ELIH uses North Fork’s fall harvest to raise awareness

JULIE LANE PHOTO Owner and chef Deborah Rivera busy at work in the the kitchen at Cuvee Bistro Saturday preparing hors d'oeuvres for guests who attended the Eastern Long Island Hospital Healthy Harvest and Wellness event.

The invitations were simple: Eastern Long Island Hospital and hosts Maritza Budet Winkler, Lucy O’Leary and Jill Dunbar invited about 40 community residents to Cuvee Bistro at the Greenporter Hotel Saturday to “Celebrate the Bounty of the North Fork’s Harvest.”

More than a few of the guests, perhaps out of curiosity, showed up not really knowing what their local hospital has to do with the fall harvest.

Everything, it turns out.

The aim of the event — the fifth in a series — was to familiarize the community with the services the hospital offers; its need for support beyond the operating income it receives; and an all-important message that healthy eating might keep you from needing hospital services. And, no, there was no check passing Saturday, although hospital president and CEO Paul Connor III hopes those invited will remember ELIH when they receive future funding appeals.

It all started last February when organizer Melanie Norden, a woman Mr. Connor calls “a force of nature,” brainstormed with a committee of hospital fundraisers in search of a new community outreach idea. What emerged was a program that combines nutritious local foods with the hospital’s health care message. The volunteers put together a list of guests, some of whom hadn’t previously been contributors to the hospital.

“We were trying to do something a little bit more vibrant,” Ms. Norden said of the concept. “It just blossomed.”

“We have this elegant relationship with the community,” Mr. Connor said, referring to the fundraising that has helped to sustain the hospital and provide money for special projects, such as the emergency dock that allows patients to reach ELIH by boat.

To keep the money flowing, Ms. Norden tackled the project with one theory in mind: the cost of fundraising projects should be “practically nothing.” She and the other volunteers solicited donations from local farms and businesses, both for the ingredients needed for the menu and for “goody bags” the guests could take home.

Similar events were held at Ackerly Pond/Sannino Bella Vita Vineyards; Brecknock Hall at Peconic Landing; Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck; and Webb House, belonging to the Oysterponds Historical Society.

At Cuvee Bistro, owner and chef Deborah Rivera’s theme Saturday was “Bringing the Summer Garden to the Winter Table.” She not only provided the venue and restaurant staff, but also contributed some of the food to augment oysters from Widow’s Hole in Greenport, chicken from Miloski’s Farm in Calverton and herbs from Clarke’s Garden in Greenport.

And Ms. Rivera did more than feed her hungry guests. She demonstrated how to make each of the hors d’oeuvres and cocktails she served, using fresh North Fork produce. She augmented the hors d’oeuvres with wines provided by Wölffer Estates, The Old Field Vineyards, McCall Vineyards, Corey Creek and Ackerly Pond.

Those who missed Saturday’s event can find Ms. Rivera’s recipes on her blog at

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