Taste of the Nation Charity Event Draws New York’s Best Local Chefs, Feeds Kids

Last night the charity Share Our Strength hosted Taste of the Nation, their annual culinary fundraiser as a means to help end childhood hunger. “We are here tonight because there are 16 million American kids who struggle with hunger,” said co-founder Debbie Shore. Since 1988 the foundation has hosted these yearly events in 30 plus cities and raised over $75 million, and frankly, given the number of top named chefs, bartenders, and restaurants that volunteer their time and ingredients, the organization makes donating money easy.

In New York this year, the two-story, four-room space at 82 Mercer was filled with delectable bites including: Old school Lobster Thermidor served by chef Aaron Bashy of The Water Club; the infamous fois gras and jelly doughnuts made by the boys at Do or Dine; a fluke cebiche from La Mar’s smiley chef Victoriano Lopez (plus his translator); and an amazing razor clam and fennel dish from Ai Fiori.

On the high-end-low-end spectrum guest were forced to ingest the comforting pickled beef tongue by the gang at Mile End, slices of a six-food wedge salad sandwich by chef Joe Dobias of JoeDough, and the most amazing savory cotton candy being whipped up by the adorable Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy. Oh the tragedy.

To wash all these treats down Eben Freeman shook up a delectable Melagrana Sour for Osteria Morini, Jeff Bell from the clandestine bar PDT poured a smoked cardamom-infused Mariner cocktail, and Employees Only whipped up a blackberry vodka drink. Hands down the most exciting drink being made came in the form of Booker and Dax’s Hendrick’s Rose, a sweet, fizzy cocktail that smoked.

Amid all the opulence, we can’t forget the real reason Taste of the Nation is held. After all, most people don’t think of American kids going hungry and in a place where many of us throw food away every day, it’s tragic that about one in five children in this country don’t get enough to eat. As the organization continues to fight this cause, they continue to give something to raise a glass of smoking pink bubbles to and I hope to see them again next year.

The Best Happy Hour Cocktails

Simple enough to explain to a bartender, complex enough to stand out from the crowd — that’s what we like in a cocktail. Created by some of bartending’s biggest names, these are a combination of old friends and new favorites that we’d recommend for any occasion.

Dark & Stormy Created by Maura McGuigan, Bar Pleiades at The Surrey Hotel

● 2 oz Brugal Añejo Rum ● .75 oz fresh lime ● .75 oz ginger syrup ● Splash of soda water Shake, strain over ice in a Collins glass. Float 1 oz. of Cruzan Black Strap Rum. Garnish with lime.

Perfect Gin Martini Created by Jason Littrell (formerly of Death & Co and Dram) JBird Lounge ● 1 oz. Nolet’s Silver Gin Pour the gin into your mixing glass and add large ice cubes. Keep the ice just above the gin line so there is a good ratio of surface to liquid so as not to water down your drinks. Hold your barspoon like you would hold chopsticks and gently twist it with your fingers through the spirit. Technique is key here — it’s all in the circular stirring motion of the fingers along the ridges of the spoon handle. Keep your arm and wrist steady and be gentle so as not to bruise the botanicals in the gin. If done correctly, you can stir without hearing a sound from the ice or spoon. Stir for 30 to 60 seconds. Use a Hawthorne strainer to strain into a chilled martini glass. Slice the rind of a lemon and squeeze about 15 centimeters away from the glass at a 45-degree angle to perfume the glass and drink. Twist the lemon.

Fedora Honey Badger Created by Brian Bartels, Fedora’s Restaurant ‘ ● 1.5 oz Rittenhouse Rue ● .5 oz Combier liqueur ● .5 oz fresh lime juice ● .75 oz honey water ● Beef Jerky Bitters Combine and shake, and strain into champagne coupe. Top with 4 dashes of bitters.

Highlander Created by Eben Freeman, Marea

● 1 oz. blended scotch whisky ● .5 oz Drambuie liqueur ● 1 oz Pama liqueur ● 5 oz ginger beer ● Dash of lemon juice Combine, shake, and pour.

Siesta Created by Katie Stipe, Vandaag

● Ice ● 2 ounces silver tequila (100% agave) ● .5 ounce Campari ● .5 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice ● .5 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice ● .5 ounce simple syrup ● Grapefruit twist Combine tequila, Campari, juices, and simple syrup over ice in a cocktail shaker, then shake and strain into a cold glass; garnish with a twist.

[Image via Judy Kennamer/Shutterstock]