A Seriously Delicious Pasta Party Is Coming to Chelsea Market, for a Great Cause

“Honestly, I am really excited to be welcoming all these great chefs into my kitchen,” says Kevin Garcia (Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina; 75 Ninth Avenue, inside Chelsea Market) as he prepares to host a taste-around pasta dinner in celebration of Pasta Month.

The event, United Tastes of Pasta, showcases dishes from a host of award-winning pasta specialist chefs, both from New York and farther afield. Jody Adams will share the taste of her Boston restaurants Rialto and Trade; Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier are bringing a sample of M.C. Spiedo from Boston, and Matt Accarrino is flying in from San Francisco’s SPQR for the event, which promises to be well worth the $55 ticket, with proceeds going to support Food Bank NYC.

Spinach and ricotta girasole
Spinach and ricotta girasole

“I was thrilled to be invited,” says Adams. “Anything that celebrates pasta — and gluten, come to that — is good with me. I love beautiful wheat pasta. Always have. It’s a large part of what compels me to work in an Italian restaurant. So it’s going to be exciting to meet the Rana family, and to hear about their history.” It’s a heritage that goes back half a century to Verona, Italy, where Giovanni Rana began to make and sell homemade pasta.

“It’s great to bring pasta lovers together,” says Garcia. “And it’s great that we can all learn form each other and share ideas. Back in the day it used to be so secretive and guarded, but I love that now we can get inspired from each other, and learn and grow. It’s not competitive.”

That said, for a “not competitive” event, the chefs are pulling out the stops on their dishes.

Cappelletti al prosciutto
Cappelletti al prosciutto

“I’m making a ravioli filled with salt cod, with a mascarpone citrus caviar sauce,” says Garcia. “One side of the pasta will be made with squid ink — because it’s an amazing color and it’s good to have with the fish filling — and the other side is yellow pasta, so it looks striking. I’ve been refining it for a couple of months now. I’m excited to make it.”

“I’m making tortellini,” says Frasier. “Because we’re known for Renaissance food, we’re incorporating some rosewater, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and saffron along with the mascarpone and ricotta filling, and we’re serving it with roasted pumpkin and a nod to our Maine restaurant — lobster. I’ve been practicing. I had all my friends over for a dinner party to try it and they loved it. It’s definitely delicious.”

Bringing it big time, Adams is going with a dish that’s appeared seasonally on her restaurants’ menus for twenty years: squash ravioli with littleneck clams, sage, and pomegranate. “I always buy my clams from this couple, Pat and Barbara Woodbury. They take incredible care of them, and I’m so proud to serve them. I know this is a great flavor combination. I know it’s going to taste beautiful.”

Following the event, the dishes will be featured on the menu at Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina. “Every time someone orders the pasta we’ll donate one dollar to Food Bank,” says Garcia. The restaurant is also donating 100,000 meals. “It’s an excellent cause that we really believe in.”

“So basically,” Frasier concludes, “it’s going to be a wonderful dinner, with great chefs and interesting people, for a fantastic cause. Honestly, it’s a win-win-win.”

United Tastes of Pasta goes down October 28 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Get tickets here.


Meet the Woman Who Uses Cosplay and Comic Cons to Lift the Spirits of Sick Children

When New York Comic Con rolls around, local cosplayers are finally able to showcase the hero, villain, and internet meme costumes they have worked on all year. But for Adaina Velez, being a “hero” is more than the costumes she designs. Through her charity, Heroes, the Bronx resident uses her love of costumes and super heroes to bring joy to sick and disabled children.

An active member of the cosplay scene, Velez says she wanted to use Heroes as a way to be a role model for her children. After taking her own children with her to comic conventions and seeing how much they enjoyed participating, themselves, Velez wanted to extend the opportunity to other, less fortunate, kids.

“My children loved it,” Velez says. “I thought it would be awesome to give another person, a child the opportunity to have that experience.”

Velez was introduced to her first potential hero in January. At eight years old, Jhosua Santana, was diagnosed with two forms of cancer: osteosarcoma and leukemia. Velez reached out to Jhosua’s family, and her charity became a reality.

“We got everything rolling, and ever since Jhosua and his mom have been family to me,” Velez says.

Using her experience creating costumes for cosplay conventions, Velez helped create a custom Robin costume for Jhosua. She also sponsored a surprise party for his eighth birthday while he was in the hospital.

[pullquote]’The heroes are [the children]. I honor them, they’re my little heroes.'[/pullquote]

“He was so excited,” says Yudelka Bernal, Jhosua’s mother. “He told me, ‘I didn’t know there were so many people coming to see me on my birthday.”

After a bone marrow transplant that was unsuccessful, Bernal gave her marrow in May and Jhosua is now out of the hospital and growing his hair again. She says the “Heroes” program helped her son see the benefit of helping others.

“I think that he will see there are people there for him and for another kid in a hard situation,” Bernal says.

Even though she originally planned to sponsor her heroes for a year, Velez said she would always be involved with Jhosua and his family.

“Jhosua is going to be with me until he’s tired of me,” Velez says. “I’m never going to give him up.”

Velez reading to Jhosua in the hospital.
Velez reading to Jhosua in the hospital.

Velez and met her second hero, 12-year-old Shawn Cuoco in May at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Con. Shawn has Down’s syndrome, and Velez has coordinated with his father to take him to various conventions and create costumes for him.

“He and I went to Garden State (Comic Fest) together, and we had a fantastic time,” she says.

Over the course of the year, Velez has received a number of small donations through a GoFundMe campaign she set up and is currently working to establish Heroes as a non-profit. She’s also begun talking with local hospitals about partnerships and is planning a cabaret fundraiser for the winter. Still, through all her work Velez insists that she is not the hero in her story.

“The hero is not me, they’re not the people who come and see (the kids) in cosplay, the heroes are [the children],” Velez said. “I honor them, they’re my little heroes.”


John Legend Stunned The Crowd At Auction Last Night

I was peacefully enjoying the live auction at City Harvest’s “Practical Magic” fundraiser at Cipriani 42nd Street last night when a surprise item came up for bidding.

John Legend came up from the audience and offered to give a private concert to anyone who had room for a piano in their house! Shock waves went through the crowd, and then everyone quickly regrouped and started frantically raising their paddles. The bidding started at a very sizable $50,000 and it kept mounting until one lucky person nabbed the private show for the eye-popping amount of $110,000! That’s probably more than Legend gets to play an arena.

And that wasn’t all. The auction ended with Le Bernardin’s owner/chef Eric Ripert auctioning off a private dinner he’d make for 20 people in your home. The bids were sky-high, but they soared even more when Richard Gere surprised everyone by taking the stage to say he was adding himself to the prize. Gere said his father had been involved with Meals on Wheels, so he’s always wanted to help feed the needy (which is exactly what City Harvest does). So he said he would come along with the dinner! “He’ll do anything, said the auctioneer. “Within reason,” interjected Gere.

Anyway, there were two bidders willing to pay a whopping $220,000 for this marvy meal, so Ripert decided he’d make two dinners. They both won!

If they want John Legend as an opening act, I’m sure that could be arranged for a $110,000 tip.


The Numbers Are In: More Than $400 Million Was Raised For Hurricane Sandy Relief

When all else (Congress) fails to raise monies for those devastated by Hurricane Sandy, it’s rewarding to see ordinary citizens donate a little extra to the cause. And even more rewarding when that little extra amounts to nearly half a billion dollars.

A month ago, we reported on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s campaign to apply transparency to charitable organizations. The mission was simple: non-profit groups collecting enormous sums of relief money would be accountable for their actions, ensuring that this relief money was only falling into the hands of Hurricane victims. In order to do so, Schneiderman shot out surveys to these subjects, demanding financial disclosure. Now, just weeks later, we’re starting to see the results trickle in from this open-door policy.
Eighty-eight organizations responded to the AG Charities Bureau’s requests. In total, the amounts disclosed equal give or take $407 million. Five charities alone made up about $330 million of this grand relief prize while eighty-three smaller charities patched up the remaining $77 million.
Although the relief package struggling to get passed in Congress clocks in at $60.4 billion, this is a damn fine place to start.
The five largest contributors are as follows: American Red Cross ($188 million); Robin Hood Foundation ($67 million); The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City ($45 million); Empire State Relief Fund ($15.4 million); and The Salvation Army, USA Eastern Territory ($14.3 million). You can find the rest of the charities helping out those in need and everything else finance-related here. Also, keep in mind: these are the initial figures; the amount can only go up at this point.
Also, luckily, this $400 million seems to have been gathered with clean hands – as of now, there is no report of mishandling Hurricane Sandy relief funds in this transparency campaign. (Except that lady in the Bronx who was tying donations to Newtown families and Sandy victims to her PayPal account. She posed as an aunt of one of the young victims from that tragic day. So, if found guilty, she’s just the worst human ever).
It goes without saying that during a time of doom and despair, profiteers come out of their holes to benefit. We see this unfortunate scamming all the time with every major catastrophe so, first and foremost, we need tools to publicly shame those involved. The same logic was used by the A.G. towards gas companies – a handful of pumpers across New York State were subpoenaed for accusations of price-gauging during Hurricane Sandy, their addresses appearing on a site for all the Internet to see.
So cheers for some sort of Good Samaritan-ism. Those affected by the storm – now, more than two months later – definitely need it.

Donald Trump Could Always Just Give $5 Million to Charity. But He Won’t

Billionaire media slut Donald Trump’s not-so-earth-shattering announcement yesterday that he will donate $5 million to a charity of President Barack Obama’s choice if the president releases his college transcripts was essentially brushed off by the White House as the shameless PR stunt that it is.

Fox News described the offer as an act of “philanthropic extortion.”

Even the president laughed it off during an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night.

In other words, no charity will see the money The Donald dangled in front of them. But that’s not the president’s fault, that’s because Donald Trump is a stingy, carnival-barking phony.

In the past 21 years, Trump’s foundation has donated a grand total of $7.7 million to charity, according to an April 2011 article posted on The Smoking Gun, in which the website declares Trump to be “the least charitable billionaire.”

Of that $7.7 million, only $3.7 million was taken from Trump’s personal fortune, which is estimated to be roughly $3.1 billion.

charities that Trump suggested the president choose to send the donation
includes AIDS and cancer research centers, and to “inner-city kids in

But they won’t see a penny of that money — despite desperately needing it, we’re sure.

In contrast, other billionaires — like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and even New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg — shed much of their excess cash by giving it to charitable groups. In fact, Bloomberg has given more than $350 million to his charitable organization.

Billionaire Warren Buffet, as you may know, gave $1.5 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006. And — believe it or not — he’s still filthy stinkin’ rich.

There’s nothing stopping Trump from just donating that
money to a charity of his choice and not use the cash to extort the leader of the free world. He clearly has the money — he’s
offering to do it. But he won’t — because he’s Donald Trump.


How Long Can You Eat?

The kids over at 826NYC’s drop-in tutoring program have started an awesome blog, “Fish Slaps a Baby”, which focuses on issues like wrestling, penguins, rock n’ roll, transformers, and, uhhh, wrestling. But it’s also interactive. On the right side of the page are polls for readers to answer. There are currently six days left to answer one that asks: “How long can you eat?”


The Christmas List: Our Favorite Coffee Mug

Bodanna, the East Village’s coolest ceramics shop/non-profit, is one of our favorite places to buy gifts, especially of the house-warming variety. The business is run with the help of inner city teens, who do apprenticeships in the studio and in the shop. And while we love a good cause, we wouldn’t buy vases and mugs and bowls that weren’t great-looking. Every morning, we drink coffee out of the Morning Mug, the perfect big, comforting cup. ($25 each).

125 East 7th Street
(212) 388-0078