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Food Writer's Diary
Taste of the Nation

Taste of the Nation

Share Our Strength shouldn’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong; it's a great organization, but its mission is to end childhood hunger in the United States, and that’s something we should have done long ago. 

The problem has actually gotten worse since the economy was driven into a ditch in 2008, according to this report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

I’m not sure why it’s so hard to make sure that kids are adequately fed, but it’s certainly not due to lack of food, and that’s something highlighted by Share Our Strength’s annual series of fundraisers, called Taste of the Nation. 

You’ve probably been to this type of event: Restaurants and assorted sponsors set up stations at tables and let guests — who in New York paid $225, or $425 if they wanted to come half an hour early and get into the VIP room — sample their wares.

More than 100 restaurants, bars and food companies participated. which meant attendees got to sample at least two dishes of ghocchi with white truffles (one from Davio’s and one from The Smith), as well as head cheese from Blue Hill (on the right), marinated prawns with celery and rhubarb from Betony, foie gras and rabbit terrine with fig mostarda from Ristorante Morini, and a surprising number of beet dishes, including the dessert pictured at left from Contra with hazelnuts and yogurt.

Meanwhile, Share Our Strength says 22 percent of kids in New York City struggle with hunger.

To highlight what the organization’s doing about it, three of the rooms where the event was held — a sprawling space in SoHo called 82 Mercer — were set up as a breakfast room, an after school room and a summer room, representing three of the dayparts (breakfast, after school programs and summer meals) when Share Our Strength has initiatives to feed kids.

And the food was themed accordingly. So in the breakfast room there were dishes such as cheese grits with pickle relish from Bo's Kitchen, poached egg with beef heart pastrami from Do or Dine, and the Waffogato, which is the latest invention from cronut creator Dominique Ansel. It's ice cream shaped into a waffle and doused in warm coffee with maple syrup. That’s his station, pictured at left. Unlike his actual bakery, where lines run down the block (or so I hear), Ansel was perfectly accessible at this party.

In the after school room, Mulberry & Vine was handing out quinoa cakes. Owner Genevieve Lynch and chef Justin Schwartz were good enough to stop doing that for a moment to pose for the photo on the left.

And in the summer room, Dirt Candy was offering broccoli hot dogs with salt & vinegar broccoli raab chips (on the right).

I eventually hit a wall and had to stop eating, which simply underscored the dichotomy between the haves and have-nots. 

Share Our Strength did raise $235,000 at the event from ticket sales and an auction and books sold (that's Anne Burrell on the left, one of many celebrity chefs who attended the event to sign their books; I took the other photos in this blog entry, but Conor Harrigan took that one). 

I'd say that's a start, but Share Our Strength is 30 years old, so “start” isn’t the right word, but it’s a substantial sum for an undeniably good cause.

This story has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 2, 2014 An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the photographer who took Anne Burrell's picture. It’s Conor Harrigan.


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