There are a number of ways to throw a great dinner party and benefit a good cause, but here’s one way I discovered this weekend in beautiful Andes, NY.
First, start with an inspired artist, like tea-blender and designer Nini Ordoubadi of Tay Tea who knows both how to make things taste and look beautiful, and how to bring people together. Pair that artist with a hard-working chef (that’s me. . .) who is passionate about making sensuous food using local ingredients. Check.
Now, add a support team that includes the husbands of said artist and chef, along with plenty of generous friends, throw in a gorgeous space in which to share the feast, and you’re all set. . . er, ready to get to work!
During Hurricane Irene, many towns in the Catskills were severely damaged by flooding, and homes and businesses were lost. Luckily, the town of Andes, NY was spared, and Nini Ordoubadi, the proprietress of Tay Home on Main Street saw a chance to help those in need by throwing a benefit dinner made almost entirely from locally grown goods. Nini is an artist and designer who has channeled her creativity into custom blending teas with a distinctly Persian bent.
Tay Home and café is an enchanted space that Nini has created to show off her teas. Customers can sample signature blends like Better Than Sex, A Day in Provence, and Persian Rose, while perusing home goods and tea accoutrements.
I met Nini a couple of years ago at the New Amsterdam Market, where I was selling my then brand new cookbook. Nini and I bonded over our Persian heritage (she was born in Iran, and my dad is from there), and we instantly knew that we wanted to collaborate on something. The dinner gave us our chance.
After our drive up from the city with her husband, the filmmaker and craftsman Anthony Chase, we started cooking. All of the prep for the dinner was done in Taylor Foster’s blissful Heaven on Main Street kitchen, in nearby Bovina, NY. The Heaven on Main Street space is actually for sale, and in my dreams I will buy it and open the world’s only stress-free restaurant operation.
On the day of the dinner, the Tay Home staff rigged up an outdoor kitchen for me behind the store, where I seasoned and plated by starlight, with a gurgling mountain stream just a few yards away.
It was by far the most romantic kitchen space I’ve ever worked in! The menu was strictly local, featuring the full flavors of the harvest season.
Hors d’Oeuvres: Fava bean and mint puree on crostini, diced heirloom tomatoes with fresh herbs on crostini
First: Creamy corn soup with saffron
Second: Fresh blueberries and grilled corn tossed with baby greens in shallot vinaigrette
Third: Persian-spiced beet cakes made with paprika and dried lime powder, served with quinoa, sauteed kale, and mint lime yogurt sauce with sumac
Dessert: Peach shortcake with lavender biscuits, and tea-infused whipped cream
On the night of the event, the table was set with elegant beeswax candles made by local craftswoman Susan Riesen of L’ouvrière and sunflowers from Nini’s garden. The thirty guests wandered outside to explore my makeshift kitchen over hors d’oeuvres, then sat down to enjoy four courses, followed by a sing-along with guitar led by my husband James.
As of now, the dinner and donations over the weekend have raised over $1200 for The Mark Project, which is helping to coordinate efforts for flood relief and emergency repair in nearby towns recovering from damage wrought by Hurricane Irene. I’m proud of the work we did, and everyone’s generosity in helping out.
You can still donate directly to The MARK Project, and if you stop in to Tay Home, they will be collecting donations for the next couple of weeks.
Tay Home: Thursday-Sunday, 10 am-6 pm, 131 Main Street, Andes, NY, 13731. Phone: 845-676-4997. www.taytea.com/tayhome/
Special thanks to Tess Mayer for her photos of the event.