April 23, 2002

Taste of a Nation Raises Money for Hunger

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If there was not enough evidence that some believe Ithaca is a Mecca for fine dinning, then more flames were added to the fire yesterday during the Taste of the Nation at Ithaca College. The event brought together nearly two dozen restaurants as well as several of wineries and breweries for a night of gourmet cuisine designed to help local charities.

For $75, patrons of Ithaca Taste of the Nation received a plate, a wine glass and free reign over a massive buffet that offered everything from steak to beer to pastries and red wine. Among the attendees were many well-known local figures, including Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen ’81 and Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.

100 percent of the event’s proceeds went to six regional charities that fight hunger: Loaves and Fishes of Tompkins County, The Learning Web Youth Outreach Program, Green Street House, The Food Bank of the Southern Tier and FoodNet.

“In a town like Ithaca, the hunger kind of gets hidden,” said Jerry Dietz, co-chair of Ithaca Taste of the Nation, which is now in its 15th year. “We try to make that point known through the work that we do.”

“Obviously hunger is a really important cause and a problem in America. It’s hard to imagine people going to bed hungry at night,” said Cheryl Barton, co-owner of Bellwether Cider. “So I think that anything we do that helps alleviate that problem is wonderful. We’re happy to do it.”

According to preliminary estimates, last night’s festivities collected approximately $35,000 for charity. Since 1988, Ithaca Taste of the Nation has raised more than $310,000. Overall, Taste of the Nation — which occurs annually in more than 70 cities around the country — has generated in excess of $42 million.

“Taste of the Nation is an excellent event every year,” Dullea remarked. “It’s tremendous not only because of the quality of the food that’s presented by all of the regional restaurants and wineries and breweries but also because it’s for such a good cause.”

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” echoed Steve Jackson, head of public relations for Ithaca Taste of the Nation.

For a food-mad town like Ithaca, Taste of the Nation is a night made in heaven. All of the town’s trademark restaurants — Bistro Q, Thai Cuisine, The Heights and Just a Taste, among others — displayed their best creations.

“It’s a wonderful place to be for food,” Barton said about Ithaca. “It’s a food town. People are serious about food here.”

“Where else can you keep going from Cajun to Thai to Vietnamese to French, all within a block or two?” Dullea added.

As much as attendees may have enjoyed sampling all of Ithaca’s finest cuisine, it was the chefs who truly received the most enjoyment from Taste of the Nation.

“We actually look forward to this night,” said Statler Executive Chef, Craig Hartman, who has participated for 15 years. “It’s the one event that we talk about pretty much all year.”

There was even a bit of friendly competition among the chefs, who all voted on a trio of awards that were handed out at the close of the evening. Hartman’s Banfi’s won for best presentation, Maxie’s Supper Club for most creativity and Patisserie Renee Senne for best overall performance.

The real winners, however, were the charities who received huge windfalls and the hundreds of local food fanatics that left Taste of the Nation last night with smiles and full stomachs.

As Hartman aptly noted, “this is the best place to be tonight anywhere in Ithaca.”

Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj