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From Star Chefs to Food Trucks, Culinary New York Lends a Hand to Sandy Victims

Find out which restaurants, bars, and food and wine companies are providing disaster relief and which fund-raisers are yet to come. Plus, Charlie Trotter puts his legendary cellar on the auction block

Posted: November 8, 2012

• It wasn't just fire trucks, ambulances and ConEd mobiles that rushed to the scenes of Hurricane Sandy's power blackout zones. New York is home to an elite squadron of food trucks as well, which deployed en masse starting this past Friday to give away food in lower Manhattan, Staten Island, Red Hook, in Brooklyn, the Rockaways, in Queens, and New Jersey—a whopping 20,000 meals so far. With funding from JetBlue and the mayor's office, as well as $52,000 from online fund-raising drives, trucks like Cupcake Crew, Wafels & Dinges, Coolhaus, Milk Truck, Toum, Mike 'n Willie's, Frites n' Meats and many more have been cooking up a storm relief. When Unfiltered called up Cupcake Crew today, they were hard at work in the kitchen, preparing for yet another trip out to the affected coastal areas to cheer up lip-licking kids and National Guardsmen alike.

• Just days after the storm departed, NYC restaurants also got to work to put money in the hands of the disaster victims. Among the big boys, David Chang's Momofuku empire fired up three benefit events Friday, ranging from modest to lavish, which let diners of all means munch and donate to the Red Cross at the same time. Chang forked over all proceeds from lunch and dinner at his Má Pêche outlet, set up a pop-up collaboration between his Noodle Bar and Milk Bar in Brooklyn and teamed up with Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud (as the downtown Momofuku joints were still without power) for a six-course meal at $495 a head, all for disaster relief. Another high-wattage restaurateur, David Burke, picked up 1,000 pounds of Skuna Bay salmon and distributed it to New Jersey aid efforts; this week he will donate a portion of proceeds from all Skuna Bay salmon dishes sold at his four NYC restaurants to the ongoing relief effort.

But even the littler fish in the New York restaurant pond have stepped up in the wake of Sandy. Five Leaves, in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood, gave 100 percent of its profits from last Friday to a local relief agency. Seersucker hosted an "Eat Pork, Help New York" rally, roasting a 175 pound Berkshire pig and selling the resulting thousand pulled-pork sliders for $10, all to the benefit of the Red Hook Initiative, which is providing aid in that neighborhood. Aldea hosted a benefit dinner for NYCFoodFlood, and B. Smith's Restaurant donated funds from its election viewing party to Sandy charities.

• For their part, global spirits, wine and beer company Diageo partnered with nonprofit humanitarian aid organization the Bridge Foundation to donate generators and enough bottled water to fill two and a half semi-trucks (84,960 bottles) to relief efforts at Newark, N.J.'s Gigi Foushee retirement home, where residents were without power for three days after the storm. The supplies powered an essential HVAC system, lights, ventilators, oxygen concentrators and elevators. Engine Company 16 firehouse, home to three fire boats crucial to rescuing stranded citizens, received another generator. The donations were made through Diageo’s "Spirit of the Americas" program.

Not to be outdone, another heavy hitter of wine and spirits, Constellation Brands, has pledged to match employee donations to the Red Cross two to one, up to $100,000, for storm aid. Employees have also been encouraged to turn out for blood drives and to donate non-perishable food, clothing, water and other essentials to Rochester General Hospital's InterVol service and the Sea Breeze Volunteer Fire Department; these relief groups will transport the goods down to Brooklyn and Staten Island.

• Goya Foods teamed up with local organizations, including City Harvest, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey and the United Way of Hudson Valley to donate canned goods and hot meals to area shelters and soup kitchens. So far, they have donated over 300,000 pounds of food. The contributions are part of a larger ongoing charitable program called "Goya Gives," begun last year.

• And New York's culinary community continues to go to bat for hurricane victims, so there are plenty more opportunities to dine and donate. Alex Lapratt, Jean Georges' chef sommelier, is rallying sommeliers, chefs and their ilk in an effort to boost funds via an online fund-raiser, aptly titled America's Sommeliers & Chefs. The idea is to form a support group within the hospitality industry by word of mouth and industry connections for those suffering from Sandy's devastation on the East Coast. Industry leaders such as sommelier and importer Daniel Johnnes, the James Beard Foundation, and chef Marc Forgione have joined Lapratt in his hard work by reaching out to their own networks in the hospitality industry and asking individuals to donate to reach the charity's goal of $25,000. But anyone can donate, with the take going to the Red Cross. An incentive: If you give at least $25 before midnight Nov. 9, you're entered into a raffle for dinner for two at RN74 with wine pairings by Rajat Parr.

• Another opportunity is a pairing exercise from Russ & Daughters, a specialty foods purveyor in Manhattan with expertise in smoked meats and fishes, on Nov. 8 at Astor Center. Some of the pairings include Champagne with Buckwheat Blini, Smoked Trout Mousse and French Trout Roe, and Compass Box Scotch matched with Baltic Rye Bread, Cream Cheese and Hand-Sliced Gaspe Nova. Tickets are $45, with the goal of raising $10,000 for the Red Cross. Over in Brooklyn, and also on Nov. 8, good Samaritans have organized Dine Out Williamsburg for the night. Any local restaurants and watering holes that want to join the effort may; there are already dozens on board. Each participant will donate 10 to 20 percent of the evening's gross sales to the Red Cross.

• A crack team of mixologists from NYC's chicest spots, like Dutch Kills, Death & Co., Clover Club and Flatiron Lounge, will convene for conviviality at Pegu Club in SoHo on Nov. 11, with each mix master offering a special cocktail for the occasion. Half the profits go to the Red Cross, the other half to a veteran bartender fighting a heart condition. Indeed, as anyone who finds a good one knows, bartenders are a generous lot generally: The U.S. Bartender's Guild members have been throwing parties around the country for the cause, with many in the New York chapter getting in the trenches of the most damaged zones to volunteer.

• Back in Brooklyn, if you have a heart of gold and a thirst for rum, the Bower Hill Society is the crowd to hang with, as they've brought in Bridget Firtle, distiller at the Noble Experiment, which focuses on locally grown, natural ingredients in its spirits. She'll be pouring her Owney's NYC Rum, at an event Nov. 13 for the benefit of the DUMBO Business Improvement District fund, a charity set up to support restaurants, shops and cultural venues in the DUMBO neighborhood that were impacted by the hurricane. There will also be a silent auction to raise more funds still.

• Finally, consider a fund-raising dinner at Tasting Table’s Test Kitchen on Nov. 14, with a menu that includes braised pig’s trotter stew, chicken Parmesan sliders and smoked trout salad. Tasting Table's executive chef Brendan McHale created the menu, which will be paired with custom cocktails. Tickets are $100, and the proceeds benefit the Food Bank for New York City's Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Tasting Table will match the donation, and guests are also encouraged to also bring nonperishable food items, batteries, blankets and winter coats as well.

• In unrelated news, kitchen maestro Charlie Trotter closed down his eponymous Chicago restaurant in August, but many hoped that his sojourn into graduate studies might only be a brief sabbatical from the gourmet world. Even if that's the case, Trotter acolytes should no longer hold their breaths that a new Trotter's would open with a Grand Award-winning wine list off the bat: Christie's has announced it will be auctioning off the cream of Trotter's 7,000-bottle cellar on Nov. 16. The expected haul is over $1 million, which should be just enough to put Trotter through grad school. Unsurprisingly, the catalog trumpets all the grand old names, from Dom Pérignon to Lafite to Gaja to Harlan to Penfolds Grange and back again. But amid the obvious shining stars, there are a few special standouts exceptional for curiosity factor, bottle size or stratospheric price, including the 1992 Black and Blue, first wine of Manfred Krankl (estimated price: $800 to $1,200), a signed Nebuchadnezzar (15 L) of Kracher Grand Cuvée Trockenbeerenauslese No. 7 Nouvelle Vague 2005 from the late Austrian botrytis master ($1,000 to $1,500) and a Methuselah (6 L) of DRC La Tâche 1996 ($14,000 to $20,000), which probably holds about half that cru's yield for the vintage.

• Those plans to sell off the wine cellar of Charlie Trotter’s restaurant took a detour this week with the revelation that an entire pallet—amounting to 60 cases of wine—was apparently stolen en route from Trotter’s in Chicago to the auction house Christie’s in New York. Christie’s officials declined comment on the matter, explaining that an investigation was ongoing. Christie’s is proceeding with the scheduled sale of the rest of the Trotter collection, which amounted to 4,000 bottles originally. There will be a live auction Nov. 16 at Christie’s, supplemented by an online-only sale that will invite bids between Nov. 20 and Dec. 4. The estimated value of the entire collection is about $1 million. It’s not clear exactly which bottles are missing, but the collection amassed by the chef Charlie Trotter, who closed his eponymous restaurant in August, is reputed to be one of the best in the Midwest.

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