08/04/2012 12:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Great Things Happen in Small Gatherings!

Last week Just Food and The Sylvia Center brought together over 200 New Yorkers in a series of meals hosted in homes around the city, reminiscent of how families and neighborhoods came together around the table for generations.


Gracious hosts (community leaders and luminaries, activists and advocates) opened their doors to friends and relatives, but also made room at the table for like-minded strangers, demonstrating their belief that galvanizing others to help the less fortunate is a mission to embrace in our most sacred place -- our home.

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But these were not ordinary meals and not only because they were each so intimate. For the most part, the fish were from local waters, the meat procured from local herds, cheeses crafted by local artisans, fruits from local orchards and vegetables from farms so close as to be labeled 'urban farms' some of whose produce was delivered by bicycles!
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The magic at each meal was not only in the raw ingredients, but in the chef who volunteered to cook in each home kitchen. Our city's finest culinary leaders took the night off from their own restaurants and families to weave together a trinity of entities telling a story of how our food system can both nourish and amaze the fortunate, yet exclude others from the benefits of the same bounty. 

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A City Farmer, A Chef and A Host took over six months to organize and execute. The teams of Sylvia Center and Just Food staff painstakingly poured over the nuances and needs of every home, matched guests with preferred meals, responded to the unique requirements of each chef, coaxed and coordinated city farmers, worked to find donations of wines and other items, and of course, get the word out. In an age of standardization, this was a stand out effort: a labor of love within a community that celebrates dedication and education with passion.
How were the dinners? The hosts were an amazing group and three have posted their stories:
Joanne Wilson AKA Gotham Gal - Chef Andrew Carmellini, Locanda Verde
Battery Park Host - Chef Howard Kalachnikoff, Gramercy Tavern
Alison Schneider of Haven's Kitchen - Chef Peter Hoffman, Back Forty
Photographs Courtesy of Brooke Yalof. Find additional images here.

More menus from the evening:
City Farmer: Yonnette Fleming, Hattie Carthan Community Garden
Chef: Dan Kluger, ABC Kitchen

First Course
Still Warm Fresh Mozzarella
Heirloom Tomatoes, Olive Oil Salt and Pepper
Slow Baked Halibut Summer Squash Purée
Nasturtium Vinaigrette
Strawberry-Honey Shortcake
Strawberry Sorbet Buttermilk Lemon

City Farmer: Classie Parker, Five Star Garden
Chef: David Waltuck

Hors d'oeuvres
Fennel-cured Salmon and Fennel salad on Black Bread Toasts
Fried Oysters with Curry Pickled Cucumbers and Red Caviar
Beet "Tartar" in Puff Pastry Cups
First Course
Chilled Tomato Consommé, Herb Coulis, Maine Crabmeat and Black Caviar
Second Course
Steamed Squash Blossoms filled with Shrimp and Lobster with Lemon Basil Butter
Grilled Loin Lamb Chop with Smoky Eggplant Flan and Rainbow Swiss Chard with Rosemary Ratatouille Sauce
Classie's Famous Sweet Potato Pie with Crème Fraiche

City Farmer: Maggie Cheney, EcoStation:NY
Chef: Jeremy Bearman, Rouge Tomate

First Course
Chilled Corn Soup Jalapeno with Basil and Red Shiso
Second Course
Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad Local Feta with Cucumber, Arugula and Basil Sherry Vinegar
Third Course
Amish Country Chicken Collard Greens with Buttermilk Grits and Okra, Bunching Onion and Habanero Jus
Local Peach Tart Greek Yogurt and Lemon Verbena Candied Lemon

City Farmer: Molly Culver, The Youth Farm at the High School for Public Service
Chef: Bill Telepan, Telepan

First Course
Heirloom Tomato and Sweet Onion Salad with Telepan House Dressing
Second Course
Chard and Ricotta Ravioli with Zucchini
Third Course
Local Roasted Fish Farro
Tabbouleh Braised Greens with Toasted Garlic Cucumber Mint and Yogurt Sauce
Tres Leches Cake Berries and Peaches

City Farmer: Tai Gilbert, Loisaida Hydroponic Studio
Chef: Angel Ramos, Candle 79

First Course
Arugula and Mixed Lettuce Salad Cucumbers, Heirloom Tomatoes,
Pea Shoots and Sunflower with Basil Vinaigrette
Porcini-Crusted Seitan Roasted Fingerling Potatoes,
Sautéed Chard and Kale with Vegetable Reduction
Cherries with Vanilla Cashew Cream
Ginger Candied Pecans and Vanilla Ice Cream

City Farmer: Eric-Michael Rodriguez, Weeksville Heritage Center
Chef: Laurent Gras

First Course
Weeksville Heritage Farm Tomato Salad Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil, Cucumber
Zucchini, Thyme
Weeksville Heritage Farm Eggplant Salad Gem Lettuce, Smoked Trout, Farm Herbs Lemon Vinaigrette
Colorado Lamb King Oyster Mushroom, Corn
Red Pepper, Rosemary
Long Island Striped Bass Jonah Crab, Jalapeno, Chives, Lemon Corn Pepperonata
Strawberry Mascarpone Sorbet, Lemon Confit Farm Strawberries
Cherry Vanilla, Roxberry Farm Cherries, Almonds

City Farmer: James Casey, The Truck Farm
Chef: Dan Silverman, The Standard Grill

First Course
Little Gem Salad with Tristar Strawberries, Smoked
Marcona Almonds and Balsamic-Almond Vinaigrette
Second Course
Seared Maine Diver Scallops with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce
Pan Roasted Long Island Duck Breast with Farro, Peas, Fava Beans and Roasted Apricot-Tarragon Sauce
Basil Panna Cotta with Blackberries and Spiced Coconut Wafer

About The Sylvia Center
The Sylvia Center is a non-profit organization that addresses the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and its long-term effects by providing hands-on experiences with growing and cooking healthy food on the farm and in the kitchen. To find out more about The Sylvia Center, visit

About Just Food
Just Food is a non-profit organization that connects communities and local farms with the resources and support they need to make fresh, locally grown food accessible to all New Yorkers. Just Food provides regional farmers and food producers, CSA organizers and everyday eaters with the resources and support they need to establish and experience healthy food systems - in every neighborhood. To find out more about Just Food, visit