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Great Food, Good Company To Benefit Boys and Girls Club

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In these difficult economic times, even non-profit organizations located in affluent areas find it a challenge to raise funds. The Boys and Girls Club of Northern Westchester, providing many benefits for more than 25,000 children enrolled in its program, is up to the challenge.

Shelley Lewis Waln, president of the Wedding Channel, former executive vice president for Martha Stewart, and board member of BGCNW, had a brainstorm. Why not bring together concerned citizens who want to help children and also appreciate great food? Thus was born the Chef Series, three dining events where 40 donors are able to contribute to a worthy cause while enjoying the cuisine of some of the finest restaurants in Northern Westchester. (In photo above, left to right, Thomas A. O’Brien, Jr., Shelley Lewis Waln, and Gustavo Zuluaga).

Established in 1939, originally for boys only, BGCNW is now a haven for young men and women from disadvantaged families. The 36,000 square foot facility includes two computer labs, an eight-lane swimming pool, a childcare center, gym, teen center, and game room.

Nothing is more important than the new state-of-the art kitchen, installed last May. Each day, 150 children are served a hot meal. For many, it’s their only hot meal of the day. Kids are also given nutritious snacks and learn about making the right food choices to stay strong and healthy. Education is also available for those who’d like to pursue a career in the culinary field.

At the invitation of the BGCNW, my husband and I attended the second of these events on Thursday night, April 1. After an hour of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and convivial conversation, all those attending sat down at small tables facing the kitchen, and listened intently as acclaimed Chef Brad McDonald explained the menu.

Originally from Mississippi, McDonald (above) has worked with some of the most celebrated chefs of our time, including Alain Ducasse and Thomas Keller. McDonald has reinvigorated Crabtree’s Kittle House, a venerable Westchester institution, providing first class food for discerning palates. The restaurant is a favorite of local celebrities such as former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vanessa Williams.

Chef McDonald’s menu for the BGCNW dinner was carefully orchestrated to fit his philosophy of serving, whenever possible, the freshest and best local food according to the season.

The delightful three-course menu began with “Rainbow Ridge Chef’s Choice Spring Salad,” above, featuring goat cheese mousse, baby asparagus, fava beans, iola rossa, torn raspberries, and toasted bread crumbs. The second course was “John Boy’s Farm Organic Chicken,” which included black garlic, morels, bibb lettuce, and brown butter chicken glaze.

Dessert was a delicious “Brioche Bread Pudding,” with Tuthilltown baby bourbon crème a l’anglaise, above.

We were struck not only by the extraordinary caliber of the food, but also by how warm and friendly everyone was. President of the Board Thomas A. O’Brien, Jr. kept his welcoming speech short and humorous. Executive Director Brian P. Skanes and his wife, Jean (in photo, above), went out of their way to make everyone feel included in the conversation.

We were impressed by the genuine interest in the center that was expressed by Jane and Bill Balter (above), this year’s recipients of the Humanitarian Award.

It was also a pleasure to speak with Sharon and Jonas Weiner (above with Jane and Bill Balter). Without the plumbing services Weiner donated, the kitchen would not exist as it is today.

The most entertaining ladies present were without a doubt writer Seema Boesky (right, above) and her friend, Beth Golde (on left). These upbeat women declared their intention to “eat, drink, and be merry while helping a great cause.” When I asked Boesky why it was that the Beautiful People of Northern Westchester looked particularly fetching, she laughed that it all had to do with the water of BGCNW. “That doesn’t mean I haven’t had a facelift…or two!” she volunteered with a smile.

If you’d like to be in on the fun next time, the third and final dinner of the Chef Series is being held on Thursday, May 6, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and will feature Owner/Chef Leslie Lampert and Executive Chef Michael Cutney of the lauded Café Of Love, Mt. Kisco. The Boys and Girls Club of Northern Westchester is located at 351 Main Street, Mt. Kisco. For information on tickets, which are $125 and going fast, contact Jean Skanes at 914-666-8060 ext. 111, jskanes@bgcnw.com.

Exceptional food, great company, outstanding cause.

Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist, and an unrepentant Foodie. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. She is a voting member of Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, International Association of Theatre Critics, Dance Critics Association, and National Book Critics Circle. michalljeffers@verizon.net. michalljeffers.com

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