Just Food, the organization that is partially responsible for bringing the farm vegetables to the food pantry I work at, threw their fourth annual local food gala, Let Us Eat Local last night. It was a tasting event featuring the food and drinks of New York City and nearby restaurants and companies. Proceeds from the event went to funding more of Just Food's amazing programs as well as to farms upstate that were damaged by Hurricane Irene. And, boy, it was swank.
As a current Just Food volunteer I was offered the opportunity to volunteer at LUEL, which meant that for two hours I cleared tables but for the rest of the night, was able to pretend I was a fancy foodie taking in the sights, smells, and tastes of restaurants that I am usually far too cheap to patronize. This flyer details some information about the event and lists participating companies and restaurants.
I've sort of talked down on local food in the past (Smorgasburg) but I appreciate Just Food's work immensely. Their programs fund sustainable farms, CSAs, and educate people about nutrition and food's impact on a wider, more global scale. They really understand the impact of what and how we eat. LUEL was not filled with meat sandwiches, cheese after cheese after cheese, and then more meat. There was admittedly some of that but I will tell you that I brought along a snack bar completely unnecessarily. It might have been partially due to the two samples of beer but I also felt completely at ease asking the cooks what was vegan and trusting their response. So, here's what I ate:
Fat Radish: Sauteed carrot with hijiki and crispy kale
Orwasher's: Spelt bread (1/2 whole wheat) with raisins and sunflower seeds
Red Jacket Orchards: Apple butter on Orwashers bread
Gramercy Tavern: Watermelon salad with roasted and pickled beets
Angelica's Kitchen: Nectarine and cucumber soup
Candle 79: Fall root vegetables with almond cheese and a balsamic reduction
Pure Food and Wine: Late summer succotash with corn pudding
Rick's Picks: Smoked okra aka "Smokra"
Dell'Anima: Tomato soup
I've had Sixpoint beer and Red Jacket juice before, as well as been to Angelica's and had Rick's Picks "Mean Beans," spicy pickled green beans, but everything else was so completely amazing. I think my favorite dish was the carrot with hijiki or the raw succotash and pudding! I'm very tempted to just go spend the money and enjoy Pure Food and Wine and, of course, Candle 79. Both may really happen soon. Needless to say, there was plenty for vegans to enjoy, and all served so professionally and with such class.
I felt really fancy for a night (except for the fact that my "nice" clothes were a too-small shirt held together at the bottom by a safety pin and too-big pants that I had to punch another hole in the belt with a paper clip) and, more importantly, felt really empowered too! The local farm movements are something to be happy for no matter where one lives, but in New York City, it's especially heartening to see that even a busy, urban environment can foster such amazing community. It made me look around at New York City very proudly. I noticed that a lot of restaurants offered seafood dishes, particularly serving Fluke, and it hit me that, wow (and duh), I live on an island. These fish live in our waters. It's amazing. (But, yes, we should be keeping them in the waters.)
Joel Saltain spoke, Mark Bittman was wandering, and my super-crush Cathy Erway was there too! Besides them, I was volunteering alongside some really interesting and nice people coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and it was an all around good time, all for a good cause. Thank you, Just Food, for the opportunity! Can't wait to hit the Farmers Market tomorrow.