A Taste of old favorites, new dishes
20th anniversary benefit for Share Our Strength allows chefs to show off
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
The 20th anniversary of Manchester’s Taste of the Nation will take place Wednesday, May 6, at the Radisson Center of New Hampshire (700 Elm St.).
This event will benefit Share our Strength, whose goal is to end childhood hunger. The proceeds go to three local organizations — The NH Food Bank, Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire, and the New Hampshire Farm to School Program — and the funds are perhaps more important this year than in any previous year, because the need is so great.
“Share our Strength’s mission is to provide healthy, nutritious food to children,” event co-chair and Commercial Street Fishery co-owner Quentin Keefe said. “One hundred percent of the ticket sales go to the local beneficiaries. All the overhead and costs are covered by the sponsors. I have to be honest: we lost some key sponsorships this year and did not raise as much money as we did last year. However, we have a much larger venue, so we hope to sell more tickets to make up for the lost sponsorships.”
A ticket will allow a guest to enjoy food from approximately 50 of the state’s best-known restaurants. Along with the culinary delights, local sponsor Martignetti Companies of New Hampshire will bring in wines from more than 25 of California’s best-known wineries, such as the Hess Collection, Grateful Palate, and Don Sebastiani & Sons. Beer lovers can enjoy selections from Woodstock Brewing Company, Magic Hat, Guinness, Sam Adams and Budweiser. And a silent auction will showcase such items as a chef’s table for six at Commercial Street Fishery, a Tourneau watch valued at $750, and lots of New England sports memorabilia.
Restaurants such as the Barley House in Concord use the event to showcase new dishes.
“We’re introducing our house-cured applewood bacon with honey-mustard glaze, molasses-whiskey smoked salmon, and homemade sage banger sausage with mash. We’re doing more in-house curing and smoking,” said Barley House owner Brian Shea.
Pam Kelley, the other owner of Commercial Street Fishery, said her restaurant will serve a popular dish from their specials board: white cheddar cheese and chorizo grits topped with grilled American shrimp and garnished with a tomatillo salsa verde. She noted that it can be difficult for a restaurant to choose which event to be involved with from the wide selection that takes place each year.
“This is absolutely a cause we support wholeheartedly to help support the needy in our own region. Taste has always been such a fun event. We get to be out with people, and see people in our industry that you don’t get to see all of the time,” Kelley said.
Ben Mercuri of the Saffron Bistro noted, “Last year was our first year at the event. We like this it because not only is it a highly trafficked event for the state, but also the proceeds benefit the state on a local and state level.”
First-timer Chef Matt Lee from the Granite Restaurant in Concord will serve tuna tartare tossed with house-made chili oil, chervil, cilantro, mint and fresh lime juice and served on a crispy wonton with pickled cucumber and ginger-hoisin sauce.
“I’m very excited about this event because it represents a great cause. It’s recognized by great chefs across the U.S. and in New Hampshire. It’s also significant because it’s specifically about food and chefs supporting a great cause,” Lee said.
A complete list of participating restaurants can be found at www.strength.org/manchester.
For an organization such as the Children’s Alliance, the evening means being able to continue the fight against poverty in the state.
“Poverty is linked to adverse educational, health and other outcomes for children that limit future productivity,” Children’s Alliance President Ellen Fineberg said. “According to recently released census bureau data, in 2007, 8.3 percent of New Hampshire’s children live in poverty. Another measure of the need is the free and reduced lunch program offered in schools to children whose families have incomes below 120 percent of the federal poverty level. From 2005 to 2006, 18.2 percent of the state’s children were enrolled in the lunch program. In 26 New Hampshire schools more than 50 percent of the children were enrolled in the program, with Manchester and Nashua school systems earning the highest enrollment numbers.”
Manchester’s Taste of the Nation is typically a sell-out each year. General admission tickets, good from 6:30 to 10 p.m., cost $50 for advance purchase and $65 at the door. There are also VIP tickets available, which entitle guests to a 5:30 p.m. early admission, exclusive access to seating in the VIP lounge, a free piece of Riedel stemware ($12 value), exclusive admission to cooking demonstrations by premiere local chefs, a martini tasting compliments of Martignetti Companies of NH, a goodie bag and more. VIP tickets cost $75 in advance, $100 at the door. To purchase tickets, call 877-26-Taste (82783) or go to www.strength.org/manchester.