Last Monday, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) hosted its fourth annual extravagant culinary gala, SAVOR, at Gotham Hall. SAVOR has become one of the most important evenings on the GMHC calendar not only because it spotlights the important role of the food and nutrition program of the organization, but also because the money it raises will feed thousands of people living with HIV and AIDS who rely on the GMHC for life-affirming, life-saving services.
This year, the gastronomic fundraiser attracted a high profile crowd of philanthropists and business leaders in support of honoree Joan Tisch who received the inaugural Judith Peabody Humanitarian Award. Tisch, who started off as a volunteer in 1986 stuffing envelopes and answering phones, rose to become one of the GMHC’s most famous anonymous volunteers and was soon asked to consider a position on the board of directors. It was during her tenure on the board when the GMHC grew from a grassroots non-profit serving 1,600 clients to the world’s most respected AIDS activism and advocacy agency, with more than 10,000 clients concurrently served and cared for. Although she would eschew any credit for this coming-of-age, it is undeniable that the GMHC would not be the robust organization it is without her intrepid leadership and stalwart generosity.
The late Judith Peabody, who passed away last year, was a dedicated volunteer and life-long supporter of the GMHC. In celebrating her life and recognizing her 30-year commitment to the fight against AIDS, the Judith Peabody Humanitarian Award was created and presented for the first time to Joan Tisch by Judith’s daughter Elizabeth Peabody and her husband Samuel Peabody. In addition, guests were treated to a very personal and loving video tribute dedicated to both women, featuring words from their families and produced by Judith’s nephew, Carter Peabody. (Photo above, Joan Tisch, Elizabeth Peabody, background, Marjorie Hill).
The evening highlighted New York’s most celebrated chefs who specially designed a menu that incorporated sustainable food practices and showcased the region’s best local produce. The delicious appetizers served during the cocktail reception were inspired by the distinct flavors of the five boroughs of New York. The cocktail reception featured hors d’oeuvres created by Chef Stephen Lewandowski of Tribeca Grill, which included red wine braised short rib pierogi with caramelized onion sour cream, crispy curried pea samosa with green apple and kaffir lime leaf, porcini mushroom and walnut baklava with white truffle honey, Dominican braised pork shoulder on crispy plantain chip, and rosemary-scented gulf shrimp with chestnut honey.
As guests sat down for dinner, they were first served a winter green salad with ascutney mountain cheese, shaved fennel, and puffed wheat berries that was designed by Chef Peter Hoffman of Savory. The salad was served with wine from the Robert Mondavi Winery, a 2009 Fume Blanc. (Photo, from left, Chefs Carmen Quagliata, Francois Payard, Stephen Lewandowski).
Next, guests were treated to Bloominghill Farm Carnival squash brood with chicken tortelloni, black truffle butter, and sage, created by Chef Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Café, and served with 2009 Pinot Noir from the Robert Mondavi Winery.
The entrée, prepared by Chef Peter Hoffman, was braised lamb shanks with Swiss chard sofrito and rutabaga mostarda, served with Taste Red from 2008, provided by Bedell Cellars.
And finally, a very scrumptious dessert of verrine raspberry, made by Chef François Payard of François Payard Bakery, was served with voli espresso.
The Food Network’s Ted Allen (above) returned as host for the evening, with Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell of The Fabulous Beekman Boys co-chairing the dinner. Majorie J. Hill, PhD, GMHC’s Chief Executive Officer, welcomed the 325 guests to New York’s iconic Gotham Hall.
The evening also consisted of both silent and live auctions. The silent auction offered a multitude of items, including cooking classes, audio equipment, Broadway tickets, and jewelry. There were two live auctions: a premium cocktail party for 60 people in the stone-walled wine cellar of Macelleria, one of the first restaurants to lead the revival of the Meatpacking District, and an eleven-night ultimate Spanish Adventure, which included two round-trip business-class tickets by Delta Airlines as well as several nights in various hotels in Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and Costa del Sol/Caseres. Thanks to the generosity of those who donated as well as those who bid, SAVOR raised over $650,000 to benefit GMHC’s work in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy.
The GMHC created a magnificent evening: a lavish four-course dinner prepared by a team of world-class chefs, auctions for exquisite and coveted items, a celebration of the work of distinguished leaders in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and fundraising for a renowned organization. A more rewarding and successful event could not have been conceived.
Photos by David Prutting, Billy Farrell Agency
For more information on GMHC, please go to the organization’s website.