Photograph of Mark Simmons, Top Chef contestant and sous-chef at Public, and WD-50 chef and owner Wylie Dufresne

The festive factor was running high at last night's Taste of the Lower East Side, the 8th Annual fundraiser for the Grand Street Settlement. Forty neighborhood eateries pitched in to benefit Grand Street's programs that assist low-income Lower East Side residents, and they showcased some of their best dishes for the crowd of well over 1,000 people.

Allen & Delancey served up a standout dish, braised lamb middleneck with a garlic pommes puree, and Rayuela's pato con arepa, a duck breast marinated in sugar cane with duck confit perched on an arepa topped with a quail egg was not only beautiful, but absolutely delicious. Renee Alevras served up a mini version of the Tasting Room's famous Old MacDonald burger, complete with Piemontese grass-fed six-week dry-aged beef (with all kinds of unusual parts included) perched on homemade bread. And Freeman's devils on horseback were sinfully good, despite being scaldingly hot (they had to be toted around for a while to cool), and Kampuchea Noodle Bar's tamarind ribs were as tasty as ever.

Desserts were in abundance, from gelato nuggets from il laboratorio del gelato (the thai chocolate ones had a spicy kick), to mini-cupcakes from Sugar Sweet Sunshine, to irresistable chocolate hazelnut "lollipops" from Thor, which were received with firm instructions to eat in one bite, lest the precious chocolate cargo ooze from its pastry encasement.

Public's table was livened up by current Top Chef contestant Mark Simmons, a sous-chef there, who seemed to be enjoying his celeb status. Alas, he wouldn't reveal who won.