Long Island Showcases Its Best At The First Ever Island To Table Dinner

"Anyone up for doing this in Patchogue? I'll provide veggies."

That's how Eva Rodriguez-Greguski captioned a shared Facebook photo of a Tennessee town's fundraiser, an outdoor farm-to-table dinner smack in the middle of a Main Street setting. That was February 3rd.

On July 31st, nearly six months later, Patchogue, Long Island's New Village courtyard was set for over 100 guests, ready to host Island to Table. This six-course dinner was prepared by local chefs from locally sourced Long Island ingredients as a fundraiser for HomeGrown Change, the non-profit organization Rodriguez-Greguski founded. "I get myself in trouble on social media because I show those photos, and now we're all here," she said, smiling.

Rows of table and chairs were set up adorned with floral centerpieces handmade by the hostess herself, some in Blue Point Brewing Company growlers, the event's beer sponsor. A giant tent covered the entire seating area, the threat of rain looming, but not slowing down anything. A Blue Island Oyster Company oyster bar, passed hors d'oeuvres, a Prosecco and beer bar, and live acoustic music lined the courtyard perimeter for the cocktail hour as guests filtered in ready to sample some of the best food Long Island has to offer — and also to support a good cause.

"We're a new non-profit organization that teaches sustainability and gardening to local schools and community groups," Rodriguez-Greguski explained. "HomeGrown Change is dedicated to bringing fresh food and showing children how they can grow vegetables on their own. A lot of the produce that you'll be eating tonight we personally picked up from local farms." She explained that there are currently over 600 working farms on Long Island. "You cannot get fresher food. And we want to show that there is a life cycle. Many children in this day of chicken nuggets don't understand where their food is coming from, so that's where we try to step in, and try to help."

Island to Table is raising money for two HomeGrown Change projects currently in the works: a pollinator garden and native plant garden at the new library, as well as a new garden for a local elementary school.

The chefs involved in Island to Table echo HomeGrown Change's sustainability message. "I was fortunate enough to do this course: local scup, roasted corn succotash, a little white beans, local zucchini, smoked paprika aioli, a little herb oil, and microgreens," Chef Richard Lanza of Ristegio's said. "This dish is 250 years old. Imagine Patchogue back then. The corn was here. The zucchini was here. The beans were here in some type of form. And so was the fish. So something that could have been done, again, 200 years ago."

The community came together to make this event happen with a menu featuring Long Island-sourced produce, poultry, meat, fish, shellfish, cheese, and eggs prepared by five top chefs: Chef Jim Klein from Perabell Food Bar, Chef Richard Lanza from Ristegio's, Chef Lauren Lombardi from Lombardi's on the Bay, Chef Hirbin Manzanares from South Ocean Grill, and Chef Elmer Rubio from Chachama Grill.

The event organizers gave them a list of ingredients to work with, and the menu was up to them. "We said, 'These things are in season; go for it,'" recalled Rodriguez-Greguski. "And they went for it!"

The end result was a creative and eclectic menu that included fried duck ravioli, mushroom-dusted sea scallops, potato and quail egg ravioli, and jumbo lump crab cakes. The chefs' enthusiasm for the food and the event was evident as they worked together to help each other with their dishes.

"The pork came from 8 Hands Farm, which was just processed on Wednesday," said Klein. "So this might be the freshest pork you've ever eaten."

The chefs' creations were paired with wine, beer from Blue Point Brewing Company (who recently launched the "Patchogue's Got it All" ad campaign), and coffee with beans that had been roasted just days beforehand at Roast Coffee and Tea Trading Company, which is walking distance down the block.

Lombardi celebrated the variety of fresh ingredients Long Island is able to offer. "Everything looked delicious and tasted amazing and mostly because of ... everyone that worked together to source everything. We're pretty talented, but having those ingredients and sourcing them for us just made everything that much more enjoyable to make and to serve you."

It's also what made Island to Table a fundraising success, having oversold the event that was supposed to max out at 100 guests, said Rodriguez-Greguski. "And, I guess, we'll see you next year."