Let the chowdown countdown begin! The 21st annual Share Our Strength Taste of the Nation is just four weeks away today in Miami, but event organizers already have a healthy crop of 19 restaurant newcomers confirmed for the July 30 orgy of eats.
Is it promising or disconcerting that this freshman class currently outnumbers alumni? Some of last year's participants hit the obits section like Prime Blue Grill, Tuscan Steak, and the KOBE Club. Others seem to just be holding out on us and the kids, like Michael's Genuine Food and Drink, and North One 10. The Fontainebleau restaurants are noticeably absent from the proceedings, where other major competitors of our Ritzy host set rivalries aside for the good cause.
Without further adieu, here are the newbies and the returnees, so you can play judge...
Returnees: Aruba Tourism Board, Bizcaya, Blue Door at The Delano, Bourbon Steak Miami, Cantina Beach at the Ritz-Carlton, Chef Allen's, China Grill, Cookies by Shar, Ghirardelli, Jennifer's Homemade, Joe's Stone Crab, Ortanique on the Mile, Sushi Sobe, SushiSamba Dromo, Timo Restaurant, Whole Foods Market, and "W" Hotel in South Beach.
New this year is a special lounge for VIP cardholders, consisting of a sectioned-off area within the main ballroom and amounting to not much more than couches and a private bar. There may be a dedicated cocktail concierge to fetch drinkypoos for the too pooped or stuffed to handle the task themselves.
The auction is still a work in progress, but so far tempting items include a 5-day stay at Jade Mountain resort in St. Lucia (including airfare) where Chef Allen consults, wine tours in Sonoma and Napa Valley, and a tour of the Food Network studios and show sets in New York City for six people (includes airfare and hotel.)
The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne is offering a special Taste of Nation package to include deluxe overnight accommodations, 20 percent off all spa therapies and complimentary valet parking for $169 per room. For more information about the Taste of the Nation package, dial the resort at 305-365-4138.
To purchase tickets call 1-877-26-TASTE or visit the event website. The VIP champagne reception and sneak preview begins at 6 p.m.,
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followed by the official kick-off at 7 p.m. Cost for general admission
is $100 ($125 at the door) per person and $200 ($225 at the door) for