Leelanau Conservancy Picnic features Mario Batali


From staff reports

The Leelanau Conservancy will hold its Annual Picnic and Auction on Thursday, Aug. 4 at the Rex Dobson Ruby Ellen Farm on Center Highway near Traverse City. The picnic begins at 5 p.m. and features a silent and live auction, as well as pre-picnic field trips, a Kids Tent and a short program that includes recognizing the Conservancy’s “Volunteer of the Year” and “Business Partner of the Year.” A local foods-focused meal will be served, along with local wines. Tickets are $30 for adults until Aug. 1, when the price goes up to $35.

“This is a great event,” says Carolyn Faught, Communications Director. “It’s a real coming together of those who support our work and love what we have here on the Leelanau Peninsula. We’ve been working for months to put together a great auction and there are some exciting changes and new things this year.”

Among them: Mario Batali moves his offer from Omena to New York City and from a single dinner to an entire gastronomical weekend in the “Big Apple.” The fun begins on a mutually agreeable Friday evening at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in Greenwich Village, for a salumi and wine tasting led by Mario and Otto’s wine director, Chris Peterman. Afterwards, the high bidders will enjoy a delicious and raucous meal in Otto’s dining room, where they will be treated to a special menu of Otto classics and seasonal specials, served with accompanying wines.

On Saturday evening, winners will enjoy dinner at Mario’s flagship, Babbo, where they will be treated to Babbo’s traditional tasting menu, an eight-course chef’s tasting led and cooked by Mario himself and served with accompanying wines chosen by Babbo’s wine director, Alec Steidl.

On Sunday morning, after a quick espresso, the group will get a behind the scenes tour of Eataly, Mario’s brand new gastronomic mecca, just steps away from Madison Square Park. After the tour, they will head to Eataly’s La Scuola for an olive oil tasting class where they will sample a variety of exceptional oils from all areas of the boot. The last stop in the Big Apple Weekend will be lunch at Eataly’s pizza/pasta restaurant, followed by a gelato tasting with Mario. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Faught.

Also included are four-star hotel accommodations for six (three rooms) and six tickets and backstage passes to the Broadway musical Wicked, winner of 35 major awards, including a Grammy and 3 Tonys, courtesy of Conservancy members Chris and Meg Cummings.

“We’re grateful to Mario for all he does to help raise awareness about the Leelanau Conservancy,” says Faught. “He even posted our auction item on his Facebook page, which has something like 31,000 viewers. He really cares about Leelanau County and its future.”

Batali says that protecting Leelanau County’s globally rare farmland and its farming way of life is important to him. “I have been to enough places in the world to know that once farms are gone, they are gone forever,” he says. “That is why I believe in eating local foods, and why I support the Leelanau Conservancy’s efforts to protect farmland. This year, I will direct the auction proceeds from my dinner to the Conservancy’s innovative new farmland protection program, so that long after we’re gone, people will still be sitting around the table eating the great food that comes from Leelanau.”

In addition to the Mario Batali offer, there are 120 other items. The live auction will also feature 2 VIP Traverse City Film Festival passes for 2012 with a parking spot and post movie picnic, a morel dinner for 12 prepared by Epicure Catering after a day spent moreling with local expert Leif Sporck, and a weeks’ stay at either a fabulous home in Santa Barbara or a ski chalet in Breckenridge, Colorado.

People from all over the country can bid on any of the items by proxy, even if they can’t come to the event. “We have some pretty unique experiences that are available only through our auction. If you love Leelanau, and want to help protect it, bidding in our auction is a great way to support the Conservancy,” adds Faught. For more info on the picnic, the weekend Mario is offering, and the auction, visit theconservancy.com or call (231) 256-9665.