Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cities Farm

Recently Absolut Vodka asked Jim to come up with a visionary idea for their 'In an Absolut World' campaign. Jim's idea: "In An Absolut World Cities Farm" resulted in an exciting gala fete on a Manhattan rooftop above Rockefeller Plaza honoring New York City's farmers and gardeners. A celebration of urban agriculture, our dinner ingredients were gathered from each of the five boroughs. Several weeks earlier Jim had designed a menu based on ingredients he found visiting farms and gardens in the five boroughs: Queens Farm, Taqwa Community Farm in the Bronx, East New York Farms in Brooklyn, Gericke Farm in Staten Island and Central Park in Manhattan. (see previous post)

The Absolut campaign includes other 'visionaries' such as Eddie Izzard, Kanye West, Perez Hilton and Improv Everywhere.

Leah and Jim arrived in Manhattan a few days prior to the event on Halloween night, promptly donning freaky scary Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein get ups to hit the town. Jim had received an invitation from the Accompanied Literary Society to an exclusive reading of a lost manuscript of Edgar Allen Poe read by actor Josh Lucas (dressed as glam rocker). Frank and Bride of Frank are always a good costume choices for the tall and lanky.

Next day tasks included foraging for berries in Central Park. Foraging day was also New York Marathon day, so getting past the bounding hoards and into Central Park was not so easy. The whole time en route Jim was thinking "Did the birds get those berries?" and "Maybe we should have picked them a few weeks ago and put them in the freezer." After some worrying and a long hike the bounty was rediscovered and they proceeded to pick.

In the week before the event, Santa Cruz local Johnny Wilson, who had relocated to NY for the summer to work at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture traveled the five boroughs and gathered all the ingredients. He delivered the goodies to our chef friend Alejandro Alcocer at Brown Cafe in the Lower East Side. Alejandro and crew would be preparing the food for the dinner.

Monday, November 3rd was the big day. A combined effort of Outstanding in the Field, Great Works and Shiraz Events, the dinner turned out wonderfully. Guests included many of New York's Green initiators, including representatives from, Edible Manhattan, Just Food, Friends of the Highline and some of the cities eco-committees as well as TV celebrities/restauranteurs Tom Colicchio and Mario Batali. Also attending were some notable fans of Jim's art: David Ross the former Whitney Museum director and Neville Wakefield guest curator at PS1 and MOMA. Many of the guests had special interests in urban food and agriculture including rooftop gardening. We're sure there was plenty of interesting dinner conversation!

Prior to gathering at the table, dinner guests enjoyed the open rooftop with spectacular views. Our two featured cocktails of the evening: the Central Park (featuring wild viburnum berries picked near 79th and 5th) Bloody Marys (the tomato juice made with love at Queens Farm - 4 different versions with heirloom tomatoes: Green Zebras, Cherokee Purples, Brandywines and then a lovely mix of them all). Filmmakers from Absolut had followed Jim while he visited gardeners and farmers from the 5 boroughs. A short documentary about the gathering of ingredients and OITF was shown during the reception. You can see it here.

The menu for this delicious dinner is shared here.

Of course the wonderful farmers and gardeners who contributed to the meal were also present and essentially stole the show when they were given the opportunity to stand up and tell their story. Bobby and Abu Talib of Taqwa shared inspiring and heartfelt stories of planting their garden in the Bronx that transformed a crime ridden trash heap into a fertile city oasis. Michael Grady Robertson of Queens Farm shared his story with clear enthusiasm: that of Apollonia the pig. All gathered heard a lot about Appolonia's daily life on the farm. Michael said that one of the main reasons he sold Apollonia to us for our dinner (Queens farm only has 4 pigs...) was that the diners could also hear the pig's life story, something that would not have been possible if she had been sold to a restaurant or at the Green Market. Deborah at East New York Farms celebrated the growing success and interest in East New York Farms and their sidewalk-side farmstand. Jen Griffith of Just Food tied it up nicely by telling people about using Just Food as a resource to help access NYC urban gardeners/farmers and promote sustainable food systems in the big city.

This was documented by award winning filmmaker Victor Quinaz and the final product can now be seen here. Check out this Absolut's "In an Absolut World" Campaign site for more photos and info.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this event!