Last week was a bit hellish at work. A lot of things seemed to need urgent attention all at once and I and a few co-workers had to try to put out the fires as fast as we could. I had to cancel a lot of after-work plans (including CupcakeCamp, sad face) but there was one event I was really hoping would not be compromised – Taste of the Nation. I’ve been looking forward to this since TOTN 2010 (as was Adam). 2011 TOTN had some big shoes to fill for sure!
Luckily, I was finally done with the day’s work around 6pm and there was no where I’d rather be than at an event with amazing food, unlimited drinks with Adam and friends to share it with!
Taste of the Nation are Share Our Strength benefits, offered across the country, with 100% of ticket proceeds going to organizations working towards ending childhood hunger. They offer an amazing opportunity to taste many of local restaurants’ offerings in one place while helping a good cause. Quick note: I attended the event as press with Adam as my guest, but I do believe that while the tickets are a bit pricey, (if you can afford them) they are 100% worth the money – not just for the amount and quality of food (and drinks) you get as a guest but also because proceeds do go to such a good charity. You can read here about some of the things the charity funds go towards and how Share Our Strength aims to end childhood hunger in the US.
All right, let me show you the highlights of the night.
As you walk in, you are greeted with flutes of champagne, which sets the perfect tone for the night ahead. I was immediately at ease. This was going to be AWESOME!
And then it’s time to EAT. There is no way to taste every single thing offered, so it’s ok to be choosy. Here are the best, the worst and the craziest.
The Chef’s Table brisket sliders
There was A LOT of pulled pork going around this year. The Chef’s Table offered both pulled pork and beef brisket sliders. I (for no apparent reason) chose the former. It was tender and flavorful.
Alden Park’s tuna tartare with mango and sesame
A lot of heavy bites everywhere. This was refreshing and summary. Loved the addition of mango!
Stella’s crab balls with a lemon aioli
Stella had one of my favorite bites last year as well.. Well, they’ve done it again! These look deceptively like arancini but inside the crispy crust is a tender crab center. The citrusy flavor of the lemon aioli was the most perfect complement to the crab.
The Blue Room cheese puffs with goat cheese, sopressata and fig jam
Loved everything about these – the puffs, the sweet and tangy balance of goat cheese and jam. Fantastic!
Davio’s/Avila (they are sister restaurants) Maine lobster tacos with micro green salad
Need I say more? [Ok, I do. The corn tortillas go really well with lobster salad. Try it next time instead of the typical hot dog bun!]
MOST IMPROVED AWARD…
Goes to L’Espalier with their goat cheese panna cotta with sweet and sour rhubarb
I was not immediately a fan after my first bite as I was expecting a delicate dessert and was confronted with a decisively savory goat cheese pana cotta. Once I knew what I was in for, I appreciate the delicate flavors and the playfulness of the ingredients. Sure beat their atrocious deconstructed mac&cheese!
The chef at KO Prime told us all about their nose to tail Thursdays and the very complicated method used to prepare the pork for this sandwich (seriuosly, like a million steps including 24hours in sous vide).
I was excited to say the least!
At the end this tasted like a solid ham sandwich. Not bad at all but nothing outstanding either.
Pistachio and chocolate macarons from Levy’s Retaurants
I’ve been OBSESSED with French macarons lately. These were average at best. One bite and they went in the trash. Not worthy of stomach space
ERR, SOMEONE SHOULD HAVE TASTED THIS
Clink’s baby octopus with salsa verde and black rice
The octopus wasn’t bad, the salsa was fresh and flavorful… and then there was the “black rice” which I actually think was a nickname for little rocks. Someone should have tasted this before giving it out to unsuspecting guests.
Chef Jason Santos of Gorgoyles on the Square (have you seen him on Hell’s Kitchen??) brought some fun toys. Like liquid nitrogen…
… but I guess even that has been done before! Instead, he tried to numb our tongues. Correction: he DARED us to numb our tongues… and I quote: “Unless you don’t want to be fun, then you don’t have to.”
Challenge accepted. After having a little piece of a buzz button flower, which is like a small portion of novocaine, we got to taste the lychee mango ice cream with coconut cream.
The ice cream was fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever had lychee ice cream but this “tingling/numb” feeling freaked me out for a second. Luckily, it all went away in a few minutes… but this sure was daring. Also, why would you numb someone’s tongue if you are giving them something smooth and sweet? I’d expect something a lot spicier/crazier to follow. I guess it was a memorable experience at the end of the day!
HOW ABOUT A DRINK?
Oh there were drinks. Lots of ‘em. Best event. ever.
Real champagne from France at ~$30/bottle. It was smooth and I think a pretty good deal. I had quite a few tastes
THE VIP LOUNGE
Lots of seating, passed apps…
A cocktail bar (which I ended up not taking advantage of, bummer)
champagne (see above) … but best of all – OYSTERS (since I’m now a fan and all)
Neptune Oyster/Pangea oysters… Kusshi, Mayflower Point, Peter’s Point
DONATING IS FUN
Since we got the tickets for free, I bought a rubber duckie for $50 (it’s for the kids!). I ended up winning one free ticket to TOTN 2012. Maybe one of you will get lucky next year?
DESSERTSSSSSSSSSSSSSS (Best of)
I <3 Craigie and this little PB&J hobnobs were incredible. Short bread-like peanut butter crust with plum jam. Yes please.
South End Buttery is a bakery I usually try to avoid but this chocolate fudge mini cupcake hit the spot
The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts had a super impressive display of desserts. Adam and I shared this chocolate banana tart. These kids are going to be big some day
Dessert was even found in very unexpected places. Stone Hearth Pizza (my latest obsession!!!!! I dream of their white bean dip) offered meatballs and tiramisu. Classic, light, coffee-y (<—technical term ). Solid
I was having an incredible time (really, how could you NOT?) but even with all the amazing food and drinks, it would be nothing without these people.
<3 (I was told, he no longer needs introduction )
I ran into Meghan, Michelle (below with me), Megan and Bianca (who somehow escaped the camera!) and it was SO good to see them. Apparently it’s been way too long since we last met (I read all their blogs regularly so the line blurs a bit between real meetups and feeling like I was there… you may know the feeling). We ate, we drank, we gossiped about bloggers. You know, the usual SO fun!!
Mr. Hamersley and I hung out too. Ok, not really. But we chatted and he promised to “do something” about bringing back their chocolate nutella tart.
I have no recollection of what his duck dish tasted like though. It was close to the end of the night… what can I say. My memory isn’t as sharp after a few of those bottomless glasses of wine.
Mike won the bid on a golf bag. Clearly this was really exciting! 😆
Katie and I
Adam and Mike are trouble so after the event we ended up going out for MORE drinks! Yeah, this event would not be as fun without all these guys.
Thanks again to Share Our Strength for inviting me to this incredible event. I am already looking forward to next year!!