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Words by Kaylee Dugan
Photos by Armando Gallardo

Taste of the Nation shouldn’t be as good as it is. Coordinating with hundreds of vendors in an outdoor space where at any moment the weather could make things unimaginably bad is a very tough situation. But they didn’t just pull that off, they pulled it off extraordinarily well. If Taste of the Nation was just okay, I’d still be impressed, but it was beyond that. If you’re going to blow any money on a D.C. food event, make it this one. There’s no contest. Taste of the Nation is the best large scale food event I’ve ever seen.

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So I guess it’s no surprise that once again some of D.C.’s best and brightest are behind it. This year’s Chef Chair, George Pagonis of Kapnos, was joined by Pastry Chair Tiffany MacIsaac (Buttercream Bakeshop), Mixology Chair Derek Brown (I don’t need to explain this to you), and Sommelier Chair Nadine Brown (Charlie Palmer Steakhouse). Together they lead an insane amount of chefs and bartenders as they churned out delicious bites and drinks. As a website that throws events, thinking of the logistics of this makes my head spin.

As always, they switched things up, and the biggest change was the location. This year, everything went down at Nationals Park, and while it seemed like it was going to rain for a second, Nats Park was a damn fun place to wander around. Not only that, but the space allowed for vendors to spread out. It never felt like the party was too packed, and even better, I never had to stand in a line. They also had some sweet entertainment this year from Nashville’s very own Judah and the Lion, but more importantly, they included some great Virginia and Maryland restaurants, creating a little Baltimore Row and Virginia Is For Lovers section.

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There was a strong variety of food depending on what you’re into, but tuna and shrimp were huge this year. Honestly, seafood in general had a pretty strong hold over the event. Favorites included The Salt Line’s coddies (salt cod, Yukon Gold potatoes, garlic seed mustard and a classic Baltimore cracker), Whaley’s pineapple mojo shrimp, and Oyamel’s Tamal frijole (corn masa tamal, vegetarian refried beans, requeson cheese, salsa chiltomate, onions, cilantro). My absolute favorite bite of the night was Barrel’s NOLA style Creole BBQ shrimp, which was bursting with flavor (and was nice and hot).

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Booze-wise, no one could beat Jack Rose’s Bramble By The Bay, which was served in an adult Capri Sun bag and came with either Lyons White Rum or Gray Wolf’s Lone Single Malt Vodka, depending on what you wanted to go with. Close seconds included Suburbia’s Casa Noble Margarita (which was fucking killer, my god that drink was good) and Eat The Rich’s Celery Gimlet with Green Hat, Suze Shrub, celery bitters and sugar.

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Of course, the dessert game was strong here, but we’re an Ice Cream Jubilee website, so I have to call out their fantastic Thai iced tea and honey lemon lavender ice cream. And as usual, Dolcezza killed it with their salted caramel gelato (which we could easily eat every day).

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At the end of the day, as fun and drunken as these events are, it’s important to remember that 100% of the proceeds went to No Kid Hungry. More than 29,000 kids in D.C. struggle with getting enough food to eat. Last year, No Kid Hungry gave more than 2 million healthy meals to children in need. Hopefully they can surpass that number in 2017. It comes down to this, if you’re going to pig out on macarons and Shake Shack, you might as well make sure it’s for charity.

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