Tuesday’s annual City Harvest benefit at the Metropolitan Pavilion offered comfort food and a very great deal of it. “Chefs have taken a creative approach to cost-cutting,” said D’Artagnan’s Ariane Daguin, who served lamb sausage sandwiches, a big change after putting out tastes of foie gras in 2008. “Last year, you had truffles all over the place,” she noted. In general, the 60-odd restaurants who served at the event offered big portions of less-expensive or less-tony food. Gramercy Tavern went with pigs-in-a-blanket (pretzel-encased kielbasa); Table 8 offered salmon pastrami on rye. One of the longer lines was for Bar Breton’s prosaic but delicious crêpe croque monsieur, a simple ham and cheese with mayo.
The recession was much talked about: Board member Eric Ripert said he made a pledge earlier this year to give $1 to City Harvest for every guest at Le Bernardin and he’s been posting a check a month since. The total is running at upwards of $72,000, he says. “We got a lot of support from our clients who realized that we couldn’t drop our prices [when the recession hit] but still wanted to do something” for charity. And the event’s attendees also wanted to do something: Two tickets to the Vanity Fair Oscar party went for $38,000 after a furious bidding war. And the evening ended with the auction of a dinner for twenty at Le Bernardin, along with a wine class with the restaurant’s sommelier. As the bidding climbed, Chef Ripert kept sweetening the pot. “How about a magnum of ’61 Lafitte?” he threw in. The lot brought $55,000.