‘When in Rome’ Hunger Relief Dinner to Be ‘Feast of Italian Flavors’

23rd Annual Fundraiser of the Hunger Foundation of Southern Ocean
Feb 07, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

“When in Rome ... A Feast of Italian Flavors” is the theme of the 23rd Annual Hunger Relief Dinner and Auction that this year adds a festive, interactive marketplace backdrop.

Save the date of April 25 for the event that benefits the Hunger Foundation of Southern Ocean. The new location is The Mainland at the Holiday Inn, Route 72, Manahawkin.

Also new this year is the schedule that makes way for interactive demonstrations, even dancing. That’s in addition to a multi-course gourmet meal amid the decor of a Roman marketplace.

What hasn’t changed is the reason for the event staged by some of the region’s finest chefs. The nonprofit, all-volunteer Hunger Foundation donates the proceeds to seven area food banks with the goal of “a community where all of our neighbors are free from hunger.”

The cuisine theme for “When in Rome ...” will be “A Feast of Italian Flavors,” or “Festa Di Sapori,” as Event Chairperson Ian Smith previews.

Smith is a culinary arts Instructor at the Ocean County Vocational Technical School’s Culinary Arts Training Center, located at Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis Golf Club, Little Egg Harbor. Each year, he organizes chefs from area restaurants to join and donate their talents in presenting a multi-course menu for event ticket holders.

It’s a much-anticipated date for a unique night out. Guests will stroll in an artfully decorated experience of Italian food tastings and demonstrations amid floral displays and evocative music. This year the pre-dinner festival portion will be extended and the many-course sit-down dinner portion condensed, so that the dinner won’t occupy the whole evening.

The Roman marketplace will be modeled after Rome’s Campo De Fiori, a bustling, vibrant center of cafés and flower and food market stalls by day and nightlife in the evening.

“We’re bringing the outdoor square indoors,” Smith said. “We’re going to have live demonstrations and music, flowers and food sampling for an extended period of time.

“People can walk around, taste different olive oils, we’ll be making fresh mozzarella, then they’ll be able to sample it with different toppings. We’re going to  have a gnocci making area, probably crepes and a little seafood and sandwiches,” Smith began. The final menu will be detailed in a later SandPaper story.

“So, it’s going to be like entertainment, as opposed to a cocktail hour. There will be multiple things going on, just as if you were in the square, and there will be music and other types of street entertainment, and there will be dancing.

“We’re going to increase that time and shorten the number of courses in the dinner, so it will be driven by the festivities going on during the whole evening.”

More restaurants than before will be coming together to be part of the presentation. Smith estimates that about a dozen have committed.

“Everybody’s excited about it. We’re working with various importers and suppliers to get a certain type of tomato, certain olives,” many specialties.

The “Taste” dinner, as it used to be called, was started with the scenario of sitting down and really savoring what 23 years ago was a surprising showcase of what area chefs could present. “It was put together as an event where you were being overwhelmed by the food being served throughout the course of the night,” as Smith described. “It also was a time where I don’t think the area had the credibility of fine dining; we wanted to let local chefs and restaurants show themselves off.

“Now what we want to do is be able to expand that. Today I think people are much more savvy to different types of ingredients. We want to allow them to be able to sample fine cheeses and wines and so forth, and still have the opportunity to sit down and have dinner.”

The dinner/auction is always well attended, but the Hunger Foundation also hopes to attract new guests with the festival and entertainment component.

Over the years, the dinner has raised $1 million-plus for local food banks. Recipients are: Barnegat Food Pantry; Greater Tuckerton Food Pantry; Ken’s Kitchen at St. Mary’s Parish, Barnegat; Ocean Community Church Food Ministry, Manahawkin; St. Francis Center Food Pantry, Brant Beach; St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Food Pantry, Waretown; Lacey Food Bank Program, Forked River

​“Food pantries do more than provide our neighbors in need with food supplies. They also help provide those in need with hope and a sense of security in knowing they are there for them,” said Dan Taylor, Hunger Foundation president. “Please help us be there for the food pantries.”

He encourages community members to visit the website at HFOSO.org and make a donation, become a partner for the upcoming dinner or attend it in support.

Tickets are $150 per person. Purchase online at the foundation’s website at HFOSO.org or call 609-789-5570, or mail checks, made out to the Hunger Foundation of Southern Ocean, to 297 Route 72 West, 270 Suite 35, Manahawkin, N.J. 08050.

— Maria Scandale



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