Michael Schwartz (Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Harry's Pizzeria, Cypress Room *coming soon*), Bliss Spa, The W Hotel South Beach, South Beach Food & Wine Festival, The Bazaar, neMesis Urban Bistro, Miami Wine & Food Festival, Wolfe's Wine Shoppe, and Bourbon Steak also donated items to be auctioned off in support.  Oh, and we can't forget the fantastic welcoming cocktails provided by Bar Lab and The Dutch's own Rob Ferrara.

Perhaps the coolest part of the event for me though was my parents' spur-of-the-moment decision to fly down from Boston to take part in it.  It was awesome to get to share this great experience with them.

Unfortunately, I didn't get more than a couple of not-so-great pictures of the event and the dishes served.  I went for pure enjoyment.  To see more pictures of the dishes served, check out this link, courtesy of Food for Thought.  Anyways, here's how it all went down...

Guests arrived and were treated to an Andouille & Seafood Gumbo as well as a mini Cabrito Burger from AZ Canteen.  The gumbo was served up hot and hearty with nice flavor and a bit of heat.  My folks and I initially decided to pass on the burger for fear of filling up too quickly.  After all, there were passed canapes and then another 7 courses on the way.  However, there was only so many times that burger could float by without us giving into temptation.  It was well worth it.  The goat burger was juicy and flavorful which made me want another but I held tough.

The night started with cocktails in the grove
From the truck we were escorted to the back of The W property and into the grove area where the silent auction was set up along with the Bar Lab & Rob Ferraro cocktail bar where I had a fantastic Smokey Old Fashioned.  It was made with bacon-infused Knob Creek Rye mixed with a touch of maple syrup and BBQ as well as Angostura bitters.  I'm real picky about my Old Fashioneds but this one nailed it.  Perfect balance of the spicy liquor and sweetness of the syrup.  Chef Aaron Brooks' canapes were passed around and were my favorite bites of the night.  Each one was a huge home run!  Trout caviar sat on top of potatoes with a little squeeze tube of horseradish stuck in their sides to squirt as you popped the bite in your mouth.  Mini foie gras hot dogs with plum chutney exploded with flavor.  Lamb ribs slathered with a Thai BBQ sauce were tender as hell and came loose from the bone without much effort.  A bite of hamachi with pickled aloe vera and a bit of heat from some serrano chile was refreshing and fiery at the same time.  We were off to an awesome start!

After making a few initial bids we were seated outside on the terrace, 55+ diners enjoying the best of Miami weather.  Chef Michelle Bernstein was up first with a tuna crudo on top of burrata and a crostini.  Fresh and clean.  Then came Chef Brad Kilgore's lamb tartare profiteroles, the lamb being chopped nicely to be mixed with a creamy almond anglaise and some dill that added a fresh flavor that I loved.  Dad and I also loved Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog's smoked mussels that were served with a trio of baby carrots with different textures and a carrot emulsion.  I loved the way the smoky and briny mussels played with the earthiness of the carrots.

Agnolotti with truffle
Chef Andrew Carmellini and Chef Conor Hanlon were up next with a masterful agnolotti dish.  The pasta was pillowy soft and packed with bolognese bianco and black truffle and then topped with more shaved truffle.  The beauty was that the truffle was subtle in flavor and added to the richness of the bolognese.  Delicious!  Chef Richard Gras originally planned for roast squab but adapted on the fly to a lamb belly dish served with parsnip puree that ended up being a great dish.

A cheese course consisting of a blue cheese macaroon got us ready for dessert.  I'll put my usual disclaimer here: I am not a dessert guy.  I don't have much of a sweet tooth.  However, the dueling dessert pairing by Chef Antonio Bachour and Chef Josh Gripper was a beaut!  Chef Bachour's side of the plate held a log of flexible caramel-chocolate along with some compressed apple, toasted caramel brioche, a nutty almost peanut buttery powder, some lavender petals, and caramel ice cream.  Chef Gripper's side of the plate showcased a lemon-lime coconut cake amongst compressed pineapple, lemon curd, and caramel-lime crema.  I really enjoyed the way the richness of Chef Bachour's dish was balanced by the acidity of Chef Gripper's dish.  It made for a delicious pair.

Wow, what a night!  It is incredibly humbling to be a part of Cobaya and be able to assist with an event like this that raises funds for those who are in need after a storm like Sandy.  The way the chefs here rallied together was just awesome.  Even more humbling was the support of our Guinea Pigs who pledged their support through buying tickets to the event and bidding on the many items up for auction.  At the end of the day, we were able to raise about $17,500 for NYC Food Flood!  Here's a HUGE thank you to Chef Carmellini and all of the chefs and donors who took part of the dinner and all of the people who supported this initiative thru ticket purchases and the silent auction.  Another GIGANTIC thank you to Elli Jafari, Katya Segovia, Jacque Burke, Patricia Jones, and all of the other staff at The Dutch who made an awesome event look easy to pull off AND who we learned donated their time for the night.

Learn more about NYC Food Flood here.

Here is a list of charities involved if you would like to assist with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.


Rick said...

Your Food for Thought link goes to the wrong place.

SteveBM said...

Thanks, Rick. Fixed.

Evelyn Flores said...

it was terrible and horrible fact in history of America, Disaster insurance claims to rescue homeowners from hurricane "Sandy"