Taste, the Final Frontier

There is a limit to how many culinary charities you can donate your way through

At the Taste of the Nation bar-mitzvah-style bash, the organizers hired DJs to spin some disco to flashing colored lights in a separate room. I couldn't think of a better way to relive the acute humiliation of my own coming-of-Jewish-age than to hit the makeshift dance floor, even though neon green strobe isn't my most complimentary look, for a couple of John Travoltas. Next thing I know some guy's tossing me all over the place in some semblance of a salsa. Honey, my skin tone and hair color might make me look a wee bit Cuban, but my feet stamp out gringa pretty damn quick.

The truth is I was hoping to see Taste chairman Allen Susser boogie down, but he was still orchestrating the final course of the dinner -- Todd Weisz's (Turnberry Isle) herb-crusted medallion of lamb with goat cheese and rosemary polenta and Carmen Gonzalez's tenderloin with mushroom ragout and fingerling potato galette. So I made do with watching the cutie pies putting out the sweets: J.D. Harris (Rumi), E. Michael Reidt (Wish), Jason Strom (Six Degrees). Not a bad-looking group, come to think of it. Too bad the DJ didn't play any slow numbers.

Then again I needed a little activity after all that heavy fork-lifting. As did others who were leaving the ballroom before dinner was officially over; the feast was running long because two chefs were preparing each course, so the reality of it is that it was more like eight courses. And those dishes followed what had already been a foodie-friendly walk-around sampling of items like Donna Wynter's (Satine) shrimp cigarillos and Michael Wagner's (Tuscan Steak) orange-glazed New Zealand lamb chops. Club kids would have outright sneered, but the handful of diners who took the floor took it places that would have made a good wedding singer misty-eyed.

Oh how I suffer for the good of Food for Life, the Daily Food Bank, the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, the Salvation Army Mobile Kitchen Program -- you name it. But for all the hardships I know when the next invite comes my way, I'll be back with a bid for whatever's on the block. For one thing, I never read those notes I write to myself anyway. And I have to give credit to all those chefs who so generously donate their time to ensure that the world is a better-fed place, even if it means a bad parking spot and painful dancing. What's a little discomfort compared to such beneficence?

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