Saturday, May 15, 2010

Atlanta Taste: A Night to Remember at the Georgia Aquarium on Behalf of Share Our Strength

Atlanta's Taste of the Nation event was this week, and well-heeled Atlantans turned out in force to support anti-hunger and anti-poverty agencies, including Share Our Strength's Operation Frontline - No Child Left Hungry.

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The Aquarium makes a rather otherworldly setting for event, with a glowing blue tank of fish and sharks as a backdrop. I only wish we'd had access to more of the tanks - exploring the aquarium sans screaming kids would be a rare treat. At $250 a ticket, I was amazed to see the event was completely packed - clearly Atlantans are generous sorts!

Many of Atlanta's bigger hitter chefs were there - Gillespie and Rathbun and Fry oh my! I thought about hitting the most exciting tables first, but the place was a sea (he he get it?) of hungry people so it was easiest to just go with the flow (whoa, more puns!)

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I've watched enough episodes of Top Chef to know that it's no easy feat to turn out tasty morsels for a huge crowd, and the restaurants on hand did admirably. My personal faves were a gnocchi from Pacci - I think it was oversalted, but it was still totally delicious - so that's really saying something!

The lobster crape from Chops Lobster Bar blew my mind - oh how I'd like to eat more of that! Rathbun's steak and Atlanta Fish Market's sushi were also highlights. And how could I forget the heavenly burger topped with an egg from Canoe.
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I got a chance to chat briefly with Top Chef's Kevin Gillespie and he struck me as down to earth despite his newfound fame. I was surprised, though, that he offered to serve up a miniscule shrimp different, far different from the porky delights he's known for.

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Oh and of course dessert - I wouldn't recommend interspersing it with savory dishes like I did but I couldn't pass them up when they were on offer. Parish's dessert had beets, which was unexpected and very tasty, reminding me somewhat of the Passover apple/nut/cinnamon dish charoset, which is weird I know!

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Best of all on the dessert front was from BluePointe. Honestly I'm not entirely sure what it was - I was already in a food and wine induced haze, but it appeared to be a shot glass filled with caramel, chocolate and peanut butter with a bit of Grand Marnier soaked orange Whatever it was, I would like to swim in a tank of it. Bliss!

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Numerous wines were on offer both to drink that night and to bid on at silent auction. Mr. AT couldn't resist the siren call (ok seriously I CAN'T STOP with the aquatic allusions!) of a good deal on wine and we walked away with 3 bottles of '97 Beaulieu Vineyards George de le Tour Private Reserve and an oversized bottle of  (a methuselah? a nebekenezer? I love giant wine bottle names!) of Ravenswood Lodi Vineyard Zin, all for under face value.

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I was surprised given the fancy-pants attendees that you could actually get items for under face value. The live auction, complete with event host Jane Fonda had the truly high dollar prizes - including a week on a yacht or dinner with Ted Turner.

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I certainly wished I had more disposable income when dinner with the Kevins, including Gillespie and Rathbun at your own home was up for bid. It went for around $5000, which isn't chump change but feels like quite a bargain for such a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The night's charitable take - over $600K!

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I have Foodbuzz to thank for my free tickets, but I definitely have to say that this yearly event now tops my list of charities to save up for. It's a bacchanalian feast for a great cause - what's not to love?

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