- Sheets of rain proved little deterrent to the 500 environmentally conscious food-savvy contributors that slogged their way through a soggy parking field to an oasis of savory finger foods and crisp wine pairings that awaited them beneath the event tent, planted like a pristine island amid the fields at Wolffer Estate Vineyards
Fashion Designer Nicole Miller, host of the Eco-Fabulous Dinner, commended the night's chef's.
This annual celebration of the fruits of local farms and talents of top area chefs showcases the watchdog efforts of The Group For The East End
in their tireless commitment to safeguard open spaces and land preservation. What better way to drive home your point than to bring the manna to the people, disguised in the convincing wiles of fava bean bruschetta, warm Catapano fresh goat cheese, summer truffle gougeres, and fresh flounder ceviche, all masterfully produced from the loins of the East End and dressed by the master chefs of the region? This convincing recipe delivers each and every year.
Milling about the raw seafood bar and fresh vegetarian crudites, an efficient troop of briskly-footed servers weaved in and out of the silent auction tables offering attendees chilled sweet pea soup prepared by Gerry Hayden
, executive chef of The North Fork Table, and skate and lobster fritters by Todd Jacobs
, chef/owner of Tierra Mar and Atlantica, while considering their auction options, each one more environmentally-correct than the next. If the bamboo custom stationery courtesy of Smock Paper and the Raksha Bella organic quilt and euro shams were not your fancy, perhaps the Utterly Organic milk for a year, courtesy of Organic Valley Family of Farms or the Helen Bilt recycled urchin lamp did the trick. For the adventuresome and sports-minded, there was the flyfishing off Montauk package gratis Francis P. Pandolfi
and rounds of golf at the coveted courses of Sebonack, Gardiners Bay and Quoque Field Club, donated by Michael Pascucci
, Louis K. Meisel
and Deni McChesney
Designer Nicole Miller
and actor Alec Baldwin
headlined the list of notables supporting the event, which also included Tatiana Platt
, Anna Meisel
, Ramona Singer
, Bill Zwirn
, Kevin MacDonald
and Richard Fabricant
and event co-chairs Katherine
and Marco Birch
and Bill and Deni McChesney.
Participating chefs commented on their commitment to local products and discussed the evening's dishes.
Following the cocktail hour, attendees were directed to their tables for a first course of Hayden's salad plate replete with K.K. Haspel's
bio-dynamic summer beans, lettuces and radishes, accompanied with Catapano Farms goat feta. The event, hosted at the Wolffer Estate
for nine years running, is so aptly paired to its locale and raison d'ętre that you are enveloped in the seamless logic not only of the local chefs and the farmers and fishermen they rely on, but on the brilliance of Mother Nature herself to have brought you all to the table.
"Tonight we can make a difference," Group For The East End Director Bob DeLuca assured the attendees.
We had the good fortune to be seated among the brethren - organic farmers Bette
and Dale Lacina
of Sag Harbor, Art
and Stacey Ludow
of Mecox Bay Dairy
, and Rebecca
and Charlie Manwaring
of The Southold Fish Market. Being a farmer's daughter long affiliated with the delicate balance of man, land and sea, we shared stories of the true agrarian roots of our community that has navigated the rushes of the 1980s real estate boom and cyclical challenges of poor growing seasons, hurricanes and harsh winters. Yes, this is EcoFabulous, and don't fool yourself, it's hard work folks.
Somewhere between the main course of grilled local duck, black barley and steamed asparagus prepared by Tom Schaudel
(Spring Close House, East Hampton and Downtown Grille and Wine Bar, Montauk) and Michael Ross
, (chef/owner of Fiddleheads American Fish House & Grill, Oyster Bay) benefit chair Bill McChesney introduced Bob DeLuca
, director of The Group For The East End, who in turn thanked everyone for turning out for the event. "I thank you for coming out to support the environment in this environment," he quipped, making light of the relentless downpour that pattered the tent overhead. "Tonight we can make a difference. We raised $163,000 last year and we are hoping to reach $130,000 tonight. All this goes to protect and restore the environment of the East End."
Commanding the mike during the live auction segment of the evening, actor Alec Baldwin, an avid supporter of preservation efforts, cajoled the attendees with his familiar band eco-inspired humor.
Long associated with his stewardship of The Group, DeLuca suggested that the meal created by the chefs and generously donated by the local farmers and fishermen perhaps spoke best to the cause of protecting the local landscape. Recounting the development of his connection to the culinary resources abundant on the East End, Chef Todd Jacobs offered, "When I was young my grandmother used to tell me of her experiences growing up on a farm and from a young age I wanted to do my part to celebrate the wonderful relationships of fishermen and farmers and vintners, a relationship that needs to be nurtured and takes patience. We have a unique opportunity on the East End with this grassroots movement of chefs, farmers and fishermen, a group advocacy. I fell in love with the area years ago."
Executive Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming, of The North Fork Table, discussed the inspiration for her dessert dish.
Taking a moment out to honor the charismatic founder Christian Wolffer
, of Wolffer Estate Vineyards, who succumbed to fatal injuries resulting from a boating accident on New Year's Eve in a coastal village in Brazil, DeLuca commented, "He always had a table right next to the dance floor. It's not the same without him. For the past nine years he hosted this benefit and carried with him the same environmental ethic and spoke of the motivation to live in a community that practices sustainable farming."
Letting a 15-minute video do his bidding for him, DeLuca then introduced "Faith In A Seed," produced and directed by William Goins
, which illustrates The Group's conservation ethic by interviewing naturalist photographers Rameshwar Das
and Kathryn Solka
and Bridgehampton's fabled weatherman Richard Hendrickson
. By the time the coffee and dessert wine was brought out to accompany the Wickham Farms rhubarb and strawberry cobbler, graced with white chocolate cream whipped up by Claudia Fleming
, executive pastry chef of The North Fork Table, a bit of dancing transpired before the live auction round began.
Mecox Dairy's Art and Stacey Ludlow take a moment to speak with fellow farmer John White.
As my table mates grabbed an extra serving of the cobbler that tasted "so damn good," Christie's
auctioneer Allison Delaney
took the podium with auctioneer sidekick East End faithful actor Alec Baldwin, who playfully helped to cajole the timid into the bidding action with inside jokes from uses for organic honey to private trips to "DaLuca-ville." Amid the regular fare of Golf weekends in Barbados and an escape for two to an ecofabulous spa experience at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, the eco-savvy offerings of a 'Weekend-In-A-Tesla:The 100 Percent Driving Experience" and 20 yards of organic compost valued at $3,000, attendees waged a bidding war for the Robins Island tour and Maidstone
Picnic Lunch for 10. Baldwin kicked in his own bid to sponsor an eco-camp.
According to event organizers, the event raised more than $530,000 for The Group For The East End's local conservation efforts.
By evening's end, returning to the fine mist of the Bridgehampton night, bits of God's good earth trailing your every step as you escaped the driving rain, if you had forgotten somewhere in the glitz of the eco-fabu celebration exactly where the seeds of eco-consciousness are sown, one need only gaze to the footprints left in the rain-soaked loam.
'Only In America' keep the tunes coming during cocktails and the dancing hour.