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.