Generosity, philanthropy, community and love all affect flavor. This why our mother’s roast beef tastes better. That’s why
we you wait on absurd lines during free cone day at Ben & Jerry’s. That’s why we can stomach bad food at good weddings.*
And that’s why, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which left scores without heat, hot water and electricity, I like to think we’re rightly being drawn toward restaurants that don’t simply serve good food (of which there’s a surfeit), but rather toward restaurants that are linchpins of our society, that give back to those who are down on their luck.
Or let me put it this way, I like to think (and hope) that restaurants that make philanthropy a regular part of their business model will have an edge in our post-Sandy world. I don’t mean that cynically, I mean that honestly and earnestly. These are places that make us feel better.
So it goes that the excellent and extra-charitable Hearth is the subject of my three star Bloomberg News review today, a restaurant that makes me feel better when I eat there. Marco Canora and Paul Grieco’s East Village restaurant, which shuttered for six days in the wake of Sandy, raised $12,500 for New York Food Flood on Monday, a grassroots organization that helps feed hungry New Yorkers in the wake of the worst storm to hit our city in a generation. Tertulia’s Seamus Mullen, The Dutch’s Andrew Carmellini and Aldea’s George Mendes are all founding members of this fine group.
Now, as I explain in my review, it was actually an ALS benefit in September that first brought me back to Hearth for the first time in a long time. I don’t typically attend those events, but it’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart (the father of one of my close friends was recently diagnosed). It was a moving night, in honor of Gerry Hayden, who runs North Fork Table & Inn, as well as Kevin Swan, a former Hearth server, both of whom suffer from the incurable disease.
It was that benefit that prompted me to start going back to Hearth as a patron, which I eventually did after Sandy. Or if I can flip that statement on its head: If it weren’t for that benefit, I probably wouldn’t have started eating at Hearth again, if for no other reason than it simply wasn’t on my radar, either as a critic or as guy who eats out a lot. So I’m glad I went. I’m glad I was reacquainted with a restaurant that serves food worthy of a Michelin star (even though it incorrectly lacks one). And I’m glad that Hearth is a vital and thriving member of our community. The place is packed. Rightly so.
We’ve had the good fortune of attending an excellent benefit dinner at Hearth recently, and rest assured, these guys get it right. We’re calling this one a GOOD DEAL. Oh, and in case you’re interested, this is an NYC Food Flood event, “a relief effort to feed New Yorkers in need.” The group was founded by Chefs Andrew Carmellini, George Mendes, Seamus Mullen and Marco Canora in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Why? Because that’s how they roll.