Monday, October 15, 2012

Fifth Avenue Restaurants Shine at Food For Thought

The term “food for thought” is one we often take for granted, much like “thinking outside the box” and “not for nothing.” But on October 10th, the Park Slope Civic Council gave this phrase new life, in the literal sense, by throwing a party with some of the area’s best restaurants and drink purveyors to raise funds for its scholarship program at the Prospect Park Picnic House.

The room was decked out autumnal harvest chic by local florist Kerry Quade and guests ate, imbibed and mingled with the community – all for a terrific cause. At the height of the evening, members of the council gave short speeches and showed a video highlighting the achievements of past scholarship recipients. Further donations were encouraged (entry was $75 in advance and $100 at the door) by purchasing raffle tickets worth significant gift certificates at Talde, Thistle Hill and Goldy and Mac.

The cause was of course the main focus, but the grub and drinks were well worth the price of admission. Some of Park Slope Fifth Avenue’s finest – Baluchi’s, Backyard, Al Di La, Stone Park Café, Palo Santo and Fort Reno Barbecue - served up impressive samples of their menus and showed some flare while doing so.

Baluchi’s served a trifecta of bites that reflect their restaurant’s persona: Dhahi Batata Puri (fried semolina and flour dough filled with mashed potatoes, onions, tangy chutney and yogurt), Cashew Rolls and Moong Dal Chaat (a refreshing mung bean sprout salad.) They were one of the only stands to offer dinner AND dessert, with a cup of mango lassie to end the experience. These were all delicious and elevated above the East Village Sixth Street standard New Yorkers are used to.

Stone Park Café gave themselves only one chance to win guests over, but they did succeed. As the nights grow cooler, their late summer corn soup with homemade oyster crackers are a welcome way to send off summer flavors with the heartiness of autumn comfort.

Backyard had a similar idea by serving cups of their signature New England Clam Chowder. This was one of the finest examples of this classic that I’ve tasted, brought over the edge by a drizzle of sweet/spicy hot sauce by Salamander Sauce Company. I’ll never want hot sauce-less chowder again! 

Folks are used to waiting for a table at Al Di La, so no shocker there were long lines for just one single table here. Amazing what the food-obsessed will do for a sparerib and a fried ricotta ball with dark chocolate sauce (which happen to be as fine a spare rib and ricotta ball as you’ll ever taste).

The big show-stopper was right at the front of the room, at the Palo Santo and Fort Reno tables, where they biked in a meat smoker just for the occasion. This was the perfect way to serve up succulent pulled pork and coleslaw sliders. From sister restaurant (or should we say parent?) Palo Santo, chef/owner Jacques Gautier assembled boldly flavored sopes, which are masa (corn flour) shells filled with beans and stewed meat, with a simple radish garnish for a refreshing crunch.

The Park Slope Civic Council raised $15,000 at the event! Hopefully that success inspires another one next year.

-Amanda Schuster,

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