Taste of the Nation NYC, the city's premiere foodie charity event, packed Roseland Ballroom last night with well-to-do do-gooders willing to shove other well-to-do do-gooders for small plates of fancy snacks. New York's best chefs, mixologists, and minor food celebs came out to raise money for a slew of charities (City Harvest, NYC Coalition Against Hunger, among others) while also promoting their own books and wares. Since the event was open to all foodies in the city willing to pay the $275 entrance, place was mobbed and surprisingly, not totally uncivilized. Our hangover observations:
1) Among the food highlights were little sea urchin bites with jalapeño slices (Jean-Georges), lettuce wraps with beef (Buddakan), tuna-tomato-something-foam (Aquavit), and lobster-green pea-coconut milk panna cotta (Eleven Madison Park), among many, many other things. Extra points went to the chefs who made snacks that were easy to eat while holding a drink and navigating the feisty crowd (Gramercy Tavern's kielbasa on a stick comes to mind, while Blue Smoke's ribs were a major misplay).
2) Danny Meyer was working the crowd, roaming in a circle nearby Jeffrey Chodorow. Mark Bittman was there, signing books and pacing around the room, while Drew Nieporent could be seen on stage participating some kind of round table talk. And of course Ed Levine and Cutty were on hand to sample the grub, rub shoulders with the chefs.
3) The place was well liquored up. Tables dedicated to wine dotted the room and there were almost no lines at the cocktail booths for PDT, Pegu Club, Tailor, and a slew of other fancy pants gin pushers.
4) Top Chef's Spike Mendelsohn was manning the Mai House table with aplomb. When they ran out of food he worked the room chatting up any female in sight. We learned that a) he owns 45 hats, b) he will be at Mai House for the immediate future but will have to devote time to his DC burger joint soon, c) the Top Chef editing is completely fair and portrays exactly who he is as a person, and d) his first fine dining place will be Casa Mono-esque.
5) A random burlesque-y lady sat on stage eating a a slab of ham by herself. Only Les Halles competed with the stage show by bringing in a random model to tell people what they were eating (potato with goat cheese and olive).
6) The VIP mezzanine was sort of baffling- it wasn't much less crowded than the plebe area downstairs, and the restaurants that were set up up there seemed completely random (Pure Food and Wine, Kittichai).
7) The restaurateurs didn't pass up the opportunity to push their cookbooks on the general public. About a dozen restaurants including Morimoto, Aquavit, and Jean-Georges kept their books prominently on display.
8) Mark Bittman, Terrance Brennan, and a number of other minor food celebs were on hand at the book table to sign copies of their books and drum up moolah for charity.
9) Again, 100% of the proceeds went to charity, which is good. Further ways to get involved with Share Our Strength—including donations, restaurant opportunities and sponsorships—are available online.
Additional reporting by Monica Padrick