L’Ecole, Hill Country Host Haitian Relief Benefits

L’Ecole, the restaurant of The French Culinary Institute and Hill Country Barbeque hosted two separate benefits for the Haitian Relief Effort.

The French Culinary Institute.

Invited by The French Culinary Institute to enjoy the cuisine prepared by student chefs, the FCI Sunday brunch is a favorite for locals in the Soho section of Manhattan and a chance for others, tourists and newcomers, to discover the hidden treasure of five star dining offered through the restaurant.

The prix-fixe two-course brunch includes a wide selection of both unique and classic culinary treats. The menu also offers a wine and bar menu, a variety of coffees and a selection of desserts. Having enjoyed the combination of culinary delights created by FCI in the past, I decided to stray from safe choices in brunch planning and pick something unique that combined unusual pairings.

Sweet Breads, scones and warm bread from L'Ecole.

The FCI culinary brunch experience began as the wait staff arrived with an assortment of breads, scones, and sweet breads with butter. The breads, as with all the cuisine, are freshly made on site by the students chefs in the French Culinary Institute program.

Deciding on the appetizer of Butter Poached Shrimp with Grits and Andonille Sausage. I was curious how the chef's would prepare the grits and expected white grits. The dish was made with sweet cornmeal grits! It was served with a sprinkling of chive and was very tasty! The combination of the flavors, especially the sweet cornmeal grits were exquisite.

Butter Poached Shrimp with Sweet Cornmeal Grits.

For the next choice, the main course, it was the classic  Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce. As this is a classic Sunday brunch item, I have had this in other restaurants around the city and I must admit they don’t compare to the quality at FCI. The Hollandaise, which I think makes the Sunday Classic, was full in flavor and not heavy in texture. The Eggs Benedict is served with a crisp fried finger-style potato wafer. It was simply delicious.

Classic Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce and wafer fried potato.

This was a nice opportunity to sample a variety of classic brunch bar menu items. The specialty drink at L’Ecole is the Sunday Bloody Mary. It ranges from kickin’ it up a notch wild to a more gentler mild spicy flavor. Having seen my Dad drink Bloody Mary’s on Sunday's, I thought I would give it a try. He always seemed to enjoy them. I think it’s an acquired taste. For the connoisseur, I know it would satisfy. For me, it was a little too spicy and so to complete the meal, I choose a sweet wine, Sauvignon Blanc from the Bordeaux region of France. The swirl was good; the wine had legs, it had a welcoming aroma and a very nice smooth flavor.

From the dessert menu, I choose Profiteroles with Chocolate Glaze. The three small biscuits, sliced in the center, were separated with small scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream. The desserts were sprinkled with powdered confectioners’ sugar and glazed with warm chocolate sauce. They were perfect in size, texture and taste!

Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Warm Chocolate Glaze.

L’Ecole, the restaurant of the French Culinary institute, donated their proceeds from the classic Sunday brunch including waitress tips to American Red Cross Haitian Relief Fund. The donations were in excess of $7,000.00.

L'Ecole, the restaurant of The French Culinary Institute.

L’Ecole is full service classic French restaurant where student chefs are given the opportunity, under the watchful eye of one of their renowned Masters chef’s, to prepare elegant classic cuisine. In addition to the Classic Sunday Brunch offered from 11:30 to 2:30PM; FCI offers a prix-fixe three course lunch from 12:30 until 2:00PM. A prix-fixe four course dinner from 5:30PM until 7:00PM and a prix-fixe five course dinner nightly from 8:00PM to 9:00PM.

Delicious desserts at L'Ecole.

Hill Country & Barbeque, owned and operated by Chef Elizabeth Karmel, located at 30 W. 26th Street, in the Flatiron section of Manhattan is the home of Texas Style Fixins’ and all the fun that goes along with an evening at the Road House.

Chef Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country & Barbeque.

The bi-level restaurant is filled with Texas memorabilia from the Big Horn and Billie Martins that decorate the bar to the wall of framed Texas Monthly Magazines along with some of the best barbeque this side of Texas.

The Big Horn and Billie Martin's: The Bar at Hill Country & Barbeque.

The evening was held in support of the Batey Relief Alliance Foundation, a nonprofit medical charity, to raise money to benefit Haiti. A local medical mission surgical team, comprised of physicians, triage and trained devastation nurses as well as non medical personal, had just returned after completing eighty-seven surgeries and were on hand to talk about their experiences.

The PR Team worked behind the scenes to make this evening a success!

Hill Country opened their doors to host this event with an all you can eat and drink evening. They provided the lower level for the event and trays piled high with Texas style wings, Corn tortilla chips and guacamole, mini pulled pork sliders with red cabbage slaw and mini burgers. Waitresses carried silver trays of delicious sliders around the room. The three hour free flowing tap included everything from long neck Corona’s to soda served in Ball Mason jars.

Texas Style Wings: So delicious they flew off the trays!

A silent auction to benefit Batey featured packages from Saturday Night Live Gift Baskets to tickets to Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel along with a autographed photo. Tickets were purchased throughout the evening.

The Batey Relief Alliance Benefit.

No Texas watering hole would be complete without a live band playing County & Western classics. The band at Hill Country offers the opportunity for patrons to address their inner American Idol with classic Karaoke with a twist; the band plays live backup! The stage is for everyone from those who are livin’ their inner rock star to those who should be thinking about cutting a demo.

Karaoke at Hill Country: The band plays live and the inner rock star comes alive!

The Karaoke tunes cover the mix from classic rock including the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Credence to contemporary Country & Western Carrie Underwood, Alabama, Johnny Cash and everything in between: Motown, Rhythm & Blues, James Taylor, 60’s, 70’s & even 80’s Classics.

The band is comfortable with the talent range and live every Tuesday for Karaoke. The Hill Country Batey Benefit raised over $3,000.00.

The wall of fame: Texas Monthly Magazines.

These benefits are a sample of the opportunities to assist in the Haitian Relief Effort. Haiti will need assistance long after the media leaves. The rebuilding will continue throughout our generation; the medical needs and supplies are urgent, antibiotics, surgical equipment, gauze, crutches, wheelchairs, food, clothing, shelter. The list of necessities is never ending.

If you can do one thing, find a reputable charity Doctors Without Borders, The American Red Cross, Batey Relief Alliance or others and donate from your home supplies or go to K-Mart: Canned goods, (pop-tops), matches, Bic lighters,  batteries, flashlights, tents, tarps, water based instant foods (Raman noodles, oatmeal, milk).

Everything is needed and all donations are welcome.

For more information on The French Culinary Institute: www.frenchculinary.com
For more information on Hill Country & Barbeque: www.hillcountryny.com
For more information on The American Red Cross: www.redcross.org
For more information on Doctors without Borders: www.doctorswithoutborders.org
For more information on The Batey Relief Alliance: www.bateyrelief.org

All pictures by Janet Walker courtesy of Pulse Point Productions, Inc.
For more information on Pulse Point Productions, Inc.




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