I was lucky enough to be asked by FoodBuzz to cover a very exciting event here in Los Angeles. The event was the 21st Annual Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation.
Share our Strength is a national organization that raises funds to help end childhood hunger in America. According to the L.A. County Children’s Planning Council, “25%, or 1 out of every 4, children in L.A. County 17 years and under are living in poverty. Furthermore, over 4,000 children 5 years old and under are homeless on any given night… More than 12 million children – 1 out of every 6 or 7 face hunger in America.”
50 restaurants and 30 beverage venders participated in this event. So the choices were mind-boggling!
Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of Border Grill and Ciudad led the event. They steered the crowd through a host of speakers, demonstrations, an auction, and even a mole tasting contest. It was a lot of fun but these women also knew the greater purpose behind these festivities.
“As chefs, it is unbearable to imagine children right here in L.A. County unable to get the food and nourishment they need to learn, grow and thrive,” said Mary Sue Milliken. “Taste of the Nation brings together L.A.’s brightest culinary stars to ensure that no kid goes hungry on our watch.”
When chefs throw their collected might behind an event like this you know you are in for a very special treat. Participating restaurants included Craft, Nobu, Fraiche, Riva, Luques, Angeli, Osteria Mozza, Joe’s Restaurant and Bar Pintxo, Ford’s Filling Station, Grace and BLD, The London, Comme Ca, Beso, The Foundry, Street, BLT Steak, Akasha, SLS Hotel and Bazaar, Loteria Grill, Bottlerock, 8oz, Table 8, Fig at the Fairmont, Sunset Restaurant, Gjelina, XIV, Westside Tavern, Bluebird Café & Bakery, Palate Food + Wine, Church & State and Rivera and these are just the places I sampled.
The idea was like a roving tapas party. You could walk up to each restaurant’s mini-kitchen and see what they were offering. Oftentimes the chef/owner was right there cooking up a storm, so you can be assured the quality of this food was first rate.
A good example of this was to be found at the Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza booth where event honoree Nancy Silverton and pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez were handing out what has become their signature dessert. Butterscotch Budino with Rosemary Pine-nut cookies. They even have made the recipe available, which I will pass along, to you. Click here for the budino and here for the cookies, or on the photo of Nancy and Dahlia.
The best part (if you can believe it gets better than fantastic food and wine served outside on a glorious Sunday afternoon) is just how civilized the whole thing was. I am sure you have been to these charity events where people are falling all over each other just to nab a cold appetizer off a passing tray. Or you have to stand in line for an eternity just to get a passing glance at the empty sushi tray being whisked away right in front of your eyes.
You always leave those events hungry, reminding yourself that it was a charity event; the food was beside the point.
But let me tell you the food was indeed the point. Highlights for me included:
The molecular gastronomy meets tapas of “spherified” olives with slivers of jamon iberico from Bazaar.
Pani puri (puffed balls of fried dough) stuffed with spices, potatoes, chutney and beans sprouts from Street.
Mahi mahi chunks with cucumber, avocado and spicy tomatoes from Fraiche.
Chocolate bagels with Bing cherries also from Fraiche.
Maine lobster wrapped in sweet corn crepes and topped with Thai curry sauce from Michael Mina’s XIV.
Crispy Berkshire pork belly from Craft.
The beet and ricotta gnocchi at Angeli’s booth.
Mini-Reuben sandwiches with house-smoked corned beef from Grace and BLD.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD