SOS gala brings food, wine together in tasteful benefit

April 06, 1994|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff Writer

Imagine: across the country, a hundred gala celebrations, food from hundreds of top-rated chefs, dozens of great wines, music, dancing -- and it's all for a good cause.

Share Our Strength's annual "Taste of the Nation" takes place April 24 to May 1 in more than 100 cities, including Baltimore, and it benefits hundreds of charities that help feed the hungry in this country.

Baltimore's celebration will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. April 25 at the Convention Center. There'll be food from nearly 40 area restaurants and wines from two dozen of the nation's wineries. ++ This is the third such event for Baltimore; other cities have had "Taste of the Nation" galas for seven years. The theme this year is "Broadway Rhythms." There will be music from the Bay City Seven, Tempest and the Hurricanes, and WJZ-TV personality Stan Saunders will be master of ceremonies.

"We're here because there's a hunger problem in this country," Randy Stahl, executive chef at the Brass Elephant and a primary force behind SOS operations in Baltimore, told a group of chefs and representatives of food-donor groups at a recent luncheon to announce gala details.

Share Our Strength prides itself on using volunteers and donations, and returning 100 percent of proceeds to the various organizations that help feed the hungry. This year, 60 percent of the proceeds will go to Second Helping, the prepared- and perishable-food donation program run by the Maryland Food Bank for the city of Baltimore. Ten percent will go to the Salvation Army, whose Next Step program helps low-income families break the cycle of dependency; 10 percent goes to Food Link, Inc., an all-volunteer perishable and prepared food-donation program in Anne Arundel County; 20 percent goes to international relief programs.

"Unlike other things that we don't have an answer for, we do have an answer for hunger," says Debbie Shore, associate director of SOS and sister of the organization's founder Bill Shore.

Many of Baltimore's most-noted restaurants and catering establishments will be taking part in the gala, including Bocaccio, the Brass Elephant, Chef's Expressions, Harbor Court Hotel, Linwood's-Due, Pierpoint, the Polo Grill, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Spike and Charlie's, John Steven Ltd., Sutton Place Gourmet and Watson's. Vintners include Acacia, Chalone, Codorniu, Corbett Canyon, Godiva Liqueur, Pine Ridge, Sebastiani, and Simi.

SOS uses grants, public education, community outreach and direct services to feed the hungry and help people become self-sufficient. It has thousands of volunteers nationwide; corporate sponsors such as American Express and Godiva underwrite expenses so the organization, designed to be a partnership between the public and private sectors, can donate all of its proceeds to charity.

In Baltimore, SOS also sponsors Operation Frontline, with two local chefs (Mr. Stahl and Michael Rork, executive chef of the Harbor Court Hotel) teaching nutrition, food budgeting and cooking skills at resource and community centers.

Mr. Stahl said one of the goals of the gala is to get everyone thinking about how to wipe out hunger in this country.

"I know the chefs think about it," he says, "because everyone in this group donates food to [hunger] programs." And while galas are entertaining and fun, he says, the ultimate goal is to figure out "how we can eliminate this type of gathering."

Last year's Taste of the Nation Gala raised $50,000, and the group hopes to equal or top that this year. Tickets for the event are $45 in advance, $50 at the door (75 percent of ticket price is tax-deductible). To buy tickets with credit cards, call (800) 955-8278. For more information, call (410) 547-8480.


Here's a sample of the dishes local chefs will be whipping up for the "Taste of the Nation" gala. This recipe is from Eric Littlejohn, of Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Ruth's Chris bread pudding

Serves 12

2 8-ounce loaves French bread, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes, toasted

1 quart milk

1 quart half-and-half

12 eggs, beaten

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) sweet butter

1 cup raisins

1 apple, peeled, cored, cut into half-inch dice

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons bourbon

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine sugars and divide mixture in half. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs, vanilla, bourbon, and salt to half the sugar mixture.

In a saucepan, combine milk, half-and-half and butter with the other half of the sugar and bring to a boil.

Whisk milk mixture into egg mixture and add apples and raisins. Add bread cubes and let stand until soaked through to the center.

Stir up a few raisins from the bottom and sprinkle a few on top.

Pour into buttered 10-by-13-inch baking dish and bake 45 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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