You'd think using victuals to solve hunger would be an obvious concept, but it took a group of chefs, restaurateurs, and other food-industry professionals to bring this idea to life.
The creators of Fort Lauderdale's Taste of the Nation 2001: A Food Odysseyhope to raise $150,000 for that purpose April 4. The event will be distinctly VIP and upscale; you can't raise $5 million -- the combined target for 75 concurrent events scheduled around the United States and Canada -- with mere $5 food tastings. Beneficiaries include local charities and Share Our Strength, the Washington, D.C.-based organization that oversees the events.
The local version of Taste of the Nation features entrées, appetizers, and desserts from some of Broward and Palm Beach counties' hottest chefs. The food is served with wine, of course, all for $75 per person in advance, $85 at the door. Champagne, martinis, and premium vodkas, plus the chance to hobnob with celebrity chefs, can be yours at the super-VIP bash before the main event for $125 in advance, $135 at the door (if available).
Organizers managed to talk American Express, Evian, the Sun-Sentinel,Legal Sea Foods, and a host of other donors into underwriting the cost of throwing the event, so all proceeds go to antihunger organizations. Because some charity events use more than 50 percent of the take to cover expenses, it's nice to know your dollar is worth more than 50 cents this time. Most of the cash stays local, too, benefiting South Florida charities such as the Daily Bread Food Bank, the Florence Fuller Child Development Centers, and the Sun-SentinelChildren's Fund.
You can expect everything from lamb chops to crabcakes and plenty of seafood, pastas, and salads, followed by some amazing desserts, including Death by Chocolate and crème brûlée. While some healthy fare might be available, this won't be the right night to diet. For once you'll be able to eat without guilt, because the money raised will help feed people who can't afford to do that for themselves.
To keep the festivities from getting too highbrow, Taste of the Nation has booked decidedly lowbrow Zeta (WZTA-FM 94.9) radio personality Paul Castronovo as master of ceremonies and auction master. In his inimitable style, he'll hawk to the highest bidders a VIP day at the Miami Dolphins training camp, dinner for ten by Chef Giani Respinto in your home, a weekend for two -- including airfare -- in New York, and rare bottles of wine.
In the spirit of both giving and getting, diners may buy envelopes from what sponsors are calling "the trees of abundance" for a buck each. The trees are like the lottery: You might win a cookbook, a dinner certificate, a gift basket, or nothing. Even if you walk away without a prize, you'll have a full stomach and a lot to think about.