April 24, 2001

Local Flavors Displayed At 'Taste of the Nation'

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Gourmet foods. A charitable cause. Slinky dresses. Suits and ties. Lots of smiling faces and good music. Mix all the ingredients together and you have the 10th annual “Taste of the Nation,” presented by American Express.

More than 1,100 people gathered for the event last night in Bartels Hall to help combat hunger. Seventy percent of the money raised will go to local charities such as Loaves and Fishes of Tompkins County, the Learning Web, Unity House, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier and Foodnet.

The remaining 30 percent is donated to statewide charities such as Heart, Love and Soul, Heifer Project International – New York, and Nutrition Consortium of New York State.

“I came because I personally am really concerned about the hungry,” said Ithaca resident Jan Chandler. “This is a way to give just a little bit, and get to know [Ithaca] townspeople [at the same time.]”

Money was raised through ticket sales and a raffle. Ticket prices ranged from $45 in advance to $50 at the door. Raffle tickets cost $3 each and contestants chose prizes from three different organizations: Taster’s Choice, 100 for Hunger Corporate Program and the Chef’s Raffle.

“I am working on the raffle to support the goals of [Taste of the Nation],” said volunteer Jane Clark. “People are in the giving mood and have been very friendly. Of course I’m sure the wine helps.”

The banquet offered tastes from over 50 restaurants and over 30 wineries, breweries and beverage distributors in the Ithaca area.

“It’s a good way to get a picture of [restaurants] you’d never go to,” said Ithaca resident Mark Chandler.

Ben and Jerry’s unveiled four new trial flavors last night: Concession Obsession, Aloha Macadamia, Kaberry Kaboom and Mango Lime Sorbet.

“We have had these new flavors at the store for a month,” said Ben and Jerry’s employee Chris Meenen. “We wanted to advertise them because they are good sellers.”

In addition to giving out Mardi Gras beads, Maxis Supper Club presented a shrimp and grits dish garnished with tassel ham sauce.

“We are trying to be festive with the beads,” said Maxi’s employee Bill Mann.

Julie Jordan, author of “A Taste of Julie Jordan: 100 Top Vegetarian Classics” attended the event to enlighten the taste buds of attendants with her “Wings of Life Salad.” The salad contains tofu, broccoli, brown rice, nuts, cheeses and dressing, and is soon to be the newest edition to Wegman’s salad isle.

“I wanted to come here [to help] fight hunger and bring healthier eating [to people],” said Jordan, the original owner of the Cabbagetown Cafe. “I wanted to show people that eating healthy food helps everyone and is delicious as well.”

One of the highlights of the evening was the “Chefs of Taste Cooking Competition.”

Chefs Delmar Crimm of Wegmans, Leslie Muhlhahan of Just Desserts, Joe Morgan of Simeon’s, Renee Senne of Renee’s, Craig Hartman of Banfi’s and Ruppert Robbins of Rosalie’s Cucina drew either fish, shrimp, lamb, tofu, chicken, beef or pork from a hat — and they were off to cook.

Each contestant was then given thirty minutes to rummage through the common kitchen to grab the ingredients required to prepare a dinner for two, cooked in a large silver wok. After the one hour allotted for cooking, judges Mayor Alan J. Cohen ’81, Chef Steve O’Brien of Cornell Dining and Heather Ackerman from the national office of Share our Strength in Washington, D.C. tasted the food.

“This is the first time we have had a cooking competition,” said Gregar Brous, a member of the “Taste of the Nation” steering committee. “Everyone loves [the competition.] We did it to have some 10th anniversary entertainment.”

Based on the qualifications of best appearance, taste, originality, creativity and aroma, Robbins won the competition and silver plate prize with his dish of balsamic seared pork loin chops marinated with balsamic garlic and Saranac Pale Ale, accompanied by walnut gorgonzola, smashed fingerling cabbage and a fresh sweet corn and bell pepper relish with pan seared button mushrooms.

“Everyone made something really fabulous,” said Steve Jackson, the public relations representative for the event. “It was really hard for the judges to decide.”

One aspect of the event few would miss was the dessert; the arena was peppered with dessert trays.

Cornell Catering supplied chocolate truffles and chocolate covered strawberries. Just Desserts brought two large cakes in addition to the 10th anniversary cake, and Eat Dessert First offered a never-ending array of chocolate treats.

From the ABC Cafe to Hot Truck to Ziffy’s Diner, “Taste of the Nation” drew many people to donate to this charitable event.

“I enjoyed it thoroughly and I think everyone left with a full stomach,” said Amy Billing ’04, volunteer. “My favorite was the black raspberry sorbet, but I’m partial to ice cream.”

“It is a wonderful event for people to come together and learn about hunger and participate in a social environment,” said Paul A. Hesler, executive director of the Southern Tier and former chair of the event.

Archived article by Rachel Einschlag