Thursday, December 23, 2010

Win Dinner for 4 at Alinea

Earl Grey, lemon, pine nut, caramelized white chocolate
or,  as they say at Alinea, dessert, via Penelope's Loom's stream.

There's the foodie community, and then there's those who blog about it. And those who blog about it hold one blogger in fairly high esteem—for most of us, her blog attempts to accomplish the impossible. That blogger is Carol Blymire, and her blog is Alinea at Home. You heard of it? Thought so. Her mission is pretty simple, "I'm cooking my way through the Alinea cookbook. Because I can. I think."

And when one thinks they can pull this off, and blogs about it? Yeah, they start turning a head or two. And she has a loyal following, it's pretty safe to say.

Which is why she's teamed up with Share Our Strength to help raise money to fight childhood hunger through the holiday season. And in her own signature way, she's built milestone incentives to keep the gifting momentum on the up:

$2,500 -- I will cook something from the Noma cookbook. [Sourcing the ingredients for this has been FUN.
$5,000 -- I will go Christmas caroling at The White House. [I hope I don't set off the Dork Alarm.
$7,500 -- I will do a row of somersaults in front of the Capitol Building. [Wonder if I can get one of my favorite Senators to join me?
$10,000 (our goal, by January 16) -- I will dance along with the Wii videogame The Michael Jackson Experience.
And then there's the last milestone, if the drive raises over $10k... Alinea.

Just watch that video, no matter how much you know or don't know about Alinea, and you'll understand how out of this world the place is—unless you're on of the few who have actually experienced it. There's nothing like it. Period.

And Grant Achatz and Nick Kokanas of Alinea have stepped up and are allowing Carol to give away dinner for four at Alinea, for any of us, as long as we've donated at through the drive, at any amount. Are you letting that sink in? Donate any amount through this drive, and you'll have the chance to eat the dinner of a lifetime—for free.

Now Carol is writing from D.C., and her readers are following her from all over the world, and that's great news for the fundraising potential of this drive for Share Our Strength—but it's us living here in Chicago who should truly appreciate the magnitude of this potential prize. We live here and hear about the place non-stop. We live here, and short of a Christmas miracle, just can't afford the place. And those of us who live here and can afford the place? Well, then there's the reservation problem. They're next to impossible to come by. So, Chicago, here's your chance.

Let's throw some weight behind this and win one for the home team, huh? There isn't a person I know who can't afford even $1 to fight childhood hunger, especially at the prospect of eating dinner at Alinea with three of his or her friends.

Here's Carol's original post, announcing the fundraiser. And here's the official donation page—remember, only donations made here will be eligible for the Alinea dinner, and the dozens of other prizes Carol is giving away.

Best of luck to everyone, and let us know how if you've given so we can give your due props via twitter!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Amateur Bartender Contest is on at Prairie Fire!

We realize that most people in Chicago associate Taste of the Nation to one thing—the event. But Taste of the Nation is only one small arm of its far-reaching parent, Share Our Strength. That's why, with our integration of social media this past year and our many relationships in this city, we've started thinking more and more about opportunities to keep the Taste alliances alive, even when the event is a distant thought.

That's why we've teamed up with Green City Market lynchpin and Chef Sarah Stegner and her team at Prairie Fire in the West Loop. The restaurant opened last year to great praise, and for some time now has been hosting guest bartenders on Tuesday nights to raise money—the tips—for the guest of honor's charity of choice. On most nights, for just two hours of bartending, a charity will see something close to $1,500. And all at no cost to the charity itself.

Dan Sviland's Rhubarb Rita via R.I.A.

And it all starts TODAY. To participate is simple, if not more fun you'll have with a contest than ever before, as it calls for bit of creative thought with booze. It's an amateur mixology competition, held in two rounds! We'll lay out most of the details below, but read Sarah's blog for more here.

  1. "Like" Prairie Fire on Facebook. Do so here.
  2. Watch the above video and draw inspiration—or go to your favorite bar and conduct your own research there...
  3. Create a cocktail. Do so using at least one local ingredient, like Dan Sviland does with Hum in the above video.
  4. Take a picture of the drink. Get up close to it and really be sure the photograph is as flattering to your drink as can be—the judges won't be tasting the drink, so this is a crucial component.
  5. Upload the picture to the Prairie Fire Facebook page.
  6. With the picture, include a short intro to the cocktail, as well as a recipe to its construction.
  7. Then, just sit back and wait—along with guest judge and Chicago mixologist Adam Seger, we'll choose TWO winners after the Dec. 10 deadline.
  8. The two winners will then both be invited for dinner for 4 on Dec. 14...
  9. Which is when they'll also invite all of their friends to watch them duel behind the bar at Prairie Fire from 6-8pm, making their winning cocktails.
  10. Chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris will create food to pair with each cocktail, which will be served during the duel.
  11. At the end of the duel, whomever has raised the most tips will be the winner—and the tips from each bartender will go to Share Our Strength.
  12. And in the theme of the 12 Days of Christmas, I'm adding a twelfth step, just because I can—It's December 1 and I'm listening to Christmas music. Give me a break!

And on top of all of this, the ultimate winner will appear with Sarah and George at Green City Market on Dec. 22 for a live demo—plus be invited to sling drinks behind the bar all by his or herself, for a charity of his or her own choosing.

If I were entering this competition, I'd be thinking of a way to show the judges something that'll separate me from all of the other entries. Green City Market might be limited this time of year, but what's at the market that I can feature as a my local ingredient that you don't often see at a restaurant? And they're letting me use local as anything regional to Chicago, not just from Illinois itself. So what spirits and products are coming from Indiana and Wisconsin and Michigan and the other states?

The Bee's Knees, also from Dan Sviland via R.I.A.

And dates to keep in mind: The deadline to submit my drink's picture and recipe on Facebook is Dec. 10. If I'm one of the two winners, I need to be free on Dec. 14 for the duel at Prairie Fire from 6-8pm (really, everyone should plan on coming and help raise money for us!). And then, I need to be free on Dec. 22 to demo with Sarah and George at Green City Market.

We can't wait to follow along with the fun on their Facebook page, and we'll be sure to post entries on twitter and so on. Getting in touch with people who like food and drink is crucial to the No Kid Hungry Campaign—you're the ones who are in the best position to help us end childhood hunger by 2015. And rather lose your attention with constant nagging, we hope this is one way that might keep you engaged in the battle!

Best of luck to our participants, and we can't wait to see everyone at Prairie Fire December 14th!!

Some people to follow as the contest goes on:

- Sarah Stegner on twitter and Facebook
- Daniel Sviland on twitter and Facebook
- Prairie Chefs blog
- Adam Seger on twitter and Facebook
- Ellen Malloy on twitter and Facebook

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Tasteful Pursuit Dons a Few Stars

Paul has his star and isn't slowing down via RIA.

Hi Chicago, had enough of the Michelin Man yet?

I kind of laughed at myself today because at one point, when reading all the responses and comments and opinions on this morning's Michelin star announcements became too much, I had to walk away from the computer—which is when I had a thought back to when I first had heard of the Michelin Guide, years ago. I remember thinking, oh, that must be some distinguished French society of chefs and gourmands. Cool. But of course, that's not really it. I mean, the first time you saw the cover of the guide didn't you think, humph, what the heck is the tire guy doing on a food guide?

Because, really, what the heck is a tire guy doing on the cover of a food guide?

But that's the point. This little guide has tipped this city on its fork-wielding head, and its endured the silly branding of the tire guy to still remain the most respected and sought after measure of fine dining in the world.

And that's why it's kind of exciting to say that Share Our Strength will host one of the first collaborative food events featuring multiple Chicago Michelin star winning chefs: A Tasteful Pursuit. Pretty cool that a sentence like that can be written for the first time in this day and age, huh?

And the kicker? We still have a few seats open for the event.

Here's the lineup...

Newly starred Chef Tony Mantuano via Spiaggia.

— Chicago Michelin Star recipients —

Host: Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Terzo Piano)

*     *     *

Sarah Grueneberg, Executive Chef (Spiaggia)

Paul Kahan, (Blackbird, avec, The Publican)

Megan Neubeck, Pastry Chef (Terzo Piano)

Takashi Yagahashi (Takashi)

— joined by celebrated guest chef —

Mark Vetri, (Vetri—Philadelphia)

The dinner will be held at Spiaggia, with a welcome reception beginning promptly at 6pm—with both silent and live auction items present.

So get your tickets—their value just sky rocketed with the bragging rights that come with eating one of the first dinners featuring these Michelin rock stars. Buy them here.

And while you're at it, take the No Kid Hungry pledge, too. After all, Jeff Bridges did it—and if the Dude is on board, we all should be on board...

See you tomorrow.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fighting Hunger with Three Days To Go

(In a grocery store, this table of food would cost $63.
If obtained through the Greater Chicago Food Depository programs? $5.41)

So here's the thing. In all of the hooplah of throwing together such a large event with an overwhelming cast of chefs, it's easy to loose sight of what this event is all about. Who are the recipients of the money raised? How much food does your ticket buy for a family? How many kids are impacted by this one event? Internally at Taste of the Nation we call the answers that reveal what's beneath the surface of these questions, Hunger Messaging—and our own Chuck Sudo is the Bruce Wayne of Hunger Messaging. Next Thursday night, you'll see Hunger Messaging all around you.

But we're not talking decorations and fancy words that might convince you to throw in some extra money because that's what you're supposed to do—we're talking serious issues that just aren't forward enough on our consciousness. Take a look:
  • In Chicago, 1 in 4 children are food insecure.
  • 82 percent of Chicago Public School Students qualify for free or reduced lunches.
  • The Greater Chicago Food Depository distributed 62 million pounds of food to pantries and shelters throughout the Chicago area last year.
  • 780,000 Illinois families received food stamps in June 2010, an 11.9 percent increase over June 2009.
  • Over 200,000 children in Chicago live in "food deserts."
And this is barely a fraction of the messaging Chuck has put together for us. But I'm treading a fine line here when I group these messages together and use phrases like "barely a fraction." I remove the reality, the weight of what's being said in each message.

Think about it. In Chicago, 1 in 4 children are food insecure.

How many kids are on a youth baseball team? A ballet class? 1 in 4 is a dangerous ratio that hits far too close to home for all of us, and yet I think we don't see it. Did you have any idea that nearly 800,000 families received food stamps this June? Let alone that it's an almost 12% increase from the year before? What a painful blow to the goals of Share Our Strength—which is to wipe out childhood hunger by 2015.

2015. That's pretty darn soon.

And yet, we're not backing down from this goal. That top photo to this post is pretty staggering when you take in how much those groceries cost you and I when we shop at the super market. Because, for us, $63 makes a lot of sense. That's not staggering. It's the impact that organizations like the Greater Chicago Food Depository have on communities that have my jaw continually dropping the more involved I get with Share Our Strength. To think that those groceries could cost a family just $5.41—well, there's some difference making going on there. Big time.

And then there's Near North Health Services, another beneficiary of Taste of the Nation. Their Operation Frontline participants are taught how to shop for groceries on a budget, utilizing the most with minimal resources—the Chicagoist's Megan Tempest wrote a great feature on this program last May. 

(A common site in Chicago of an abandoned market via Chuck Sudo)

And as markets continue to close in Chicago, the food stamps that are given out to help families through this tough time become less and less helpful. In his research leading up to Taste, Chuck's unearthed this problem. It increases the need and demand for the $5.41 assistance that the Greater Chicago Food Depository provides, which increases the need for further assistance from donors and events by the surrounding community. Hence, Taste of the Nation is as important as ever this year.

Because what Chuck's seen is that as the grocery stores close, families turn to corner convenience stores for their food—where they can buy liquor, cigarettes, and whatever processed foods are available at these stores as their nutrition, and in that order. They're using their food stamps to buy junk food.

(A main grocery source for much of Chicago via Chuck Sudo)

Taste of the Nation is as big as it is because the battle we're fighting requires it. These organizations won't continue to make an impact without our support.

Sure. There are still free tickets to be had as the days tick away leading up to the event—but if you've just been waiting for the right moment, unsure to buy or to wait for another shot at a give away, well don't you think that right moment is now?

Come next Thursday in this little town of ours, for those few hours, there won't be a greater gathering of food and drink in the world. Think about that—which, my friends, is saying something.

Buy your tickets. Write them off. And get your tushy over to what might just be one of the most unforgettable moments of your life. And help us start hitting the delete button on our Hunger Messaging, bit by bit, in the process, yeah?

There are 800,000 families waiting to thank you.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Updates From the Land of Taste

(The Aragon Ballroom won't look anything like this next Thursday...)

Tickets. We're giving them away and you want them. Here's how:

Steve Dolinsky. Steve will be our auctioneer next week—and oh man are there some insane items this year... Paul Kahan and Mindy Segal as your private chefs while you talk music with the guys from Sound Opinions, for one—and all week he's been holding contests on his blog. That ends today. But, your chances to win the tickets aren't up just yet if you can convince him you're the most deserving.

He's asking you a simple question. What would you order off of Stephanie Izard's menu at Girl and the Goat and why, in fifty words or less. That's it. So get to his site, read today's entry, and win those tickets, yeah?

(Via Steph's twitter, this 5 lb. veal belly roast debuted earlier this week)

Gaztro-Wagon. As you must know by now, chefs have been teaming up with naanwich maestro Matt Maroni all week as we quickly approach August 12—less than a week away, mind you—and we're not letting up on bit.

As of right now, we have four more scheduled ride-alongs through next week, starting with Chef Michael Fiorello of Mercat a la Planxa hopping aboard midday tomorrow. Following Michael will be our own Elissa Narrow later that night, and David Carrier from Kith and Kin plus Todd Stein (cibo matto) and Kristine Subido (Wave) will join in early next week. So yeah. We're not letting up—just ask Phil Vettel. He's noticed.

(At the wagon this week for Taste ticket give-aways 
w/ Chef Marianne Sundquist of In Fine Spirits)

Foodie the App. I love this thing. What started as an iPhone exclusive has become, for this Verizon loyalist, an interwebz staple. Building a web site so that any and every one could jump on board with Foodie was plain and simple brilliance—if for no other reason than I get to choose my own prix fixe from Piccolo Sogno while you're forced to stick with the regular menu. That, and I booked a reservation at The Bristol while you had to wait an hour. You know, things like that.

And now they've partnered with us—and I don't think this could be any more painless. All it takes is a reservation. A simple, easy, special laden reservation booked through their system. That. Is. It. Do that, and you're giving yourself a shot at one of two pairs of tickets they'll give away at random next Thursday. You're going out to dinner at some point between now and next Thursday anyway, so why the heck aren't you booking that reservation through Foodie? For more, check out their blog.

See—we like making this easy on you. Happy Friday, and good luck!

Or just buy your tickets, too...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Find the Wagon!

(The Boar Belly Naanwich via Andrew Huff's photostream)

Had a meeting last night with the Taste committee, and we're approaching the final stretch. Really something to see everyone rally together like this—and mind you, it's ALL volunteer work—in the name of fighting childhood hunger. It's rare to come across an event that brings out so much good, and I think that shows in the work everyone has put in to this year's Taste.

And about this year's Taste... last week I promised opportunities to get in on free ticket action, and that begins today! Any minute now, Matt Maroni will be pulling his gaztro-wagon out of the driveway and park it somewhere on our Chicago streets—with the incredibly talented Phillip Foss of Lockwood and "The Pickled Tongue" by his side. Later this week Phil is hosting a speakeasy with several participating Taste chefs, and we're thrilled that he's willing to help promote Taste in the process today with Matt. So—when that clock hits the appropriate time and you get your belly out the door for some lunch, find out where Matt's parked the gaztro-wagon, yeah?

Doing that will for sure appease your appetite, but it might just get you those free Taste of the Nation tickets, too! Find the truck. Order some grub. Ask for the tickets! But, when asking for the tickets, say the code word... "Aragon." Aragon. That's it!

And stay tuned all this week—Matt will be hosting a guest chef nearly every day leading up to the event next Thursday. And yeah, every day a chef joins in? More tickets will be handed out!

Looking forward to partying with whoever wins—and maybe you could bring me a naanwich while you're at it...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Things Are Heating Up!

(Pastry Chef and co-chair Mindy Segal of HotChocolate, via Joseph Storch)

To say we're feeling the weight of Taste of the Nation as it approaches us—now less than two weeks away—is an understatement. There are emails and TV appearances and tweets flying through the air and interwebs like you wouldn't believe! But, the way I see it, this is a true testament to the dedication and commitment we all have to this truly worthy event. There's not a single person involved who doesn't want this Taste to be nothing less than the premiere event of the year. And you know what? It might just be...

And as we rally up the final ticket sales and get ready for the event, we're also reaching out to all of you with a tremendous amount of opportunities to score tickets. On us. That's right, we've got quite a few tickets that we're handing out for free! So... how the heck is this gonna do down?

Several ways.

As you probably know, today was a historic day for the city of Chicago—Matt Maroni hit the road with his gaztro-wagon and sold his first naanwich! And then another and another and... yeah. You get it. Well, we're teaming up with Matt starting tomorrow and running on through August 12, when he'll be parked in front of the Aragon Ballroom to greet all of you as you arrive for the party. But tomorrow, sometime around midday, he won't be at the Aragon. No. No. Tomorrow Matt will be serving his killer street food at Green City Marketand it's there that we'll be handing out the first free pair of tickets.

How? Pretty simple. The first person to show up to the truck tomorrow, order some food, and ask for the  two tickets? They get 'em. Easy, right?

(via Green City Market's photostream)

But we won't make it so easy as the week goes on, which is when Matt will be joined by some of the city's best chefs for Taste of the Nation ride-a-longs—starting on Tuesday, August 3, when Phillip Foss hops on board and with his Tunisian Style Naanwich. Other chefs lining up are Kristine Subido (Wave), David Carrier (Kith and Kin), Todd Stein (cibo matto), and Michael Fiorello (Mercat a la Planxa)... with still more signing on. And as each chef hops on board with Matt, so too does another opportunity to win a new pair of Taste tickets.

And if that's not enough, we're teaming up with foodie the app, too! If you haven't signed up with foodie yet—well, get on it. Not having an iPhone is no longer an excuse, as foodie's new website now allows all of Chicago to enroll in their free, members-only exclusives. I'm enrolled, but I can't win the tickets. Someone win 'em for me??? Point is, a reservation may or may not score you a shot at those tickets, and you need to enroll with foodie to make those reservations... hint. hint.

We're also working closely with restaurants like Perennial and Landmark to run more opportunities to dish out the tickets, so we hope you not only stay tuned to the blog and twitter and Facebook feeds—but that you're sharing the updates with friends so increase your odds of landing the prize.

And in the meantime? Why not check out Blackbird chef Mike Sheerin with Bristol mixologist Debbi Peek and our own Elissa Narrow with Steve Dolinsky, all of whom appeared on ABC 7's Midday News this morning to give a sneak peek what what to expect this year...

And buy your tickets!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beers and Burgers and Taste of the Nation

As the Taste of the Nation event inches closer (August 12!), we're participating in some fun ticket-selling shindigs this week.

First up, the TOTN crew will be at Goose Island Clybourn tonight, July 22, for the very special beer debut of Sai-Shan-Tea. This is a lemon tea-infused elixir co-brewed by Chuck Sudo of Chicagoist, who just so happens to be a committee member for TOTN. Way to go, Chuck! Beginning at 6:00 p.m., Chicagoist is hosting a meet-up at the brewpub to christen the beer, and you can bet there will be a strong TOTN presence to talk up the August event and sling tickets.

A few days later, committee member Michael Kornick is set to host a fundraising dinner at his restaurant, DMK Burger Bar on Sunday, July 25. The event is titled "Shift Drinks (and Eats)," to be held at 8:00 p.m. at Kornick's popular burger palace. It's open to the public, and a $10 donation benefits Share Our Strength. All night long, the ENTIRE menu will be half-off. Grass-fed beef burgers, fries, mac 'n' cheese, beer, house-crafted soda... yeah, you're gonna wanna be here. Throughout the night, we'll be holding raffles and giveaways, including a pair of VIP tickets to the grand event at the Aragon Ballroom.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Green City Market BBQ

Today's the day; the true "Taste of Chicago." That's right, I'm talking about the Green City Market Chef's BBQ. But this ain't your mama's barbecue, folks. We're talking zounds of Chicago chefs packing Lincoln Park to the brim with seasonal, locally sourced bites that personify their cooking style and cuisine.

This year, as the BBQ celebrates its 10th anniversary, the celebration is bigger than ever. Though the menu is largely hush-hush, thanks to the wonders of social media and the chefs who tweet, hungry attendees can expect everything from elk-topped crostini to spicy sausages, chicken adobo and artisanal ice cream sandwiches. And with our Taste of the Nation event just a few weeks away, consider this a nice preview of what to expect when chefs descend on the Aragon Ballroom. In fact, we're pleased to say that many of the chefs participating in the GCM BBQ are also on the roster to join us August 12 at TOTN. So get your fill tonight, and we'll look forward to Chicago's next grand culinary event of the summer. Book your tickets now:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Steve Dolinsky Slings Drinks for TOTN

You know his face. Now taste his drinks (in the name of charity, no less). Steve Dolinsky, everyone's favorite "Hungry Hound" and the emcee for this year's Taste of the Nation Chicago, will play bartender for a night at Il Poggiolo in Hinsdale on Monday July 26th from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. The Thirsty Hound will be shaking up his signature Hemingway Daiquiri, which will sell for just $6 a pop! Now doesn't that sound refreshing?

Know what will make the Daiquiri taste even sweeter? A portion of all bar sales will be donated to Share Our Strength as well as 100% of all donations in the tip jars. Attendees at Il Poggiolo will also be able to purchase tickets for the TOTN event on August 12, which cost $95 for regular admission and $125 for a VIP ticket.

Il Poggiolo Ristorante is located at 8 East First Street in Hinsdale, Illinois. Phone number is 630-734-9400. No cover charge will be charged at this event, and guests can pair their daiquiris with some passed hors d'oeuvres. Hope to see you in Hinsdale!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tom Colicchio Talkes Childhood Hunger

In case you needed further reason to adore Tom Colicchio — esteemed chef, restaurant owner, "Top Chef" judge — here ya go: the man recently testified before the House of Representatives to rally support for the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act. He then spoke with Eatocracy on blogs about childhood hunger, giving Share Our Strength a few healthy shout outs.

Colicchio's eye-opening interview with Eatocracy puts a personal perspective on America's school lunch dilemma. The chef describes growing up in an area of New Jersey that was rife with nutrition-deprived schoolchildren. His mother managed a school cafeteria, where she strove to provide kids with wholesome foods, even into her elder years. His mother's plight stuck with Colicchio, and this battle for healthier school lunches in America has stuck with him. Today, he praises Share Our Strength as a group he's proud to say continues his mother's legacy.

Seeing as Colicchio has risen to the level of "celebrity chef," it's wonderful to see a public figure like him take a stand for such issues. But this is something he's been practicing long before his "Top Chef" days, participating in fundraisers for organizations like Share Our Strength. Here's a resounding quote from the wise chef: "My feeling is, if you're going to be called a celebrity, you might as well use it for some good. It's better to testify for school lunches in front of Congress than get drunk in a bar somewhere and misbehave." Our thoughts exactly, Tom. Our thoughts exactly.

To read the interview in its entirety, visit

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Let the Restaurant Sponsorships Begin

(Your logo, your brand, your table. It could be you
 presenting Hot Chocolate at this year's Taste!)

Exciting news on the Taste of the Nation Chicago front. Today, we hit full-throttle on restaurant sponsorships for this year's event on August 12. What does this mean, you ask? We're looking for brands to partner with TOTN restaurants and support a good cause. Sponsorships can be purchased online. Click on "sponsors" and contact Anna Batcke, our Midwest Field Manager, to get the process rolling.

Once sponsorships go through, the deal includes two VIP tickets, signage of your brand on the restaurant/chef table and a photo op with a representing chef.

Sponsorships are indeed first come-first serve and are subject to restaurant/chef approval.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chicago Chefs Support Oil Spill Relief

It warms our hearts, here at Taste of the Nation Chicago, to see the slew of generous chefs rally together to support the Gulf Coast in the face of oily disaster. Big Jones' Executive Chef Paul Fehribach has helped arrange the Gulf Coast Fishing Families and Wildlife Relief Benefit to take place on July 25 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park, featuring a reception and auction with food and drink provided by the chefs, mixologists and caterers. Anyone who donates $50 or more to the fund is welcome to attend. Paul, toques off to you.

We already knew our collection of chefs for this year's Taste of the Nation was a strong one. And seeing their names now attached to a charitable project such as this serves as sweet vindication. We can't help but blush with hometown pride. The event will feature food, drink and auction items from such TOTN participants as Big Jones, The Bristol, Kith & Kin, The Purple Pig, The Southern and of course, Mindy Segal's HotChocolate.

Interested in attending the event/supporting the Gulf Coast? Of course you are! To attend, guests are asked to make a minimum donation of $50 for Gulf relief. They can donate by visiting the benefit's official website at or by visiting For those who donate at Support BTNEP, they will need to bring payment confirmation to the event to gain entry. They'll also need to reserve their spot at the benefit by emailing with the number of spots they are reserving and donating for.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Publican Throws a Food Drive

Major props to The Publican for throwing its hat into the food drive ring. The restaurant started off the year on a charitable note with a food drive in February. Tons of canned goods and non-perishable items were collected for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Because of the great success and overwhelming response, they're gearing up for round 2 on Saturday, June 26. And, by the way, they'll be helping the cause even more come August, when Chef de Cuisine Brian Huston participates in our Taste of the Nation Chicago events at the Aragon.

From 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m., folks are encouraged to swing by The Publican and drop off any non-perishables that they can. As if the warm feeling of good will wasn't enough, the restaurant will be rewarding donors with complementary snacks from Hannah's Bretzel and beer from Goose Island.

What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Plans for Greater Chicago Food Depository

Earlier this evening, the Taste of the Nation Chicago committee had a pow wow to discuss proceedings as we progress towards the grand event on August 12 (basically just 6 weeks away, folks!). Joining us at this pow wow were representatives from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, an organization that's been strongly tied with Share Our Strength for 20 years and is passionate about providing food for the hungry while striving to end hunger in our community. If that statement sounds familiar, it's probably because we at Taste of the Nation champion the Exact. Same. Thing. Hoorah!

Needless to say, the presentation from GCFD was an inspiring one. The initiatives they've taken and the ones they're taking on this summer (their busiest season) are crazy-admirable. The statistics they shared were shocking. Jaws hit the floor. For instance, whereas the food depository served an average of 200 families per month two years ago, this year the depository has been serving upwards of 400 people in just two HOURS. Clearly, the demand for hunger relief is more crucial than ever before. And with spectacular chef-driven events like TOTN (shamelessly patting ourselves on the back), we can all unite and work toward eradicating this hunger in our community.

As we head into summer, the focus at GCFD is heavily on children. While kids are out of school, those in under-served communities are at risk of going hungry. Thankfully, the food depository is toiling to ensure that doesn't happen. One of the great things they're doing this season is operating a "lunch bus," which parks itself in Chicago communities like Little Village and Brighton Park, as well as nearby Chicago Heights, and serves free, nutritious lunches to kids under 18 on weekdays. An average of 150 kids a day have been benefiting from this stellar set-up. Cool beans!

To learn more about the Greater Chicago Food Depository, or to find out how you can help (you know you want to!), visit

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chicago Represents at Aspen Food & Wine Classic

As Chefs and foodies flock to Colorado this weekend for the 28th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, we here at Taste of the Nation Chicago offer a mighty tip of the toque to our hometown talent: Blackbird's Chef de Cuisine Mike Sheerin.

If you've visited Blackbird recently, you'll understand why Food & Wine Magazine picked him as one of this year's Best New Chefs. The guy's got serious skills, as evidenced by the constant stream of ornate dishes filling his menu. While he works with much of the same seasonal ingredients as many other chefs in town, Sheerin's the only one who would think to serve rhubarb as part of a peanut gazpacho with cured hiramasa; or combine green asparagus with white sesame, golden brook trout, banana and ground ivy. Do a double take. Now commence drooling.

So it goes without question that we're thrilled to have Sheerin as part of the Taste of the Nation Chicago chef roster this year. We relish the thought of what whimsical dishes he'll be whipping up come August 12. Try not to lose sleep thinking about it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Taste of the Nation Ticket Party June 10

Before you know it, the August 12 Taste of the Nation event will be upon us and we'll all be feasting in the Aragon Ballroom. But before the "holiday" comes the eve, and the eve in question is the Taste of the Nation ticket party, set to take place on Thursday, June 10.

This is an event you won't want to miss. It takes place in the hip confines of SUB 51, at easily accessible after-work hours of 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. The cost is just $15 at the door, which goes towards the $95 total cost for entry into August's main event. What a deal! You can expect raffle prizes, special chef guest speakers, lots of mixology magic and mingling. Oh, and some sweets courtesy of HotChocolate's very own Mindy Segal.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stanley Cup Sustainable Bet

Newsflash: the Blackhawks have been storming the Stanley Cup in a hockey showdown against the Philadelphia Flyers. But that's not all. The mayors from the two cities have thrown down the gauntlet with a friendly, charitable bet. Mayors Michael A. Nutter and Richard M. Daley may not be slinging pucks, but their good-natured bet is just as exciting, and area food depositories stand to win. Now this is something we here at Taste of the Nation Chicago call a win-win.

Philly's Mayor Nutter has vowed to volunteer at community gardens through the Mayor's Office of Sustainability. This is a program designed to bring fresh, local food to within 10 minutes of 75 percent of all city residents (think community gardens, farmer's markets, increased local product in grocery stores, etc.). Should the Flyers win, Nutter will donate his gardening efforts to Philabundance, a massive hunger relief organization whose mission is to end hunger in the Delaware Valley. If the Blackhawks win, the food will go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Mayor Daley, on the other hand, is wagering a smorgasbord of namesake Chicago food and drink, as well as assorted signature products. The Chicago Food Depository will inherit the food if the Blackhawks win. But if the Flyers snag the Cup, the food will be distributed to various Philadelphia charities as chosen by the Mayor's office. Get a load of some of the items Daley's putting up: 100 Italian beef sandwiches, 50 large deep dish sausage pizzas, 500 slices of Eli's cheesecake, 25 gallons of Garrett Popcorn, 10 cases of Goose Island Honker's Ale, 30 lbs. of toffee from Terry's Toffee, three dozen double "cheezborgers" from the Billy Goat Tavern and much, much more.

Major tip of the hat to these two gentlemen for championing such good causes in the face of intense hockey rivalry. Stanley Cup or not, we here at Taste of the Nation Chicago applaud the effort and are happy to see the hungry being fed nationwide.