Thursday, August 20, 2009

Taste of the Nation Philadelphia

I entered a drawing to win a ticket to the Taste of the Nation fundraiser in Philadelphia from Foodbuzz, thinking my chances of winning would be few to none. Then, a few days later, I received an email saying I won a trip to the event! Very excited, I mapped out my train schedule from Harrisburg to Phila, assessed the cab ride to the hotel, and felt prepared for the event where I was in hopes of trying some of the best food the city had to offer... and I was NOT disappointed...
After weeks of waiting, Monday finally rolled around and I ventured to Philadelphia's Loew's Hotel. A large ballroom was filled to the brim with world-renouned chefs and mixologists from Philadelphia eating establishments serving up incredible creations that reminded me of why I love food so much! I wrote down everything I sampled and attempted to take a lot of photos to help you get the feeling of this great event. The proceeds of the tickets sales, along with the live and silent auction sales, went to the Food Trust, (a Philadelphia non-profit working to make sure those in need are fed), the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger (fights hunger through education & outreach), Philabundence (hunger relief organization) and the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center (promotes food security).

So I enter the ballroom and feeling very overwhelmed, I didn't know where to start! I wandered past a few food displays and made my first stop at the City Tavern Restaurant where the executive chef, Walter Staib, was making some delicious shrimp topped bruschetta. Oh yum! What a great start to the evening! The City Tavern was actually the only restaurant at the event that I've eaten at before.
Wandering more, I found the Rum Bar where they were serving custom-made mojitos. I chose to have a cherry blueberry mojito... I must say, it was a good choice.

Mojito Buffet

I then moved on to try some truffled mac 'n cheese from the Varga Bar. Rich, creamy and woodsy. A very unique twist on the classic. Next I came across some the Twenty Manning stand where I sampled some savory escargot brouchette. Then along to try some Indian fare from Bindi. I tried a great namkeen (street snack) of a lobster corn bread puff. From PS7's, actually a Washington, D.C. hot spot, I sampled a baya sabrosa - a lovely cocktail made from Barsol Pisco, hibiscus tea, lime, blueberry puree, egg white and sumac berry powder. Yum! With it had a slice of chicken sausage with compote (French for applesauce).

Baya Sabrosa & chicken sausage and compote

I moved on to try a lobster spring roll with aioli from the Octo Waterfront Grill. Then on to try some brie, strawberries and pumpernickel bread round from the Di Bruno Bros. To wash it all down, a Maker's Mark Manhattan from the Dylan Bar was a perfect choice!

The DiBruno Bros. spread

Moving on, I tried a pork belly bun from Chifta, one of the five restaurants of the Garces Restaurant Group. Chef Jose Garces is a highly honored chef in the US since the opening of his first restaurant in Philadelphia, Amada, in 2005. Chef Garces is nationally recognized, especially after appearing on Iron Chef America and defeating Bobby Flay. I believe this my first time trying pork belly and I'm now a big fan of this savory, tender meat!

The pork belly bun with hoisin glaze, pickled daikon & carrot, and togarashi mayo

On to the Le Castagne stand where shot glasses of gazpacho topped with yellowfin tuna were being served. Since I didn't have a drink, I went to the Southern Wine & Spirits thinking I could try a red wine, but when I asked one of the pourers what would go well with the gazpacho and tuna, she said, 'when in doubt go with something sparkley!' I loved this answer! She poured me a glass of brut Domaine Ste. Michelle.

Brut with the gazpacho & tuna

How fitting that the event served exclusively Belgian beers - the three that I greatly enjoy: Leffe (Blonde & Brown), Hoegaarden and Stella Artois. Those of you who know me, know Hoegaarden (I recently found out it's pronounced who-garden) is my absolute favorite beer so I couldn't resist having a glass. I'm not sure if it was the best to have with dessert but sure enough, it tasted great with key lime and cocnut cream tarts from Tartes.

Hoegaarden & tarts (excuse the messy tablecloth - people have been eating for quite sometime at this point!)

Moving on yet again, I came across Little Fish, a restaurant serving up a crab on a pumpernickel round, topped with cucumber and egg yolk.

Then I tried something I never fathomed would go together - a fois gras covered bing cherry from Blackfish. While I wasn't a big fan of the flavor combo, I was happy to give it a try! I can see how someone would like the salty and sweet tastes together though.

Cherry & fois gras

But then I found a salty and sweet combo I loved: watermelon with feta and a balsamic reduction from The Witch. Oh how great! The feta used was very firm so it was a nice contrast to the supple watermelon texture.

For my final cocktail of the evening I tried a delicously unique creation from APO called the Aviation. Gin, Luxardo, creme de violette and lemon juice shaken together for a sweet and tangy purple treat!

The apothocary (APO comes from apothocary) jar of Aviation

To round out the evening, I sample four different flavors of Ciao Bella sorbet - blackberry cabernet, Alphonso mango, Lebanese yogurt and Valhrona chocolate. The blackberry cab and yogurt were my favorites. This was the first time I've tried Ciao Bella and I'll be sure to pick some up at the grocery store soon!

A big thank you to Foodbuzz for sending me to this great event! And to Natalie for giving me travel advise to and around the city. I look forward to going back to this fundraiser next year, but before then, I hope to have a chance to visit some of these outstanding Philadelphia restaurants soon!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great trip! I'm both jealous and hungry!!