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26th Annual Garden Party
Pier 54, New York City
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
June 22, 2009   photo-album Bookmark and Share

Remember that childhood dream of being locked in the grocery store—and nothing to do but eat your way through the aisles all night long?  Transfer that dream to Pier 54 in Manhattan on the Monday night of Pride Week—and you’ve got the Center’s Garden Party.  And even better than that locked-tight grocery store of your childhood fantasy, Pier 54 was a smorgasbord of lip-smacking treats from nearly forty favorite New York restaurants, complete with celebrity chefs, Food Network stars—and over two thousand foodies, all resplendent as a bowl of tropical fruits. 

This year’s event chair Ruth Reichl, Gourmet magazine’s editor-in-chief, handpicked some of her favorite chefs, amongst them Rebecca Charles (Pearl Oyster Bar), Dave Pasternak (Esca), and Daniel Angerer (Klee Brasserie) to bestow morsels such as spicy gazpacho with smoked lobster and mini Maine lobster rolls on brioche buns upon a crowd that included politicos such as Christine Quinn, Robert Morgenthau, Jerry Nadler, as well as Ronnie Kroell from “Make Me A Supermodel,” Bruce Robert Harris, Alexis Michelle from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”—and just about every gay gourmand in Gotham.

As for the food? Let’s start with a list—and just see if you can keep from salivating: black forest ice cream cake, mini pulled pork sliders, escargots au pastis, housemade tofu with wari-joyu, chilled cucumber garden soup, corn fritter with tomato jam, chilled sweet corn soup with basil oil, red velvet cupcakes, and crispy banana wontons with star anise caramel sauce, and rum punch, and coconut shrimp escabeche…

See what we mean?  And then there was the Treats Truck that pulled right onto the Pier to dispense its addictive peanut butter sandwich cookies and caramel crème sandwich cookies and pecan butterscotch bars.

As well as: Serendipity’s frozen hot chocolate, and granita from Joe the Art of Coffee, and watermelon lemonade from Vynl, and a toothsome mushroom and porcini béchamel pizza from Certe Catering that rendered us mute… 

And speaking of toothsome—the crowd was a head-swiveler’s delight, filled with such yummy specimens that it was almost enough to make your jaw drop—if your mouth wasn’t already full…

And did we mention those mini strawberry shortcakes from Ate Ave?  Or the sublime cupcakes from Butter Lane, which incidentally had the longest lines of the entire evening—along with Dinosaur BBQ, serving up those mini pulled pork sliders.

For twenty-six years, the Garden Party has raised much-needed funds for the much-loved LGBT Community Center, enabling the Center to continue its mission of LGBT support through advocacy, cultural programming, and meetings and conferences, in a safe and nurturing environment. Started in 1984 with 1,000 donors and friends and one catering company, the Garden Party has evolved into the only LGBT tasting event in the country, with major corporate sponsors including Prudential Financial, Aetna, Food Network, HGTV, Gourmet magazine, and Zagat—and thanks to them, and all the fabulous foodies present, this year’s Garden Party raised more than $175,000 for the Center and its programming.

Mark your calendars for next year now—the Monday evening of Pride week—and make your wildest food fantasies come true at the Center’s Garden Party, where everything’s in good taste and tastes good too.

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