Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a Taste of the Nation event in Hartford, thanks to Foodbuzz and Share our Strength. As I wrote before, I think Share our Strength is a great organization and the series Taste of the Nation events is one of their biggest and most exciting fundraisers. I felt a little guilty going for free, but the event was fabulous. There was tons of food and wine from some of the area’s best restaurants as well as lots of great auction items. 100% of the proceeds went to benefit Share our Strength’s local efforts.

But let’s talk about the food. WOW. There were some really delicious, really creative dishes to sample! From guacamole with lobster and fruit (so much better than you’d expect!) to pulled pork sandwiches with diced apple to the amazing asparagus and mushroom custard in that top photo. I even got to try bao! (I have to say though, Shawn and I both liked my Pillsbury version better – this one was kind of dense and dry.) And don’t forget the desserts! My favorite was the caramel custard topped with caramel foam and sea salt from ON20, but there was also a delicious lemon custard cake with blackberry sauce that I’ll be trying to recreate at home soon. And plenty of chocolates. And wine. And beer. Honestly, for the price of the $75 admission ticket (which will supply 18 bags of groceries to those who need them) you might feel like you’re ripping them off a little bit. If you purchase a VIP ticket (which I would do in a heartbeat next time) you’ll also have access to a roped off area that looks like it had some seriously good food and cocktails behind it. VIPs also left with gift bags (I left with a t-shirt from one of the participating restaurants and 2 beer glasses). If one of these events is coming to your area, I highly recommend going. It’s a great time for a great cause.

I took a ton of pictures, so I decided to make a slideshow instead of posting them all. Enjoy! (Also, see that plate above? I was so happy to see a lot of the restaurants using these. They’re eco friendly and very cool. I actually got some last week and have a review coming up soon!)