Generosity, philanthropy, community and love all affect flavor. This is why our mother’s roast beef tastes better. It's why we we wait on absurd lines during free cone day at Ben & Jerry’s. It's why we can stomach bad food at good weddings.*
And this is 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. Marco Canora and Paul Grieco’s East Village restaurant, which shuttered for six days in the wake of Sandy, on Monday raised $12,500 for New York Food Flood, 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 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. 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 a 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 unfairly lacks one). And I’m glad that Hearth is a vital and thriving member of our community. The place is packed. Rightly so.
*Note: Out of honestly, I should point out that I refuse to eat bad food at any wedding, and have been known to shun certain underperforming dishes at family dinners.
Ryan Sutton is the New York City food critic for Bloomberg News and author of The Bad Deal.