By evening’s end, Dustin Yellin was shirtless, grooving pretty heartily to the tunes of friend Adam Green (formerly of the anti-folk band the Moldy Peaches), in Yellin’s lately acquired 24,000 square foot Red Hook warehouse arts complex called the Intercourse. He looked to be enjoying himself.
The occasion was the first night of Downtown for Democracy’s (alias D4D) foodie fundraiser series, the aptly named Dining for Democracy. D4D crystallized in 2003 on the eve of the Bush/Kerry election. Since then they’ve served as the crossroads of hip, creative types, progressive politics, and parties. And this year, the organization takes on what they refer to as the “Tea Party 10,” ten of the most radical (and per a D4D affiliate, the most vulnerable) members with a hand in the upcoming election.
For a $50 entry fee, Mr. Yellin had offered up the Intercourse to a bevy of diners, Mr. Green and a handful of Brooklyn eateries. The vibe was not unlike any typical backyard barbecue—albeit with more maxi dresses and stilettos. Outside a dog ran around, and guests negotiated melting ice cream cones and reclined in the grass. Others stood in the Intercourse’s main gallery space (currently occupied by Mr. Green’s series “Cartoon and Complaint”), necks craning for a look at the space’s lofted studios.
Per Mr. Yellin himself, “We’ve got a bunch of artists and stuff upstairs. We’ve got a geneticist!” (Professor and neighborhood guy Andrew Kern is by his own admission merely a “computational biologist.”) Mr. Yellin was nothing if not effusive about his plans for the Intercourse, the project he referred to as “a sort of cultural think-tank/museum/school/experiment where we give artists and scientists a free space to do their thing. We have exhibitions, concerts, a school starting, a sculpture garden, and a lot of other strange things.” While your humble reporter could not entice Yellin to divulge his favorite Brooklyn eateries beyond those represented at the event—“I like them under the radar”—we pressed him to reveal his dream celebrity chef deathmatch. Mr. Yellin fell silent, his gaze landing on some nearby mung bean pancakes. “Oh man… I’m a lover, not a fighter.” We assured the artist that the hypothetical pitting of skills would be a non-violent lovefest. “My mom and Mario Batali, then. My mom cooks the best steaks. And Batali is such a sweetheart.” For $2,000 come September donors can enjoy a three-course meal cooked by said sweetheart, benefitting Downtown for Democracy.
Restaurants represented at Tuesday’s event were a Brooklyn-centric group. Fort Defiance brought marinated shrimp and scallops in a cucumber gazpacho, the Good Fork produced the aforementioned mung bean pancakes with spicy braised squid, and Home/Made served up grilled flatbread with fresh mozzarella and toy box tomatoes—to name but a few. Colin Spoelman of King’s County Distillery was on hand with moonshine, and kind enough to let us sample his wares. He filled us in on the company’s recent move to the Brooklyn Navy Yards, where they’re growing their own corn and barley. Guests cooled off with Vinegar Hill House’s artisanal ice creams in chamomile, tutti frutti and—our favorite—fresh mint with cacao nibs.
Glenn O’Brien, newly returned from a month-long sojourn to Italy, attended with his wife, Gina Nanni, a D4D co-founder, 12-year-old son. Audrey Gelman, Girls guest star, press secretary to Scott Stringer, and D4D affiliate called the evening a “who’s who of Brooklyn food.” Ms. Gelman had been heartened to learn that the currently in-progress Stringer town hall meeting in the East Village was, in a word, “packed.” Of the mayoral campaign, she told us “Scott’s a great guy, and I think it’s going to be a really fun race.” And fans hoping for more of Gelman’s character on Girls are in luck: “I am going to be on it next year—several episodes. I’m a recurring character.”
When Mr. Green took the stage, it was not a stage at all but a wooden box. Later we couldn’t help noting that he had performed atop a literal soapbox. Mr. Green would not cop to it, though we had our suspicions. The musician debriefed us on plans to add a recording studio to the spate of Intercourse ventures, among other varied projects, including a possible lecture by his astrophysicist brother. “That’s what’s cool about this place,” he said. “This is basically like the first day, and it’s going to turn into something else.”
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