The Northampton Community College (NCC) Food & Wine Gala was held the evening of June 2 at Wind Creek Casino Resort in Bethlehem. Chef Lidia Bastianich, Emmy-award winning TV host, entrepreneur, best-selling cookbook author, and restaurateur, was the esteemed guest of honor headlining the evening. 

As NCC’s largest fundraising event of the year, the Gala focused on helping more students achieve their college dreams. All proceeds from the event help fund scholarships. To date, Food & Wine events have raised more than $2.3 million for scholarships and academic programs. Food & Wine Committee Chair, Mike Molewski, said, “I am proud we are able to continue to help NCC students through this event especially with our special guest, a master of Italian cuisine, Lidia Bastianich.” 

When Chef Bastianich heard of the fundraising event, she jumped at the opportunity to help. “The world’s problems could be solved with education, and it starts with people who care and want to give back,” she said during the Gala, “It’s what we all do together to nurture that drive to learn that makes the biggest difference.” 

Bastianich shared her insight and experience with 23 NCC culinary students during a special meet and greet with the chef prior to the Gala. In her discussions with the students, she focused on what it was like to harvest her own food for years and how that translated to the quality of ingredients in the authentic Italian cuisine she prepares. 

A student with a similar story to her own, born of an immigrant family that moved to New York, mentioned his big dreams to one day open his own restaurant. He asked for advice, and Bastianich said, “Don’t overreach. Always allow yourself time to grow, and if you have a savings, don’t deplete it. Leverage what you have because I sold my restaurant with my husband to buy one in Manhattan.” 

A night to remember 

Many Gala guests attended a cocktail reception where Bastianich mingled with guests. A collection of some of Bastianich Vineyard’s finest wines were served throughout the night, a Chardonnay, Rosso, Bianco (red and white in Italian, respectively) and Sauvignon Blanc. Delicious hors d’oeuvres inspired by Bastianich’s recipes were also passed, among them a Limoncello poached shrimp, Italian meatball, and arancini stuffed with sausage ragu. 

As the doors to the ballroom opened for dinner, the 350 attendees were transported to an Italian Veranda. String lights between umbrellas brought the warmth of outside indoors. Olive green and burnt orange ornate glassware surrounded by fresh lemons and limes, adorned each table along with potted herbs, ready for planting after the Gala.  

An expert team of Wind Creek chefs cooked up a four-course meal inspired from Bastianich’s recipes. For guests looking to stretch their own culinary skills at home and try the same, they came away from the event with “A Pot, a Pan, and a Bowl,” one of Bastianich’s newest cookbooks.  

The evening’s meal consisted of a symphony of flavors for the palate, from a buttery sea scallop atop a risotto cake and tomato puree to a tender filet in a Barolo wine sauce. The finale of the evening was a dessert of Limoncello olive oil cake with sweet Italian Amarena cherries. Each course was married with a glass of wine specially curated for the dish. 

NCC President, David A. Ruth, Ph.D., said, “NCC has remained a constant beacon of hope and promise within our community and region, and our strength can be found in the support of many including our donors and event sponsors, especially our host tonight and founding sponsor Wind Creek, Bethlehem. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our special guest Chef Lidia Bastianich for all she has done to support our Gala and to make tonight possible.”  

Lauren Harrison, NCC alum who spoke at the event, expressed her gratitude for sponsors and donors who made college affordable for students like her. Now a graduate of NCC, Harrison has big plans to become an attorney and eventually come back to NCC to teach part-time to future Spartans. 

Guests bid on auction items during dinner, featuring vintage collectable wines and wonderful experiences, including dinner at one of Bastianich’s famous restaurants in New York City. 

Olive oil tasting with Lidia 

 As part of her work with the college, preceding the Gala event, sponsors and donors were treated to a special lunch and virtual olive oil tasting with Bastianich on April 18 in the Hampton Winds on Bethlehem campus at NCC. Attendees tasted three olive oils as Bastianich guided them through the sensory cues from each of the oils.  

Bastianich left guests with some tips for storing olive oil. “Do not expose the bottle to too much oxygen or light, and keep it cool, but at room temperature. If it oxidizes, it becomes musty and like tobacco. Consume it within the first year of opening it,” she said. 

The tasting was followed by a Bastianich inspired three-course meal prepared by the culinary students at NCC and included a sausage and broccoli rabe toast with Bastianich’s ricotta and a potato gnocchi with beef guazetto topped with olive oil snow, among other delights. 

This year’s Food & Wine festivities were enjoyed by all!