Gluttony was the price to pay at Sunday's Taste of the Nation event in Culver City. Dozens of LA's top chefs set up stalls at the annual gastro-charity and doled out small-plate cuisine for hundreds of hungry foodies. How could anybody refuse a heaping pile of Jitlada's Crying Tiger Pork over steamed rice? Or simply say, "no, thanks" to Nancy Silverton's first major showing -- a hefty sloppy bolognese slider -- from her forthcoming burger progeny, Short Order (coming soon to the Third Street Farmers Market)? You don't; instead, you nod, swallow and repeat.
But your gluttony is for the greater cause of leaving "no kid hungry," Share Our Strength's enigmatic effort to decrease America's staggering number of children (17 million!) struggling with hunger. One hundred percent of all ticket sales (from $50 to $150 per head) will locally support the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, St. Joseph's Center, Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, and more LA charities. (story continues after slide show)
Indeed, it was a chef's playground at LA's Taste of the Nation, but mixology proved a major supporting player. In addition to copious kegs populating the makeshift Beer Garden and Intelligentsia's pop-up espresso bar, bartenders from LA's top watering holes -- like The Spare Room and 1886 Bar -- shook up summertime adult beverages all afternoon long.
And for VIPs (those who splurged for the priciest ticket) enjoyed a section all to themselves, the highlight of which was included a preview of ink., Michael Voltaggio's forthcoming Melrose Avenue restaurant. For VIP guests only, the "Top Chef" winner served Wagyu beef tongue cold cuts and microcone ice cream.
Like Voltaggio, Fig's Ray Garcia and Loteria Grill's Jimmy Shaw also chose to serve tongue in the form of a torta and a taco, respectively. And in addition to lengua, the other popular protein was surprisingly octopus -- courtesy of Hatfield's, Tres by Jose Andres and Whist. Not a lot of salad, we're happy to report.
Sweet-toothers had plenty to choose from -- from Scoops' ice cream to Sprinkles' mini cupcakes -- but folks clamored for the much-anticipated Fonuts from Waylynn Lucas, former pastry chef at The Bazaar, unveiling her faux doughnuts. Baked, and therefore, a little healthier, her mini samples were a mixed bag; overheard reactions included: "Ooh, it's like sponge cake!" to "Soggy."
We're still waiting for the final number of dollars raised at this year's event -- follow @TOTNLA on Twitter for updates -- but judging from the Twitter feeds of participating chefs, local food bloggers and Taste of the Nation supporters, everyone busted a gut yesterday -- and enjoyed every bite.