Denevan's vision comes as an execution in vodka maker Absolut's Absolut World concept, through agency Great Works. In this case, in Absolut and Denevan's World, cities farm.
Denevan, who hails from San Jose, California, earned acclaim through a series of food events called Outstanding in the Field, in which people eat organically grown food on tables set up in the fields themselves.
As guests took in the scenery on the grassy garden roof terrace, two specialty cocktails as well as hors d'oeuvre were passed. The Central Park was a tart Absolut Mandarin-Campari-agave mixture colored pink by Verbanum berries from Central Park; it was complemented by a special Bloody Mary made with four different varieties of heirloom tomatoes grown by Michael Grady Robertson on Queens Farm.
After the 120 guests took their seats at two long tables intersecting in the middle of the dining room, Denevan delivered introductory remarks, welcoming the diners, commending the farmers and explaining the concept.
The first plate consisted of a salad of Brooklyn-grown cranberry beans, roasted beets, heirloom tomatoes and basil, following which the main courses arrived, a Rockaway striped bass fillet with Bronx collard greens, sunchokes, carrots, heirloom potatoes and rosemary, as well as roasted Queens heirloom pulled pork mixed with chard and tomatillo-roasted leeks and a pepper compote.
While diners were munching on the pork, the farmers were invited to introduce their produce. Robertson, who raised the main course pig on Queens Farm, proceeded to lay out Apollonia's life story, from when he purchased her as a piglet, through injury and homeopathic therapy and eventually the stomachs of many in the room. Several diners appeared concerned the food they'd just eaten had a name and an affectionate story attached, and a few sarcastic remarks were made about the pig's fate, but Robertson's justification about knowledge of food sources was met with approval from the crowd, including celebrity chef Mario Batali, who applauded with gusto.
Next up was Bobby Watson, who, along with his father, Abu Talib, work the Taqwa Community Farm in the South Bronx. Watson spoke of the family team bringing Southern methods of cultivating to blighted South Bronx lots, and of how neighborhood concern for his father's overenthusiasm about the project forced him into providing a hand with the arduous work. Talib said the gardening was initially a response to all the killing going on in the community and has become a source of pride for whoever wishes to get involved.
A documentary on the project will be made available, according to Great Works, on Absolut's site at absolut.com/iaaw as well as on YouTube on November 14.