Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Taste of the Nation 2016

Another Taste of the Nation Charlotte event is in the books, and it may have been the best yet!  The event started at 6pm on Monday evening under perfectly sunny blue skies.

I'll be the first to say I think the food is the most exciting part of this charitable event, but the reality is that our silent and live auction items hold the greatest fundraising potential for the local and national organizations.  From restaurant dining experiences, to weekend getaways, to a deluxe grill package, to jewelry, there were an abundance of auction items generously donated from the community.  

There were more than 100 bottles of wine valued greater than $20 that were available in the wine grab.  The gift bags were artfully decorated by local elementary school students.

Just prior to the beginning of the event, all of the head chefs gathered on stage for a group photo.  It's quite an accomplishment and honor to have twenty-six Charlotte restaurants participate in this event despite their very busy restaurants and special events calendars.

Second Harvest Food Bank and Community Culinary School of Charlotte were the local beneficiaries of Charlotte's Taste of the Nation.  I had the opportunity to tour Second Harvest Food Bank prior to the event and it is a tremendous organization and resource for the community.  They're always looking for volunteers if you have the time and interest!

And without further delay, here's a look at all of the incredible food that guests enjoyed over the course of the evening.  Hopefully by the time you finish reading this, you'll be convinced to buy tickets to experience it for yourself in 2017.

Mexican salads from Chuy's Tex Mex
Paco's Tacos chopped salad 
The Rosemary Lemonade from Dogwood Southern Table was refreshing between bites of food
Enso Asian Bistro's sushi always draws a large crowd

Lily's Italian Bistro was a new-to-me restaurant in Gastonia that won me over with their antipasto and seafood salads.
The roasted pig garnered lots of attention at Viviace's table.
Their pulled pork slider with a pickled kale slaw was a great combination.

East Coast Entertainment had the house rocking with live music.

The spicy tuna and avocado mousse over chocolate soil prepared by Coastal Kitchen and Bar was my pick for most creative dish of the evening. 

For vegetarians, this unique twist on cheese fondue and dippers was one of the stars of the night.  The Flipside Cafe deserves props for this addicting and unsuspecting pairing.

When it came time for dessert, the strawberry tiramisu from Vivace was creamy, sweet, and light.

Passion8 is known for their unique fine dining dishes prepared with local ingredients, and this octopus with a citrus vinaigrette was no exception.

For the carnivores, these espresso dusted lamb lollipops from Davidson Street Public House had mouths watering.  They were perfectly seared with a tender interior and paired with brussels sprouts.

Napa on Providence brought one of the customer favorite dishes - Shrimp and Lemon Gnocchi.

For those looking to indulge their sweet tooth, Johnson and Wales students brought NINE different layer cakes.

Piedmont Natural Gas Chef Doug Allen prepared several decadent bites in the Luxe Lounge, including conch fritters, a short rib pizza, and a deconstructed lobster boil.

Also satisfying guests in the Luxe Lounge were these caramel popcorn macarons, pecan bars, and assorted chocolate truffles crafted by Central Piedmont Community College

Lumiere's Duck A L'Orange was one of the most elegant plates.

By this point in the evening, my stomach was approaching full, but that didn't keep me from enjoying a slice of key lime pie from Village Tavern.

Last, but certainly not least, was Ilios Noche's housemate mozzarella stuffed with cherry tomatoes and topped with basil micro greens and balsamic drizzle.
At this point, you're either drooling, stuffed just thinking about all of this food, or asking yourself how you could have possibly missed Charlotte's best culinary event of the year.  The evening was a HUGE success, raising more than $100,000.  Considering 1 of every 5 children in North Carolina will experience hunger and regularly miss meals, this fundraising is critical to our community's future.  Congratulations to No Kid Hungry, Taste of the Nation, chefs from the 26 Charlotte restaurants that participated, local beneficiaries, and numerous volunteers and donors for their tireless work and commitment to produce an event of epic success!

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