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.

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!)

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.

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.


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!

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!

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.


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.

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!

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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