By Sara Axelrod, special to Edible DC
This week, DC and Baltimore’s most elite culinary tastemakers gathered at the National Building Museum in support of Share Our Strength’s annual Taste of the Nation event. This year’s event was led by Chef Chair Bryan Voltaggio (VOLT, Lunchbox, Family Meal, Range, Aggio), Dessert Chair Tiffany MacIsaac (Buttercream Bakeshop), Mixology Chair Derek Brown (Columbia Room, Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency, Eat the Rich), and Sommelier Chair Nadine Brown (Charlie Palmer Steak). More than 2000 guests nibbled on the tasty bite-size fair, craft cocktails and delectable desserts provided by notables from DC’s ever-changing restaurant scene.
True standouts included DC’s resident Laotian expert Thip Khao, who wowed guests with Khao Muu Haeng—sundried pork, coconut sticky rice and roasted tomato chili sauce, H Street’s Peruvian hotspot Ocopa, whose take on causa de pollo (potato terrine with chicken) was a creative showstopper for both the eyes and the tastebuds. A personal favorite was the inventive ode to spring, a stinging nettle fritter with yogurt sauce presented by City Center mainstay Centrolina. Finally, as “Taste of the Nation” should also be considered “Drink of the Nation,” I would be remiss to leave out the puckering gin punch from Columbia Room’s Derek Brown—an excellent cocktail featuring Green Hat Gin, green chartreuse, lemon and olea saccharum.
Tartares, tatakis, crudos and ceviches certainly seemed to be the theme last night with at least 15 of the 110 plus restaurants represented serving some version of a raw fish. Some were smoked or seared or roughly chopped and varied by showcasing salmon, hamachi, tuna or scallops. All the while I was wishing for a guest appearance from Tom and Padma to bemoan another crudo—no matter how delicious. (Any other Top Chef Season 13 fans?). But giving credit where credit is due, Masa 14 presented a delicious thick cut seared tuna bite, the lobster ceviche from Oceanaire was truly inspired and finally a surprise favorite, the tuna tartare from The Fainting Goat. I’ve never eaten at The Fainting Goat but after last night, it is on the list.
Speaking of Top Chef, current and former Top Chef celebrities came out to support Share Our Strength last night.
Chef Kwame Onwuachi of Top Chef Season 13 and Executive Chef and Owner of the highly-anticipated The Shaw Bijou (see Edible DC’s previous coverage here) was making the rounds last night with his business partner Gregory Vakiner. Onwuachi is new national partner in Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger nationwide. He participated in the Chefs Cycle event last May and since then he has been a constant advocate, according to Share Our Strength spokeswoman Tiffany Haynes.
Bryan Voltaggio of Top Chef Season 6 and Top Chef Masters, co-owner and executive chef of VOLT, Lunchbox, Family Meal, Range, Aggio, and long-time advocate for Share Our Strength, was personally dishing up duck Bolognese and deviled eggs to swarms of hungry guests. Over the years, Voltaggio has hosted private dinners, donated his time and auction items and has even testified on behalf of Share Our Strength, supporting programs like school breakfast in his home state of Maryland. He has previously said of his involvement, “As a chef, I understand the importance of nutritious food in people’s lives, and as a father, I am even more keenly aware of what a square meal means to my children. I became involved with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign – which is creatively fighting childhood hunger in Maryland and across the U.S. – because I simply can’t stand the reality that children in this country go hungry.”
One in five children in the US struggle with hunger. In DC, the food insecurity rate is even higher, one in four. The No Kid Hungry campaign is seeking to end childhood hunger on a national scale by working to ensure that every kid starts the day with a nutritious breakfast and that families all over the country learn the skills they need to shop and cook nutritiously on a budget. Since its inception, No Kid Hungry and its partners have provided more than 460 million meals to kids struggling with hunger.
Here in DC, the annual Taste of the Nation event supports the work of nonprofits like Capital Area Food Bank, DC Hunger Solutions, and Mary’s Center. Last year’s event raised enough money to feed more than 2,300,000 healthy meals to children in need. In addition to the support of the more than 100 restaurateurs, chefs and mixologists, last night’s event was also sponsored by national presenting sponsors Citi and Sysco®, national media sponsor Food Network, national sponsors Open Table, LG, Food Should Taste Good and local sponsors Maryland Live! and Ikea.
Childhood food insecurity is a growing and completely combatable epidemic. By supporting organizations like Share Our Strength, we can each make a difference in this national crisis. For more information on Share Our Strength and No Kids Hungry, go here.
- 2000+ Attendees
- 118 Restaurants Represented
- 70+ Auction Items
- More than $210,000 raised