Taste of the Nation: Hartford

You may recall hearing about Share Our Strength from my two recaps of the organization’s Taste of the Nation event in New Haven, CT. Many other bloggers have covered the event at other locations as well. The organization strives to end childhood hunger in America by 2015 (its motto is No Kid Hungry), and the funds raised from admission and each event’s silent auctions go towards grants, public partnerships, and educational programs. Certainly a worthy cause!

Taste of the Nation in New Haven.

This Thursday May 10 from 6-9pm, Taste of the Nation comes to Hartford. Marquee Events & Catering at 960 Main Street is the site of this year’s edition of the always-spectacular event. Check out its website for everything you need to know, including photos from the 2011 TON Hartford, as if you needed any further convincing about going!

I will be away that day and unfortunately can’t make it myself…I’m trying so hard NOT to look at the website’s amazing list of restaurants and beverage reps that will be there! Some of my favorites include Barcelona, Besito, Bricco Trattoria, Catsup & Mustard, Cuvee, Esca, Firebox, Max Restaurants…you get the idea! And plenty of other buzzed-about places that I’ve always wanted to try like On20, Treva, and Salute will be present too.

An offering from Barcelona Wine Bar at TON New Haven 2012…I wonder what they will be dishing up in Hartford?!

Taste of the Nation couldn’t exist without the volunteers that take time out of their busy, already-full work weeks to organize and support Share Our Strength’s efforts to make the fundraiser a success. I had the chance to ask a few of them some questions about their motivations behind getting involved, their responsibilities, and of COURSE their favorite restaurants…

Angela Pitrone (Deloitte), Event Co-Chair:

1. What motivated you to co-chair TON Hartford this year? My childhood friend, Heather Partridge, invited me to the [Share Our Strength] event 5 years ago.  Billy Grant [of Billy Grant restaurants, and fellow Event Co-Chair] was auctioning off a dinner for 10 cooked in your home.  I won the live auction.  Billy and his Manager, Sarah (check out her interview below!), came to my house to go over all of the details.  Once they realized I was an event planner, they asked me to join the committee.  After joining the committee my first year, I was asked to co-chair.

2. What are the responsibilities of the event co-chair? I touch on everything except the restaurants.  Billy Grant’s Manager, Sarah Maloney, handles all the restaurants (THANK GOD).

3. What is your favorite restaurant attending the event – no “they’re all my favorite” answers allowed! 😀 We have so many favorites for different reasons, I personally love the ever changing menu and the attention to detail at the Mill at 2t.  I’m very lucky now that my co-chair has opened Bricco Trattoria, close to my home and my 2 year old’s proclaimed favorite restaurant. [Bricco is located in my hometown, Glastonbury!]

TON New Haven 2012

Next up we hear from the aforementioned Sarah Maloney (Billy Grant Restaurants), Restaurant Chair:

1. What are the responsibilities of the restaurant chair? Being a restaurant fanatic myself, I’m imagining it to be a dream job! It is a lot of fun!  Being the restaurant business for over 10 years I have been able to friend many chefs and restaurateurs…This job gives me the opportunity to work closely with all my restaurant friends and family! One minute I’m talking ceviche with Besito and then next minute Italian cookies with Mozzicato bakery.  My main responsibility is to recruit restaurants for the event.  Once I have restaurants commited they go ahead and fill out two important forms.  One that will list what they will be making that night, what they will need from us ie plateware, electricity and also any additional donation they would like to put in the silent auction.  They also have to fill out a Health Department form as each restaurant has to apply for a temporary food liscense from the City of Hartford in order to participate.  Closer to the event we work off a CAD drawing of Marquee Events and Catering and place the restaurants in their assigned spots.  Where we put their tables really depends on what they are serving and what their needs are for the evening. That way there are not two restaurants next to each other serving similar items.  The night of I assist the Health Dept in approving the liscense and make sure that each restaurant has exactly what they need to make it a successful event
2. What do you think are the most important qualities a TON Hartford exhibitor restaurant should possess? Table flare is huge! Some restaurants really go all out!  Some with huge flower arrangements, ice luges, TV monitors with scrolling pictures of their restaurants. Whatever will catch the eye of guests walking around the event that creates interest!  Also every year each restaurant brings a great representative that works the table that can interact with guests…you don’t always get to see a chef cooking your food so to see them out and cooking for you right there is so much fun!!!
3. What is your favorite restaurant out of all the attendees? No “they’re all my favorite” answers allowed! 😀 AHHHHHHHH this is just HARD! There are over 40 restaurants and they are all amazing in their own way! Plan B always does a wonderful job cooking mini burgers to order, they always put on a show and have a fun table…the mini Miller High Lifes they have help too 🙂 On20 is always another one of my favorites, Chef Noel Jones always seems to prepare something that is creative and always something you have never tried before…always a fun table to visit and experience! [I myself am dying to try On20!]

Plan B’s table display at Mohegan Sun WineFest 2012 – will they live up to this display at TON Hartford?!

And finally, let’s hear from someone who works directly for a non-profit called End Hunger CTVolunteer Chair Dawn Crayco!

1. What made you decide to be a volunteer chair with TON Hartford? I spent a couple of years volunteering for Taste of the Nation Hartford at registration. I must have done something right because shortly after my second year I was asked to fill the vacant volunteer chair position on the committee.  I have a great time mobilizing people looking to “give back” at the event and find the energy of the committee and volunteers is contagious. That is what keeps me coming back.

2. Tell me more about End Hunger CT. Are you affiliated with Share Our Strength at all, or do you just share common goals? End Hunger Connecticut! is a statewide anti-hunger and food security organization. By focusing on advocacy, outreach, education and research around the federal food programs, EHC! serves as a comprehensive anti-hunger resource for policymakers, community organizations, and low-income families.  The goal of EHC! is to improve the levels of food security and nutrition among Connecticut families while creating and supporting policies that move families toward self-sufficiency.

A long time grantee of Share our Strength initiatives, like Taste of the Nation, EHC! is the organization’s lead partner on the Connecticut No Kid Hungry Campaign.  Connecticut No Kid Hungry® Campaign was launched in March 2011 with Governor Malloy and Share our Strength to end childhood hunger in the state by 2015. Now in its second year, the campaign is focusing on increasing participation among eligible children in the School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program’s (CACFP) Afterschool Meal Program. Please  visit our new websites to learn more about these programs: www.ctsummerfood.org & www.ctschoolbreakfast.org.

3. What is your favorite restaurant out of all the attendees? No “they’re all my favorite” answers allowed! 😀 I can honestly say that I do not have one favorite restaurant; however, I do flock to restaurants serving my Italian favorites like gnocchi, ravioli, and anything cheesy. I’ll try anything new at least once but you’ll see me getting seconds and thirds at restaurants like GrantsRestaurant Bricco, Bricco Trattoria, and Salute.

Thank you to these amazing volunteers for taking time out of their busy schedules, especially the week of the event, to answer my questions!
Tickets to TON Hartford are $75 for general admission and $125 for VIPs. Having attended a Taste of the Nation event myself, I can tell you with confidence that the admission price, though it may seem high, is COMPLETELY worth it! Especially for the chance to try so many restaurants where you would normally spend almost $50 per person on a meal anyway!
So what do you say? Will you be headed to TON Hartford at 960 Main St in Hartford this Thursday, 5/10, from 6-9PM? Have you ever been to a similar event or fundraiser?

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