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Smarter Restaurant Philanthropy

October 24, 2014

Restaurants have it tough. I’ve heard it said that owning a restaurant is a great way to turn a large fortune into a small one. It’s a brutal business.

What makes it even more brutal in the Capital Region are the demands local charities put on our eating places. This is, after all, a small town with a lot of restaurants. The last thing an owner wants to do is to piss off well-connected regulars. As it turns out, many of those regulars are also involved with philanthropy.

Signing on to attend one of these wine and food events isn’t that bad. Restaurants can get suppliers to donate food and take it as a write off. It gets the chefs out of the kitchen for a few hours and puts them face to face with an adoring public. It’s good exposure for the restaurant, as it helps to keep their name fresh in consumers mind. Plus it provides an opportunity to entice prospective guests with a taste of the restaurant’s food.

Participating restaurant come off as being generous. Generous is the opposite of cheap. And in this town, “cheap” is like the worst possible thing imaginable.

The problem is that it’s never just one event. These things go on all the time. And a chef could be away from the kitchen several nights in one week just covering these affairs. Affairs which never truly do a good job at putting the restaurant’s food in the best light. Affairs which effectively replace a dining out occasion for those in attendance. Affairs which may not be geographically proximate to the restaurant and may draw a lot of people who will never consider making a reservation.

I need to dig more deeply into all of this, and I hope to in the near future. For now, I’m pleased to report that one restaurant group seems to have found a better way.

Sunday DZ Restaurants is hosting their third annual Corks, Cuisine & Colors.

Think of the madness of a large wine and food festival, then slice it down into a nice bite sized morsel. And instead of paying $50 or more for the event, it’s just a suggested donation of $10 that will go entirely to DZ’s charity of choice. None of it goes to the venue. None of it goes to the organizers. And if you like, you don’t even have to make the donation.

In return, you get to sample food from all four DZ restaurants at one of their venues. There is also a staggering amount of wine to sample. Even though the restaurants don’t have to compete for the attention of attendees, they are still bringing their A-game.

Chef Roslyn from Boca Bistro is making Spanish coca. I can’t believe I’ve never had one, and her version with shrimp and chorizo, shishito pepper hummus, smoked paprika aioli, and Idiazabal cheese sounds so delicious that I’m even willing to overlook “shishito pepper hummus.”

Chianti’s chef Fabrizio is bringing risotto al formaggio con pelature di tartufo (or risotto with cheese and truffle peelings, for those of us who don’t speak Italian).

The Pasta Pane dish from chef James is something I’d love to make at home this fall. It’s a butternut squash and tuscan bean soup with Grana Padano cheese. I’d probably make it with Parm Reg, but I think I just figured out what I’m going to do with my squash, chicken stock and beans.

Chef Ryan of Forno Bistro is bringing dessert in the form of apple turnovers with vanilla bean and cinnamon crème anglaise. Fall in New York wouldn’t be complete without apples. How could this not be delightful?

There is also a staggeringly large number of wines to sample. I can’t even begin to try and untangle these whole lists for you. But for those interested, the interwebs can be of help.

Boca Bistro is bringing the following:
-Ventana Rubystone
-Zuccardi Q Malbec
-El Coto Rioja Crianza
-Laetitia Estate Chardonnay
-Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris
-Chalone Gavilan Pinot Noir
-Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir
-Taken Complicated Blend
-Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere
-Albet I Noya Cava Brut
-Barquer’s Mark Arona Sauv Blanc
-Vivanco Crianza
-Bodega Sottano Malbec

I’d love to see how the Laetitia Estate Chardonnay pairs with Rosalyn’s coca. This isn’t your typical heavily oaked vanilla and tropical fruit chard. This is all lemon and chalk.

Chianti will be showcasing the list of wines below:
-Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino
-Castello Banfi Cum Laude
-Hess Allomi Cabernet
-Freeman Sonoma Pinot Noir
-Or Agricola Punica Barrua
-The Calling Chardonnay
-Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc
-Giacosa Fratelli Arneis
-Pertinace Dolcetto d’Alba
-Pertinace Marcarini Barbaresco
-Las Alturas Belle Glos
-Rapitala’ Grillo
-Bricco Barone Nebbiolo
-Ca’Bianca Barolo
-Le Chiuse Brunello
-Heitz or Clos du Val Cabernet
-De Martino Sauvignon Blanc

With the truffled risotto, I’d love to try that Ca’Bianca Barolo as it’s a classic combination. Which isn’t to say that one should not consider a fruity new world pinot noir as well.

Pasta Pane will have:
-Antigal Uno Malbec
-Josh Cellars Legacy (Blend)
-Ruffino Santedame Classico
-St M Riesling
-Primarius Pinot Noir
-Sottano Malbec
-McManis Cabernet
-Canaletto Prosecco
-19 Crimes (Blend)
-Sterling Cabernet
-Castillo Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Reserve
-Bollini Pinot Grigio
-Block 9 Pinot Noir
-Milbrant Cabernet
-Melini Chianti Classico Riserva “La Selvanella”

It could be fun to start with this soup and pair it with a prosecco or maybe the fall flavors would go well with this well made Oregonian pinot noir.

Despite bringing dessert, Forno Bistro also has some formidable wines:
-New Harbor Sauv Blanc
-Louis Jadot: Pouilly Fuisse
-Palacios Remodo La Montessa
-Querciabella Mongrana
-St. Chapelle Riesling
-Chalk Hill Chardonnay
-Dinastia Crianza
-Carpineto Vino Nobile
-Ruffino Orvieto
-Antinori Vermentino
-Villa Pozzi Nero D’Avola
-C’ol D’Orcia Brunello
-Standing Stone Riesling
-David Bruce Pinot Noir
-Foppiano Petite Sirah
-Milbrandt Cabernet Sauv

It would be really fun to compare their Chalk Hill Chardonnay to Bocca Bistro’s Laetita Estate Chardonnay. The Standing Stone Riesling from New York’s Finger Lakes may not be the fanciest of the wines, but it does have some notes of apple, which could play well off the restaurant’s dish.

Man, this sounds like a ton of fun. I wish I could make it. But I can’t. Hopefully, some of you can get there in my place and let me know if it’s as great as I suspect it will be. All the details are here.

But I’m not writing about this because it sounds fun. I’m writing about this because it is smart. The restaurant group has taken control of the experience. Attendees aren’t going to be overwhelmed by so many samples that they forget which morsel came from which restaurant. Every person who goes will be signed up for a DZ Restaurant Preferred Guest card. And because it is being held in one of their establishments, it’s actually getting people through the doors to experience the decor and location first hand.

Hopefully, because this event is also reasonably priced, guests won’t feel the need to try to drink their weight in wine. Some of these functions can get a bit sloppy. But even if they do, Saratoga Springs is a great walking town, and afterwards people don’t have to get into their cars and drive home.

I applaud DZ Restaurants for finding ways to give back to the community on their own terms while still creating an event that’s worthy of people’s attention. Bravo.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 24, 2014 4:57 pm

    I always consider it a great compliment when a restaurant supports a charity I support.

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