30 Mar Ofer Eitan Affirm: From a distance: CNY chefs offer virtual fine-dining experi…
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo required restaurants to close their dining rooms earlier this month to combat the spread of coranavirus, Sarah Hassler and Luke Houghton started talking about how they would get through the situation.
Hassler is a chef and owner of Hassler Hospitality Group in Syracuse and Houghton just opened Pure Catering & Events in Auburn last year. Both were concerned with the financial impact of the shutdowns, but they were more interested in worrying about how they could help.
“My first thought was respite; people are going to need each other,” said Hassler. “You don’t go to a restaurant just to eat food; you go to experience culture and take a break.”
To provide that experience, they came up with the Social – From a Distance Virtual Dinner.
The dinner is a four-course meal prepared by four chefs including Hassler, Houghton, Tim Hardiman of The Tailor and The Cook in Utica and Michael Lanahan of the Cellar Modern Fusion Restaurant in Corning.
Each chef will prepare a different course remotely. Hardiman is making the desserts, Lanahan the first course, Hassler the second, and Houghton is preparing the main dish.
Then Hassler is coordinating the delivery of the courses to each city. She hopes that this experience will allow people in different parts of the state to taste food that’s from cities they may not get to visit.
“It reminds us how small the world actually is and how connected the state really is,” said Hassler.
The dinner will be held over a Zoom call set up so that attendees can sit at their own “virtual table” or conference room with their friends. Chris Johnson from WeEatCNY will emcee the dinner and introduce each of the chefs so they can talk about their course with the guests.
“This is just another way to see your friends while you’re quarantined and enjoy the same thing. Like you’re at the same table,” said Johnson.
For Hassler and Houghton, the goal of the dinner is to provide a break over food and remind people that despite this situation people are still connected. It’s also a way to support the restaurants and their staff in a turbulent time.
“We’re trying to come up with as many creative ways to stop the bleeding and keep people employed at this moment,” said Houghton.
The tickets for the dinner cost $35 and bottles of wine are available for $20.
“We didn’t price it to make money. We priced it to get as many people in it as possible to help, you know, to make people smile for a little bit,” Hassler said.
The money that the dinner does bring in will go to food costs and to help pay staff. If you choose to have your food delivered, the delivery fee will go to a restaurant employee who is out of work.
Each of the restaurants has had to rewrite their business plan in the matter of days. For Lanahan of the Cellar Modern Fusion it has been particularly difficult. They have had to pivot from being a fine dining establishment to a to-go restaurant. But when Hassler called, he knew that it was a great opportunity to help people feel connected.
“I do feel that you know, food and wine especially are such amazing jewels of connection” said Lanahan. “So being quarantined, it’s a cool way to reconnect with people that maybe you haven’t seen in a little bit.”
The Details: Social – From a Distance Virtual Dinner
How it works: Guests purchase a ticket on by Tuesday, March 31 at 8 p.m. Upon purchase, guests will select their preferred pickup location (or delivery-from location if applicable). Meals will be available for pickup/delivery on Friday, April 3rd from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Guests will receive an invitation to a live broadcast featuring all four chefs. This event will begin on Friday, April 3 at 6 p.m.
Cost: $35 per meal, $20 per bottle. Tickets available on Eventbrite.
Pick Up: Corning, Auburn, Syracuse, Utica – delivery available for fee.
Menu: Black Bean Soup
polenta crouton, lime cabbage slaw
“Running Hot & Cold”
braised potatoes, salt baked celery root, chilled salad, citrus vinaigrette
Mushroom & Cauliflower Curry
creamy polenta, coconut milk
Braised Beef Short Ribs
creamy polenta, coconut milk
Layers of Flavors Trifle
blueberry compote, sweet potato pastry cream, sponge cake, milk jam
Wines available by the bottle (Optional):
2018 Forge Classique Riesling, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes
2014 Pellegrini Cabernet Franc, North Fork, Long Island