Food is humanity's great unifier. In celebration and in mourning, food nourishes our minds, bodies and souls. No matter your beliefs: Republican vs. Democrats, Israel vs. Hamas, Knicks vs. Nets, we all gotta eat. More conflicts get resolved breaking bread than breaking necks. With Thanksgiving upon us, 'tis the season to gorge. This will not be so easy for some in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
In September my college buddy Will (Rooftop Brooklyn blogger) and I (Cook To Bang author/blogger) started Brooklyn-based Rooftop Supper Club featuring locally sourced food, drink, and music. Neither of us expected our first event to blow up. Our six-course meal that included quinoa cake BLTs, maitake mushroom crostinis and roasted branzino became a rooftop dance party. Our sophomore event Off The Roof scheduled for November 12th was going to one-up the next-level decadence with Wellfleet oysters, Thai-style pumpkins soup and duck confit.
But along came Sandy. Her wake of destruction rendered our supper club event an insignificant casualty. Throwing a lavish multi-course meal with a booze deluge seemed insensitive considering people not 12 miles away had neither power nor heat nor inhabitable homes. So we tabled our event and volunteered that weekend in the ravaged Rockaways. The next two days we delivered supplies to the elderly, removed debris from flooded homes and ripped out moldy drywall.
Our volunteer efforts would not have been possible without the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Housed in a small building beneath the bridge that was flooded, this non-profit club for local surf enthusiasts morphed overnight into a community gathering, donation and relief-distribution point. Members of the Surf Club wearing t-shirts with an AK47 beneath the slogan "Defend the Rockaways" became a militia protecting and rebuilding their community. After two hard days' work, we spoke with Coney Island firefighter, Rockaway local, and Surf Club founder Bradach Walsh about their needs beyond food: tools, demolition equipment, generators, and heat lamps.
Inspired to do our part, we repurposed our November 12th event into a fundraiser called Surf's WAY Up. Normally we plan our events at least one month in advance to secure a location, food, sponsors, musicians and of course paying guests. This time we had a week. There was an epic scramble, favors galore and a total menu overhaul. The North Brooklyn community's efforts to help fellow New Yorkers was humbling. Sustainable restaurant Eat in Greenpoint, Brooklyn offered us their space for peanuts. Local farmers, artisans, and purveyors including Gotham Greens, Fine & Raw, Bedford Cheese Shop, and Eagle Street Farms donated much of the food we served. Legendary pizza joint Roberta's gave us a dinner for two with wine to raffle off.
With tickets selling fast, Rooftop Supper Club had to step up our game. Since this fundraiser was for a surf club, and selfishly I craved proper Mexican food in New York, we created a Southern Californian 4-course menu served with Tecate and sangria:
Mixed greens with baked goat cheese, jicama, watermelon radish, toasted pumpkin seeds with a honey lime dressing
Chipotle roasted kabocha squash soup with creme fraiche and cilantro
3 Taco Platter:
Chiptole portabello mushrooms, sauteed onions, white cabbage, avocado salsa cruda
Homemade Chicken Mole, queso fresco, white cabbage, tomatillo salsa
Baja-style coconut-beer-battered fish tacos, avocado, lime crema, red cabbage
Flour-less chocolate cake
We packed 40 people into a space that usually accommodates 24. The Rockaway Beach Surf Club brain trust shared their stories, sold custom-painted trucker hats, and broke bread with sympathetic ears. Together we raised $1500 and awareness of the Rockaway residents continued plight.
This Thanksgiving, please keep the victims of Sandy in your thoughts, prayers and actions. Remember that together we can create real good from really good food.