Monday, April 23, 2012

Eating For Good at Share our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Boston

By: Jessica Cickay  

Share our Strength’s Taste of the Nation was a true test of my willpower. It was hard, but I mustered up the strength to sample and sip the bites and brews of nearly 70 restaurants and 30 breweries and wine purveyors in an effort to help end childhood hunger across the country. It may seem odd to eat yourself silly at the event given its charitable intentions, but Taste of the Nation is one of the best and biggest in Boston, expertly showcasing some of the city’s tastiest culinary artists and raising funds for a great cause.
Levy's Cupcakes
With so many tasty creations tempting my taste buds, it wasn’t hard for me to eat something from every table, but it was hard for me to decide which were my favorites. The savory stars of the evening, in my food-crazed opinion, were from honorary chef chair Joanne Chang and modern Mediterranean hot spot Avila. Chang, per usual, brought out the big guns, but this time in the form of a Korean BBQ Pork Slider. The bun itself was adorable – tiny, soft but with a crunch of crust – and the meat was sweet and juicy. Decorated with spicy yet cool kimchi cucumbers, the one-bite-burger was easily the best of the best. Avila’s Gnocchi Bolognese was not too far behind, though, as these hand rolled clouds were cooked to perfection and left a lasting impression. A rich, meaty Bolognese dressed the pillows of potato, and a heavy shower of freshly grated parmesan cheese added the perfect layer of umami flavor to the classic comfort food.
Beef and Pork Meatball
Elsewhere, Jody Adams, another honorary chef chair, made my belly beam with delight with her Beef and Pork Meatball. A tender and succulent meatball was skewered alongside house-smoked ricotta, a garlicky Tuscan crouton and a spring of earthy micro-basil – the perfect accessories to a perfect bite. They clearly were chosen as Taste of the Nation’s honorary chef chairs for a reason, with Gordon Hamersley and his seared shrimp also packing a punch. Charred in all the right places, Hamersley’s shrimp was tender, plump and complimented by a coating of cinnamony spices. Atop a bed of pearled Israeli couscous and spring veggies, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Shrimp and Couscous
Dessert was almost overwhelming, with so many great bakeries trying to make my middle rounder, but the emphasis here is on the word almost. Joanne Chang once again took it full circle, wowing me first with the savory and wooing me again with the sweet. This time on the sweet-side, cute cups of hand crafted pastry were filled with a luscious chocolate pudding and topped with a dollop of sweet whipped cream.
Chocolate Pudding Pies
Although Chang definitively won the savory battle, she came in a close second in the sweet. The champion of this department was Levy Restaurants, an event and catering company associated with Hynes Convention Center. Levy’s cupcakes were basically beyond words. I’ve never tasted a better crafted cupcake in my entire 26 year-cupcake-eating-life. The Jelly Roll, a moist golden cake piped in the center with raspberry preserves, was the standout for me. The raspberry buttercream was not only smooth, not too sweet and not too buttery, but it tasted like fields of fresh raspberries and made me long for summertime…and another cupcake.

I left Taste of the Nation full, but full in many different ways. Full of the delicious creations of Boston’s best chefs, full of amazement for just how well the event was run and full of admiration for the great lengths people really do go to for a great cause.

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