Taste of the Nation Needs You!

Most of us want to be more philanthropic, but we have so many excuses and distractions—money is tight, time is scarce, we don’t look good in orange vests, etc. Well, here’s a quick, easy, fun AND delicious way to help Oregon’s hungry children at my favorite food event of the year—Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation, coming up soon on May 8 at JELD-WEN Field.

totnlogoThe statistics behind this powerful annual fundraiser are dismaying, and a little shocking. In a nutshell, one in four American children goes to bed hungry. Their families simply do not have enough food. It can be difficult to wrap our heads around this, but as a former teacher who spent seven years teaching in low-income schools, I’ve seen it firsthand, and nothing tears you up inside like having a kindergartener tell you matter-of-factly that he didn’t get breakfast because there was no food in the house and his mom doesn’t get paid until Friday, or watching the kids who are eligible for a free breakfast gobble it down frantically with both hands like they didn’t have dinner the night before…because they most likely didn’t.

Taste of the Nation tickets start at $85 for unlimited tasting, and while I know that might seem like a lot, remember that every single penny from that ticket goes to charities devoted to giving hungry children and their families reliable access to nutritious food. This year, the local beneficiaries are Partners For A Hunger-Free Oregon, Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank, St. Vincent de Paul Food Recovery Program, and the Oregon Food Bank. Funds also provide grants to organizations in the United States, Haiti and other countries that work successfully to end childhood hunger.

While your inner philanthropist is no doubt sold, here are a few details to entice your inner hedonist. After all, the reason Taste of the Nation is my favorite food event of the year is because they do such a stellar job of inviting Portland’s very best eateries and wineries, breweries & distillers to attend. There are nearly 60 restaurants, bakeries, ice cream makers and chocolatiers attending this year, everyone from Bunk and Biwa to June and Jamison, which hasn’t even opened yet so you’ll get a sneak peek. On the liquid end of things, you’ll be sipping wine, beer, cider and soda from the likes of Torii Mor and Cana’s Feast, Bull Run, Captured By Porches, DRY Soda, and Steven Smith Teamaker.

For their part, these food & drink movers and shakers give freely of their time, their staff, and their food—if you work or have worked in the industry, you know that restaurant margins are often very tight, so doing an event like this for free is a sacrifice for them, but they are there with bells, er, toques/beat up Levi’s on, dishing up delights like Boke Bowl’s Asian Steam Buns with Lemongrass Pork & Shrimp Sausage and Wildwood’s Fresh Bay Leaf Panna Cotta, Rhubarb and Lemon Curd and Ruby Jewel’s Chocolate Cookie with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. You can read the entire mouth-watering menu here, and if you aren’t sold on Saint Cupcake’s dessert lineup alone, I will be forced to think that you are from another planet.

Sometimes people ask me if it’s worth it to buy the VIP/LUXE tickets, which are a bit spendier at $135 and $185. There are some events where I’d say definitely not, but for Taste of the Nation, I’d say if you have the extra money to donate to hunger, then absolutely get the VIP/LUXE tickets, because you get two significant perks—1) early entry, which allows you to graze, sip, and talk to the folks behind the tables in a leisurely, relaxed way before the general admission rush, and 2) you’ll be able to partake of the six “Gem” restaurants (Aviary, Boke Bowl, Bamboo Sushi, GrünerNed Ludd, Olympic Provisions), all of whom are only around during the VIP/LUXE preparty. Also, LUXErs get to luxuriate in the LUXE lounge, and as I recall from my hazy memories of sneaking in there a few years ago to use the bathroom, there was bottomless champagne. Sold!

This year, Taste of the Nation–which occurs on Tuesday, May 8, from 5-9pm–will take place in JELD-WEN Field, so there will be ample room to graze and socialize with your fellow do-gooders. If you need a bit of a breather in between tastings, you can enter the raffle for a trip to Palm Springs (yes, please), you can bid on epicurean packages like a Learn to Make Sushi at Bamboo Sushi Class for 6, and if you can never decide where to have dinner on date night, for $25 you can play Restaurant Roulette and win a gift certificate worth anywhere from $25-$150 at whichever participating restaurant you land on (your $25 will feed a child three meals a day for a month, so it’s a total win-win).

I mean really, could you possibly have a better time while simultaneously nurturing your philanthropic side??

totnbuyticketsSo do it!! Buy a ticket! Tell your friends to buy a ticket! Tell your wealthy uncle to buy two tickets! Tell your boss to sponsor a whole suite and let you hang out there!

If you buy your ticket today, as a little token of my happiness that you are helping this wonderful cause, I will mail or personally deliver a copy of Portland’s 100 Best Places To Stuff Your Faces to the first 10 people who send me some confirmation of their ticket purchase, today only.

And speaking of Facestuffing, if you really can’t swing the admission price, or just like to win things, you also have a chance to WIN two general admission tickets generously donated by Taste of the Nation–I’ve prepared a brief “Taste of the Nation Know-It-All” quiz that requires you to have a (somewhat) working knowledge of both my little dining book and the BPTSYF eateries that will be at Taste of the Nation.

Here is the link…get all 10 questions right and you’re entered to win these very special tickets! I’ll pick a random winner on Monday, April 23rd at noon, so if you don’t have a copy of Best Places To Stuff Your Faces and are stumped on a question, that gives you plenty of time to buy one, borrow one, or peek in one at Powell’s.


If Jen was the sort of girl who would ogle a REALLY REALLY hot bartender’s heinie, and then draw her
book’s readers a map of the best vantage point from which to view said heinie on page 43 of her book,  what stylish downtown hotspot/Taste of the Nation favorite would this slightly lechy behaviour have occured at?

In closing, I sure do hope to see you at Taste of the Nation next month. We’ll eat way too many of Miss Zumstein’s Meringue Berry Bites and take turns trying to bluff our way into the LUXE suite for more champagne.