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If Dine-N-Dash is food New Years Eve, Taste of the Nation is food Christmas. The traveling party (which pop ups everywhere from Atlanta to Laguna Beach to Ithaca) is consistently one of our favorite events of the year. It combines all of our favorite things: eating, drinking, scream singing along to the lyrics of an old Ciara song (to each their own) and a serious charity component that involves 100% of the proceeds going to No Kid Hungry. Yes, it’s a lot of gorging yourself with the finest snacks D.C. has to offer, but after a night of heavy drinking and even heavier eating, you can rest easy knowing you did something to end child hunger. Last year alone, Taste of the Nation raised enough money to fund 2.5 million meals.


Thankfully, this wasn’t our first rodeo. Taste of the Nation, with its 70+ restaurant participants and bars, can be overwhelming. There are silent auctions and photo booths and mini “supper clubs” and a million different things to look at. It’s easy to get turned around and sucked into sampling everything. No, with a party like Taste of the Nation, you have to have a plan, a culinary road map. With so many things to eat and drink, it’s easy to go for old favorites, but one of the best aspects of Taste the Nation is that you can try all those hot new restaurants without making a reservation or standing in line.


With our goals in mind, we hit the new spots first. Mama Chang served up a mean helping of hot and numbing jerky resting on a bed of shredded tofu skin that has been tossed with sesame oil and Pisco y Nazca served up their Ceviche Callejero in shot glass sized bowls that gave you the perfect hit of fresh fish, but the best bight of the night was Rooster & Owl‘s “Buffalo Wing” style sunchokes served with a ranch ricotta. It was inventive and interesting, but it also had a flavor profile that anyone could enjoy.


Further favorites included a salad of fresh mozzarella, zucchini sott’olio, capers, dill, black olives and bread crumbs from All Purpose, an Aguachile from Compass Rose and sweet potato biscuit sliders from Mason Dixie. The Green Zone and Catoctin Creek mixed up cocktails that stole our hearts, but McClellan’s Retreat had our favorite drink of the night. Aptly called the No Adult Thirsty it featured Remy VSOP, hibiscus, corrected orange, lime and it came served in an incredibly handy miniature glass bottle. Of course, it would be remiss of us not to mention Ice Cream Jubilee AKA the only dessert table we hit twice.

If you’re the kind of person who spends every party by the snack table, Taste of the Nation has been lovingly handcrafted for you.