There’s not a whole lot more fulfilling than helping out a truly honorable and important cause. And there’s not a whole lot more filling than a five-course meal prepared by celebrity chefs in a gorgeous venue tucked underneath the 59th Street Bridge in Midtown Manhattan. Combined, you’re pretty much describing my dream evening.
I was honored to be asked by the Brain Tumor Foundation last week if I would like to invite members of my Meetup Group, Food Bloggers in NYC, to a black-tie-optional benefit dinner for their foundation held this past Wednesday on April 24, 2013. Never one to turn down a meal, they sweetened the pot by mentioning that a host of celebrity chefs and restaurateurs would be present, including Floyd Cardoz, Jacques Torres, Dale Talde, Kerry Heffernan, Yuhi Fujinaga and Chris Jaeckle. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity, and members of the Meetup group did too!
And what an evening it was.
From the start, the venue was a total knockout. Guastavino’s is an absolutely stunning locale for any event. Gorgeous high, sloped ceilings, a lovely swooping curved staircase, and beautiful decor greeted us as we walked in and assembled during cocktail hour. Some delicious passed hors d’oeuvres (chicken liver mousse, tuna tartare, salmon crostini and pea soup) later, we were prepped and excited for what was to come.
Next up, I was so excited to have members of my Meetup group join me for this awesome event. Sitting at our private table were:
- Jennifer Shtutman from Diet Starts Twomorrow
- Jeannie Chan from Foodies NYC
- Matt Bruck from Joios
- Ruthy Kirwan from Omeletta
- Erika Diamond from Tabelog
- Saychay Thor from Chopsticks or a Fork
- Brianna Plaza
- Louise Yang from Ancestral Chef
As for the main event, let’s get to the food! (Apologies for the bad lighting- we were literally holding up our phones’ camera flashes for each other to help alleviate the purple/red lights in the dining room!)
First up, duck confit with spicy eggplant relish and toasted mandarin roll with white sauce, from Chef Dale Talde:
Believe it or not, this was my first time trying duck. Like, ever. And I’m so glad I did, because this was SO DAMN GOOD. Cilantro is one of my favorites of course, and the pickled cabbage combined with the eggplant relish made for an amazing mix of flavors.
For the second course, English pea flan with morels, ramps, and tarragon, from Chef Kerry Heffernan:
Yes, English pea flan. The word “flan” might make you think of a syrupy, oversweet egg custard, but this instead had a beautifully delicate soft texture balanced with the crunchy morel, ramps and tarragon mixture and salty ham on top. Yum!
Next, olive oil poached king salmon in a spring herb veloute with clams and breakfast radish, from Chef Yuhi Fujinaga:
Salmon is one of my favorite things to eat, period, so I was delighted by this dish. I have heard of veloute, but never actually tried it before, so that was a nice surprise. The breakfast radishes were crisp, the salmon was velvety and delicious, and overall I loved this course!
For the main course, pan roasted strip loin with crispy potatoes, parmesan fonduta, and what I think were collard greens, from Chef Chris Jaeckle (a brain tumor survivor):
Listen, I’m Argentinian, so yeah, I’m gonna love the steak course. The steak was perfectly seasoned (you can see those giant flakes of salt in the picture!) and the potatoes were a standout accoutrement.
Lastly, for dessert, the most ridiculously insanely delicious ice cream sandwich from none other than Chef Jacques Torres:
What can I say. This was phenomenal. The cookie had so many delicious chunks of chocolate in them, and they more than held their own against the yummy ice cream. The perfect ending to an amazing meal!
While the food was stunningly scrumptious from beginning to end, I have to bring up the great work coming from the cause behind the event: The Brain Tumor Foundation.
The tribute dinner commemorated the success of the pilot program, Road to Early Detection, which brought a mobile MRI Unit to provide free brain scans to under-served communities throughout the five boroughs of New York. They now would like to expand this program across the country to allow people to detect brain tumors before they become something fatal or inoperable.
Overall this was an absolutely incredible opportunity, and I am extremely grateful for the invitation to come and enjoy the evening. Consider checking out the Brian Tumor Foundation and donating to this amazing cause, who’s tagline is, appropriately: “Bringing Tomorrows of Hope.”