A foodie's dream come true, Taste of the Nation was created to bring awareness and raise money to stop childhood hunger. 5,000,000 calories later, I'm still digesting this concept. This year the event changed venues from Luxe Autoworks to the sun-dappled Jeld-Wen Field, and since the weather was especially accommodating (it was practically summer), one could almost feel the energy coursing through the breezy air. Thrill and excitement could be seen and felt by all who attended, worn like clothing on the bodies of those waiting for their entry, their next bite and their next drink.
The event is a showcase for local culinary artistry. Top chefs come out in the name of a worthy cause and don't hold anything back. Some of them are risk takers—huge props to Aviary on their Fried Pig Snout with Pickled Fennel, Hard-Boiled Egg and Mustard Creme Fraiche and La Calaca Comelona for their Octopus Stew atop a Slice of Green Apple. Some stay in their comfort zone, like the esteemed Joel Palmer House with everything mushroom, who still managed to throw out a few surprises with their mushroom desserts, like the tasty Candy Cap Mushroom and Madeira Milkshake.
A feast for the eyes, not only the belly, there's food in cups, on spoons, square foods, round foods and everything in between. Do I need to even mention the sweets? Top visual honors go to Otto for their Egg Cake (which wasn't really an egg at all) and Andina on their Causitas Maki (though I didn't care much for the texture when it hit my mouth, much preferring the taste of their Empanaditas de Lomo Saltado instead).
If I were to give out awards for favorite bites of the night, it would be a tough call, as there was literally a concourse of comestibles. Foods so scrumptious, they'd tempt you to eat more (like the little devil on your shoulder), even while your belly was screaming that is was so full another mouthful might make it burst. My most esteemed entrees of the evening were Aviary's Deep Fried Pig Snout, Boke Bowl's Asian Steamed Buns, Ned Ludd's Rabbit Confit, Biwa's Karokke, Circa 33's Mushroom Forest, Departure's Honey Chicken Buns, Irving Street Kitchen's Potato Latke Salmon Gravlax with Apple Butter and Herb Creme Fraiche and Portobello Vegan Trattoria's Beef Tartare with Cashew Cheese. Wow.
Top wineries were on hand to enhance the tasting experience, of which I particularly enjoyed the Bergstrom 2010 Old Stones Chardonnay, Elk Cove 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Argyle 2008 Brut (who could turn down a glass of their bubbles?), Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah, Cana's Feast 2009 Barbera and Seven Bridges 2008 Malbec. If wine didn't put a smile on your face, local breweries were pouring beer and cider, and distilleries were also sampling a multitude of spirits and cocktails which seemed to leave imbibers with ear to ear grins.
A huge suceess, kudos to the Share our Strength Taste of the Nation organizers, staff and volunteers on a job well done! I hope the event achieved its goal and was able to raise the funds they were hoping for to make a difference in the lives of hungry children everywhere.