Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Taste of the Nation Team Serves Up Meals at "A Just Harvest" on Father's Day

A few of our Taste of the Nation Chicago committee members joined the community kitchen, "A Just Harvest" on Father's Day to help dish out dinners for those in need. Located in Roger's Park, "A Just Harvest" serves meals 365 days a year with the help of local partners, volunteers and community donations, making it the largest stand-alone soup kitchen in the Chicago area.

The TOTN Chicago crew helped prepare the food, set up the dining room, stuff gift bags--since it was a holiday after all!--and serve the over 100 diners that arrived to the restaurant-style community kitchen. Families, seniors, and those who just might need a little extra help, are welcomed daily by caring staff and volunteers to sit and enjoy a hot meal. And from the looks of it, AJH has been busy. They served over 54,000 meals in 2010!

Share Our Strength's mission to end childhood hunger synced perfectly with the mission of "A Just Harvest"- to provide hot, nutritious meals to individuals and families, no questions asked. A special thanks is also in order for "A Just Harvest's" Executive Director, Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks, who stopped by to give us a general overview of what they are working on this year and who they are serving at the kitchen.

This was my first time volunteering at a soup kitchen, but it will not be my last. I enjoyed getting the chance to interact with the diners (I was the girl with the fruit punch, so I was pretty popular!) and it was a humbling experience for all of us, I'm sure.

For more information on "A Just Harvest" or to get involved, visit www.ajustharvest.org. Hope to see you there soon!

Friday, June 10, 2011

ANNOUNCING: Taste of the Nation Chicago 2011

The Grand Ballroom at night via Navy Pier.

Friends, the day is fast approaching. After last year's incredible party at the Aragon Ballroom, the question kept getting tossed around about what to do about the heat at the Aragon? Jokingly, we said, well why not move the event to Navy Pier. In our dreams, right? Never in a million years...

Or not. Two months from today exactly, guess what famous Chicago landmark we'll be taking over. Yup. That very same pier.

We've waited with bated breath to break the news, and today is finally the day we're spilling the beans. We're talking Navy Pier, in the Grand Ballroom, with more space than we could ever hope for, including an outdoor terrace that overlooks the water. Somehow, we're thinking air conditioning won't be so much of a problem this year... and if the weather cooperates, the outdoor terrace will be prime location to watch the Navy Pier fireworks. Just saying.

And back this year are favorites from year's past, including Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat), Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Terzo Piano), Paul Virant (Via, Perennial Virant), Mindy Segal (HotChocolate), Dale Levitski (Sprout), David Posey (Blackbird), Chris Pandel (The Bristol), Giuseppe Tentori (Boka, GT Fish and Oyster), Shawn McClain (Green Zebra), Jason Hammel (Lula, Nightwood), Michael Kornick (DMK, MK), Mark Steuer (The Bedford), Paul Fehribach (Big Jones), and Jared Van Camp (Old Town Social).

Yup, we have it all to ourselves via Art Hill.

Not to mention desserts from Jessie Oloroso (Black Dog Gelato), Paula Haney (Hoosier Mama Pie Co.),  and restaurant pastry chefs like Kady Yon (Boka, GT Fish and Oyster, Perennial Virant), Amanda Rockman (The Bristol), and Ben Roche (Moto) and more.

Tickets this year are $95 for presale General Admission, and $150 for VIP—but VIP sales have gone so well that today is the very last day to buy them. No joke, after today, individual VIP tickets will no longer be available. Get on the phone with your wife, husband, sister, or whoever and get that planning moving if you want to jump in on the VIP action, because you'll be kicking yourself later on if you miss out—and buy them here.

What to expect via Laura Meyer.

We'll have loads more of news to report back on soon, including the return of the chef ride-a-longs with Matt Maroni of Gaztro-Wagon—which means ticket give aways, a kick off party at La Colombe's yet-to-open West Loop cafe, big news about the event itself, and a couple other tricks we have up our sleeves leading up to the event itself. Be sure you're following us on twitter and Facebook, and check the blog regularly for updates from myself and Elizabeth Hamel of the Sun-Times, new this year to the Taste of the Nation committee!

Navy Pier, guys. I mean, come on. Not sure it gets much better than that...