Taste of the Nation Boston 2011 – It’s Raining Wine (and Pulled Pork) for a Great Cause

by Katie Andrews

Share Our Strength’s (SOS) annual Taste of the Nation Boston (TOTN) event was April 14th, and the hub’s most talented chefs and wine purveyors were gathered at the Hynes Convention Center for an evening of food and wine for a great cause.

The event featured over 70 Boston-area restaurants and 30 wine purveyors as well as a silent auction, and all ticket sales and auction donations went towards supporting Share Our Strength’s efforts to combat childhood hunger.

Although the convention center was bustling with crowds eagerly looking to sample the chef’s tasty dishes and open their wallets for cases of wine and private dinners in the silent auction, the goal of ending childhood hunger is still daunting. According to the Food Research and Action Center, over 17 million American households are food insecure, affecting 32.4 million adults and 16.7 million children. This hunger crisis goes hand-in-hand with the country’s obesity crisis; two-thirds of adults, one-quarter of pre-school children and one-third of school-age children are overweight or obese. Ironically, these two issues are in large part due to the same problem: a lack of access to healthful and affordable foods.

But Share Our Strength is working to do something about it. Through its “No Child Hungry Campaign,” SOS involves members of the government (Governor Deval Patrick was spotted at the event), culinary industry (through their nutrition education program Cooking Matters, which our very own Meghan Johnson sits on the board for) and the community to ensure that childhood hunger is approached from every possible angle. If they reach their goal, childhood hunger in America will be eradicated by 2015. With lofty aspirations like that, the Tufts Friedman community was more than happy to lend a helping hand.

Students from various Friedman programs lent their time and passion last Thursday to help out at Taste of the Nation. Meghan Johnson (FPAN/MPH, ’12) may have greeted you at registration while Sarah Gold (NNC, ’12) was running the ‘Spin the Wheel Wine Game’ and Laura Carroll (FPAN/MPH,’12) was manning the SOS gift shop, encouraging attendees to take the No Kind Hungry Pledge (which you can still do right here!) I also ran into Kelly Dumke (NNC, ’11), Renee Reynolds (DI,’11), Molly Uebele (DI,’12), Melissa Hacker Page (DI,’12), Stephanie Tammen (BMN), and Lara Park (BMN), as well as countless Friedman alumni. We all know that when an event involves tasty food and fighting hunger, Friedmanites quickly jump at the chance to get involved.

Katie Andrews, Sarah Gold, Meghan Johnson

And now, onto that tasty food. Every chef brings one or more signature dish and sets out samples for hungry passers-by. I have been to numerous events of this sort and often times you feel as though you are getting short-changed by the chefs, who will feature the more boring, lower-end items off their menu. That is not the case at TOTN. These chefs are clearly passionate about the cause and equally eager to impress you with their talents. Portions are often 3-4 bites to ensure you’ve gotten the full effect (no one leaves this event hungry!). Along with the well-placed wine purveyors, offering pours of red, white and champagne every few steps, the evening resembles a night in the life of Tom Colicchio on Top Chef, as you attempt to balance your wine glass and your plastic fork while opining with friends on the latest plate you just picked up. Although opinions will naturally differ, here were my favorite plates of the night…

Braised Beef Short Rib Panini with Roasted Tomatoes and Aged Cheddar Cheese

From Aura at The Seaport Hotel

Sustainable Seafood Trio: Smoked Smelts and Sardines, Yucatan Style Mackerel Tartare and Pearl River Caviar & Salmon Roe served over Mini Potato Latkes and Yucca Chips

From The Bait Shop Café of Whole Foods

Orecchiette with Fresh Peas, Pea Pesto and Candied Lemon Rind

From The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

 Additionally, Stella had delicious Fish Cakes with Lemon Aioli, The Blue Room featured bite-sized Gougeres Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Soppressata and a Fig Reduction and Lucky’s, in Fort Point, had a beautiful Beet Salad paired with BBQ Pulled Pork on a Cheddar Biscuit. BBQ pulled pork was the obvious darling of the evening, as it was featured on close to 10 tables. Although there weren’t many vegetarian and vegan options, there were multiple gluten-free desserts offered (including the delicious Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake from Gluteus Minimus).

We all left with full bellies and empty wine glasses, some happily clutching their silent auction winnings. Most importantly though, all attendees of TOTN helped enroll more kids in school breakfast programs, bring more community gardens and farmers markets to low income neighborhoods, provide fresh fruits and vegetables to urban corner stores and teach at-risk families how to plan, shop for and cook low-cost healthful meals. And that is certainly something to smile about.

Katie Andrews is a 1st year Nutrition Communications student also pursuing the DPD credits for her dietetic internship. She loves writing about all things food and nutrition – if you’re looking for a more regular dose of her opinions on recent nutrition news or pictures of her adorable frenchie Hugo, check out her blog at theaspiringrd.com!

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