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Sweet Jury Duty For American Heart Association Supporters

Originally Posted: March 11, 2009

Edward Callaghan

Water Mill - Those crafty folks at the American Heart Association came up with an irresistibly sweet idea to break up the winter blues and pull folks away from their fireplaces recently. They invited some of the area's top chefs to create a heart healthy dessert to be judged in an open competition at Trata restaurant in Water Mill by the attendees. The lucky winner of the competition would see their dessert on the menu at the organization's summer gala, one of the most elegant and eagerly anticipated events of the season.

The final touches go on the Blue Duck Bakery's entry. Photos by John Wegorzewski

Who could resist the chance to sample the best confections on the East End - six of them - and all in the name of charity. It was a Chocoholic's dream come true! Imagine having to eat a half dozen certified good for you desserts to help a charity that does such extraordinary work to educate the community in heart health. Sort of a sweet tooth's license to indulge.

Invited guests to the Saturday night cocktail reception were immediately faced with a groaning table filled to overflowing with extraordinary culinary creations and chefs and their associates cooing siren songs and muttering those magic words "low sugar," "high in antioxidants," and "no animal fat" in an effort to get the "jurors" to sample their wares.

For the first half-hour guests headed to the bar and sampled the savory treats prepared by Trata executive chef Luis Falcon and his sous chef John Emmanoulidis. Waitstaff brought out a seemingly endless array of hors d'oeuvres including baby Portobello mushrooms stuffed with whipped chevre, grilled shrimp, scallops and grapes en brochette, seared tuna, and bruschetta. Sampling all, we couldn't make up our mind as to a favorite but the portobellos were definitely a crowd pleaser.

Moving away from the all too tempting appetizers, guests began the arduous task of having to sample every single dessert, if they wanted their ballot to be fair. It surely wasn't a problem for Pat and Ed Hayes. Pat said, "I want this job forever. Where do I apply?"

Four Seasons Catering, which has been really distinguishing itself at some of the area's best events, offered an amazingly healthy and absolutely fabulous poached seckel pear with a dollop of Greek yogurt drizzled with a lavender-infused honey. Chef Jeremy Palmer had just reason to smile as jurors found it to be an extraordinary blend of fresh flavors.

Michael and Layne Lieberman with Barbara Poliwoda of the American Heart

On to his neighbor Kimberly Esperian, representing Gurney's Inn, famed for the spa and health programs. Kimberly was serving up individual chocolate cakes completely enrobed in icing. No one could believe there was anything heart healthy about this but Kimberly assured everyone, "absolutely no animal fats, no sugar - just pure cocoa and flour," she said emphatically. Relieved - everyone dove into cakes guilt free!

Filling in for one of The Lodge staffers who was delayed was Gurney's Chris Vosteen who did his Lodge friends proud by pointing out all the natural ingredients used for the strawberry shortcake and the sinfully rich dense carrot cake packed with walnuts and topped with the faintest hint of cream cheese frosting. Consensus was a big thumbs up for the carrot cake.

Moving back to chocolate, we sampled the most beautifully presented mini heart-shaped flourless chocolate cakes drizzled with raspberry syrup and adorned with a high in antioxidant chocolate pennant by those magnificent artisanal bakers at Blue Duck Bakery. Owners Nancy and Keith Kouris worked effortlessly as a team serving up the plates. More thumbs up for this always generous couple who donate so much to causes on both the South and North Forks!

Elegant Affairs, well known for its, well, elegant affairs, created an interesting study of contrasts and textures pairing the lightest, airiest panna cotta with a silky sauce and chocolate bark adorned with chocolate covered corn flakes! Yes, corn flakes as in good old-fashioned Kellogg's. But Mom never served corn flakes like this. Truly it was as addictive as homemade popcorn and believe it or not good for you. All we heard was "Wow, cornflakes". A new reason not to skip breakfast. Stephanie Valenti gave us an extra handful of cornflakes to munch on as we checked out the always popular Chinese auction offering Spa Days at Gurneys and assorted food and wine baskets.

Gurney's Kim Esperian shows off their no animal product chocolate cake.

Summer gala chair Steve Adler was thrilled with the event, "This is the first time we did an advance event and look at what a great turnout," he said, pointing to the packed bar and crowded dance floor. Guests Linda Calabrese and D Dellaquila of Jamesport were equally pleased at the party. Said Linda, "It's really a nice thing to have an event like this in the middle of winter instead of just going out to dinner somewhere. Here we're helping a great cause for the same amount of money we would spend anyway."

Popular broker Jeanine Edington had popped in with some friends to grab a drink unaware of the event and was pleasantly surprised to find a full scale party going on. They happily purchased tickets and stayed to dance.

Susan Breitenbach, a long-time supporter of the American Heart Association, was celebrating having sold some $30 million in residential real estate locally in the last few weeks putting to lie the Hamptons fire sale stories. Susan wasn't as lucky with the Chinese Auction drawing but George Vickers scored two wins and volunteer Brittany Passavia - who with her beauty scarcely needs it - won the Gurney's Spa Package. Maybe she'll treat her mom!

By the time we exited, they had yet to announce the wining dessert but in the eyes - and taste buds - of the guests they were all winners.


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