Since 1988, Granite State restaurants have been sharing their culinary talents to benefit the hunger campaign Share Our Strength. The tradition continues this year, as more than 55 restaurants gather in the Queen City for the annual Taste of the Nation Manchester.
“The early supporters of the event that still participate are Shorty’s and Jack Carnevale of the Bedford Village Inn, still to this day, and we’re in our 26th year,” said Martha Fink, committee chairperson for Taste of the Nation Manchester. “William Kanteres, along with Bill Shore, the founder of Share Our Strength, and a dozen other friends started this in their mom’s kitchen.”
There’s plenty to taste and sip during this year’s program, with restaurants from Lancaster to Portsmouth and Salem to Peterborough participating.
“We’ve been there I think since the inception,” Fratello’s director of sales Loretta DiMarco said. “We would never think of not being a part of this.”
Fratello’s will be serving braised shortribs and its fan-favorite antipasto skewers. DiMarco said that one year, Fratello’s switched out the skewers for something different and event-goers were shocked and disappointed.
Crowd favorites seem to be a theme for long-time participating restaurants this year. Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse General Manager Gary Window said he plans on bringing quesadillas and espinaca, as well as margaritas to sample.
“It’s always very fun to go there,” Window said. “When people think of Shorty’s, they always think of the espinaca and the margaritas. [We] keep it as simple as possible.”
Piccola Italia will also be serving a crowd favorite: Eggplant Della Nonna (pan-fried eggplant stuffed with ricotta cheese and grated parmigiano, baked and served with marinara) and Caesar salad. He brought nine trays of the eggplant appetizer to the Winter Wine Spectacular this year and had to make runs back to the restaurant for a total of 14 trays that night.
For Piccola Italia owner John Paolini, participating in charity benefits and serving up pasta is just one way he enjoys giving back.
“I don’t like to say no,” he said. “Part of being positive for Manchester is giving back. … We’re always about that attitude.”
“Childhood hunger isn’t anything that anyone really wants to talk about. It’s not the cause for a party, but it’s the best cause ever,” Fink said. “It’s so much more than sipping wine; it’s wine, food, auction, music, community.”
Share Our Strength is a national hunger campaign, and culinary events like Taste of the Nation are held throughout the country. Here in New Hampshire, ticket sales and proceeds from the silent auction benefit four local organizations that address childhood hunger in the Granite State, including the New Hampshire Food Bank, New Hampshire Kids Count (formerly New Hampshire Child Alliance), the New Hampshire Farm to School Program and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manchester.
“These four programs have done a lot for the state of New Hampshire, especially for the greater Manchester community,” Fink said. “All the beneficiaries will have tables with people to talk to.”
State and local figures often appear at the annual benefit, including the governor, state senators and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, as well as community members, including school teachers, healthcare workers and neighbors, Fink said.
The Taste of the Nation will be held on Wednesday, April 16, at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester. Tickets are available for general admission or VIP admission, which includes early access with more elbow room, Fink said, as well as a special antipasto platter from Angela’s Pasta and Cheese Shop and high-end wine pours. The VIP ticket costs $100, and that will help provide 100 meals for kids, Fink said.
As seen in the April 3, 2014 issue of The Hippo.