An Absolut Eco-Dinner Celebrating Urban Farming in NYC

Goodlifer: An Absolut Eco-Dinner Celebrating Urban Farming in NYC

On a chilly Monday night a few weeks back, I joined about a hundred other people at Rockefeller Center’s Loft & Garden for a night of sustainable dining, courtesy of Absolut Vodka, Jim Denevan of Outstanding in the Field fame, and local NYC farmers. Besides creating amazing environmental art, Mr Denevan arranges these ambitious dinners all over the country, a comment on the local food movement. This evening was about raising awareness of urban farming and all its possibilities. We would be served five courses, each representative of one of the five boroughs.

Rockefeller Center's Loft & Garden became a temporary grazing ground for NYC foodies.

Rockefeller Center’s Loft & Garden became a temporary grazing ground for NYC foodies.

During cocktail hour, hors d’ouevres, also locally sourced, were passed out. Staten Island eggplant puree on Sullivan Street Bakery pizza bianca, marinated roasted garlic & chard crips, and wild New York scallop ceviche would get anyone’s appetite racing. Cocktails were Absolut Vodka, naturally (and no other beverage besides water was served), mixed with Central Park Berries into a strange, but quite good libation.

Once at the table, after some obligatory mingling and getting-to-knowing, the first course was served, Brooklyn cranberry beans, roasted beets, heirloom tomatoes and basil. Everything was served to us family style, with the philosophy that it enhances the communal experience and puts us one step closer to that which we are about to eat. The second course was Rockaway striped bass with Bronx collard, sunchokes, heirloom potatoes, carrots and rosemary. Everything deliciously crisp and fresh. The third course brought Queens roasted heirloom pork with chard and tomatolli, roasted leeks and pepper compote.

Family-style dining bred good conversation.

The first course, family-style.

While enjoying this meal we were told the story of the pig that had given us this pork, it was an extremely personal, very sad account about a pig named Appolonia, who fell ill with leg pains and on a conventional farm would have just been disposed of without further thought. But the farmer, Michael Grady Robertson of Queens County Farm, went through the small effort if took to keep her alive and happy until she was ready for our table. On the surface this may seem macabre, but this is what we all need to get back in touch with, if you are eating something that has been killed for your consumption it is only right that the animal is honored with a thought. People have said it before and I will say it again, I think people who choose to eat meat should have to kill the animal they wish to serve at their table, at least once, so that they really understand what this means. Yes, it may very well be in our omnivorous nature to eat animals of all kinds, but in today’s society we are so far removed from the true meaning of this. Anyone who would pay a visit to a factory farm would surely consider a life of vegetarianism after that.

Jim Denevan & Johanna Björk, a new fan.

Jim Denevan & Johanna Björk, a new fan.

The other farmers that had grown the food that we were all enjoying also gave short presentations of why they were in the urban farming business and how much of a struggle this often is. Abu Talib along with Bobby Watson from Taqwa Community Farm in the Bronx told the story of how his father had acquired this sad looking piece of land and against all common sense made it into the farm that his son today runs. Deborah Greig of East New York Farms in Brooklyn supplied the ingredients for the first course and Gericke Farm of Staten Island the hors d’ouevres. Chef Alejandro Brown of Brown Café supplied his cooking skills. Everyone, certainly Mr Denevan, were misty eyed and very contemplative when giving their speeches, it almost felt like a ceremony of worship. Eating fresh local food like this is something our palates are not quite used to, so it took a while for my taste buds to start tasting the subtle undisguised flavors. This is simple food at its finest.

After a dessert of Queens pumpkin tarts with Bronx honey and sage, we were all quite full, satisfied and filled with a deep appreciation of what it takes to bring a meal like this to our table. Watch the event recap videos below.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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