A Delicious Event

Sotheby's holds New York City's first-ever edible auction

New Yorkers are notorious for their 
ability to sniff out a good deal, but last month at Sotheby’s, some of the city’s more prominent residents had no problem vying for the chance to spend upwards of $1,000 for a crate of tomatoes. Of course, these were no ordinary tomatoes. The heirloom beauties, grown from farms in the tri-state area, were among the items featured at the city’s inaugural “The Art of Farming” heirloom vegetable auction, held at Sotheby’s Auction House on September 23, 2010. The event, which brought together local farmers, chefs and food industry experts, raised just under $250,000 for two organizations that are helping make New York a greener place: GrowNYC New Farmer Development Project, which  helps immigrants with agricultural experience establish farms in the region, and the Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm, which creates hands-on experiences to teach children about nutrition, farming and wellness.

Photo by Beekman 1802

Co-chair Libby Fitzgerald, whose family’s Roxbury farm is covered in Country Life this month (“A Moveable Feast,” pg. 78), thinks the auction’s success underscores consumers’ increasing interest in buying local. “Most of our customers want to know where their food comes from,” she said. “We have a lot of customers who actually come to the farm in Roxbury to meet us and see our operation.”

The evening kicked off with a cocktail reception featuring “local” hors d’oeuvres by renowned restaurant Rouge Tomate. Auctioneer Jamie Niven, Chairman of Sotheby’s North America, got the bidding started about an hour later. On the block: a variety of food-related items, from dinners cooked by celebrity chefs to field trips for elementary school classes. The crates of heirloom vegetables (including those $1,000 tomatoes) were donated to community food programs around New York City.  “It was exciting,” said CTC&G columnist Philip Gorrivan. “It’s a new event and the room was sold out. It’s proof that eating healthy is here to stay.”

Perhaps the most delicious part of the evening was the final stage, when 133 guests sat down to a four-course gala dinner in Sotheby’s 10th-floor galleries. There was fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes from Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen, lamb sausage in a clam-squash broth from Jeff Gimmel of Swoon Kitchenbar, and roasted pork from Roberto Alicea, the executive chef of Andaz 5th Avenue. Myriam Eberhardt, the pastry chef at DBGB Kitchen and Bar, ended the evening on a sweet note with a green apple-mint sorbet and honey crisp apple tarts.

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