The fifth annual Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Santa Barbara was a complete success! The event, a benefit for Santa Barbara Foodbank, was held at the Montecito Country Club on May 20, had 500 attendees and raised $60,000, which was $10,000 more than the original goal of the event. The perfect weather, complete with a calming but funky jazz band, only enhanced the enjoyment of the food prepared by over 20 of Santa Barbara’s top restaurants. The array of dishes presented at each booth, paired with the amazing selection of wines, provided for the perfect afternoon.
The dishes each chef prepared were representative of the chef’s restaurant and cooking background. Dishes ranged in variety, as the Arlington Tavern’s Chef Ron True served up chopped livers with rye crackers while the Biltmore’s Alessandro Cartumini presented baby octopus al nero di sepia with green spelt and a parmesan crisp, a typical dish from Venice. The Italian fare continued as Ca Dario’s Dario Furlati pleased taste buds with his signature dish of ravioli al burro e salvia (spinach and ricotta ravioli with brown butter and sage).
For attendees with a sweet tooth, Jessica Foster Confections presented assorted truffles, which included caramelized peanut and bittersweet chocolate as well as a dark chocolate rosemary and thyme ganache with salted caramel. For a more new-age treat the modern BBQ food truck The New Black excited with smoked root beer floats with vanilla powder sassafras over hickory cream, served in tiny steaming glasses.
Many of the chefs were participating for the fourth or fifth year in a row and were very excited to be back. Chef Budi Kazali of The Ballard Inn and Restaurant has attended the event every year, with last year as an exception only because of the birth of his child. “This cause is my favorite,” says Kazali of the Taste of the Nation’s goal to prevent child hunger. Kazali’s roast kurobuta pork belly with cabbage was an afternoon favorite of mine, as I returned to his booth several times for the tender and juicy meat.
When asked why he was participating for the fourth year in a row, Chef Warren Butler of Marmalade Cafe exclaimed, “We love everyone!” His dish of seared ahi on wontons was certainly demonstrative of a love for food and the people who enjoy it. Of the community that is fostered by the local chefs, Butler agrees, “it is absolutely a very close community.” The closeness of this community was extremely palpable, as chefs left their respective booths to chat and sample one another’s dishes.
Another highlight of the afternoon was when Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani
provided a cooking demonstration. On the cause of the event, Viviani says, “Hunger is not an issue to me, it’s a disease. It has to be eradicated.” He captivated attendees with his entertaining tutorial on how to cook chicken properly.
With all the delicious foods to sample, wines to sip, and entertainment to enjoy, it was easy to forget that the event benefited a very important cause and was very successful in doing so. The $60,000 raised will benefit the Santa Barbara Foodbank and help in its aim to end childhood hunger. With such a successful afternoon behind them, Santa Barbarans should be excited to participate in next year’s event!