Hartford's annual Taste of the Nation event will debut an all-new format at a new venue this year, but still benefits the same charitable cause.
After years at Marquee Events & Catering at the city's old G. Fox building, the fundraiser for Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign will relocate to the Riverview in Simsbury on Oct. 29. The event, once a walk-around tasting of food, wine and cocktails, will become a sit-down dinner, with chefs preparing multi-course tableside meals.
Chef chair Tyler Anderson, owner and executive chef of Millwright's in Simsbury, says he's excited for the style change. "Chefs really love this format. It’s a composed meal for 12 people; it’s extremely manageable. In these walk-around situations, they're really fun and they're great to do, but you don’t necessarily get to convey the exact style of what you do in a bite or two."
Taste of the Nation will begin with cocktails, a beer garden and hors d'oeuvres, Anderson said. During the dinner portion of the night, event guests will be assigned to a table of 12, where one designated chef will cook an all-savory, four-course tableside meal. Once the meal concludes, guests are invited to join a dessert reception, with a DJ and dancing to finish the night.
Even though the seated dinner component is a more formal arrangement than past years, Anderson said the cocktail and dessert receptions will encourage mingling and interaction. "We don't want to lose that party element" that guests have enjoyed in previous years in Hartford, he said.
More than two dozen chefs and restaurateurs from Connecticut and beyond have signed on for the event. Local participants include Frederic Kieffer of Artisan Restaurant in Southport, Dave Borselle of Avert in West Hartford, Jamie McDonald of Bear's Smokehouse in Hartford and Windsor, Jon Hudak of Cafemantic in Willimantic, Steve Cavagnaro of Cavey's in Manchester, Greg Marcuson of Cure in Unionville, Luke Venner of Elm in New Canaan, Ed Jones of Firebox in Hartford, Billy Grant of
Grants/Restaurant Bricco/Bricco Trattoria in West Hartford and Glastonbury, Carey Savona of Heirloom in New Haven, Bill Taibe of The Whelk and Kawa Ni in Westport, Scott Miller of Max Catering, Hunter Morton of Max's Oyster Bar, Roy Riedl of Mercado Food Truck, Jeff Lizotte of ON20 in Hartford, James Wayman of Oyster Club in Mystic, Kevin Cottle of Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort in Middlefield, Prasad Chirnomula of Thali and Oaxaca Kitchen in New Haven and Ridgefield and Chris Eddy of Winvian in Morris.
Other noteworthy names from the Northeast include Jamie Bissonnette of Toro and Coppa in Boston and New York, N.Y.; Eric Gabrynowicz of Restaurant North in Armonk, N.Y.; Evan Hennessey of Stages At One Washington in Dover, N.H.; Jake Rojas of Tallulah on Thames in Newport, R.I.; Chris Wilcox of The Velveteen Habit in Cape Neddick, Maine and Molly Dwyer of Tremont 647 in Boston. Celebrity chef Jacques Pepin will also be a featured guest.
Anderson calls the talent level "amazing." "The local chefs are all very excited to work with these people from out of town," he said. "With this format, it truly allows us to do the style of food that we do at our restaurants. Regardless of who the chef is that people get [at each table,] every chef is going to be giving their all for this one."
Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign is dedicated to ending childhood hunger through several platforms, programs and initiatives. Event tickets are $150 for individuals or $3,000 for choice of chef table buyout (12 guests.) Taste of the Nation begins at 6:30 p.m. Information: ce.strength.org/hartford.