Taste of the Nation Napa Valley

In cities all across the country, there is a unique collaboration underway to end childhood hunger. Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation brings together the nation’s culinary leaders and an army of dedicated volunteers to create spectacular benefits highlighting local top chefs, wineries, and…

Taste of the Nation Napa Valley

Taste of the Nation, Napa ValleyIn cities all across the country, there is a unique collaboration underway to end childhood hunger. Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation brings together the nation’s culinary leaders and an army of dedicated volunteers to create spectacular benefits highlighting local top chefs, wineries, and mixologists.

Remarkably, 100% of the proceeds go directly to Share Our Strength’s efforts, thanks to the time and talent of chefs, sponsors and guests.

For supporters of Taste of the Nation, it is a fantastic opportunity to mingle with well-known as well as up-and-coming culinary figures in the local community, all while helping to raise money for a very worthwhile cause. After all, who better to address this important issue than those who dedicate their passions to food?

I was so excited to have the opportunity to attend Taste of the Nation Napa Valley, thanks to Foodbuzz. It was a lovely event, on a gorgeous summer evening in Napa. Truth be told, I had expected and hoped for a larger turnout, but the more relaxed atmosphere went well with the tranquil surroundings. It was also nice to have a better chance to really talk to and get to know the sponsors of the event.

Taste of the Nation Napa Valley was held at the Silverado Resort, tucked away in a charming piece of the property called The Grove. As you approached the venue, the sound of music and the tinkling of china drew you into the hauntingly beautiful grove of oak trees.

What truly set this event apart for me was the enthusiasm of the restaurants, wineries, and mixologists. The Napa Valley Taste seemed to have a good number of participating sponsors that are new to the culinary scene, and it was especially exciting to chat with this enthusiastic group of culinary entrepreneurs. Their passion for good food was infectious.

2007 Jana Winery Rose, Scott Harvey Wines

One of the first tables I happened upon was for Scott Harvey Wines, featuring wines from Napa Valley and Amador County. The Amador County wines are produced under the Scott Harvey label, while their varietals from Napa Valley are labeled under Jana Winery, named for Scott Harvey’s beloved wife. Their award winning 2007

Natalie Bullion, Astrale e Terra Winery

Jana Winery Rose (pictured above) was the first wine to hit my lips that evening, and it truly set the tone for a lovely evening ahead. The pale pink rose was delicate and celebratory, and the essence of summer emerged through tones of peaches and strawberry. It was the perfect first taste that punctuated the cool summer breezes of the wine country afternoon.

At the same table, we met the charming Natalie Bullion (photo on left) of Astrale e Terra Winery, where Scott Harvey is consulting winemaker. This boutique winery along Napa’s Silverado Trail focuses on small but fine production.

An excellent example is their 2004 Estate Syrah, of which only 374 cases were produced. Using the fruit from their Estate vineyard on Atlas Peak, this Syrah has bold flavors of luscious plums and the ripest cherries, and a succulent finish.

The Syrah went perfectly with the Duck Confit with Sour Cherries presented by Chef Craig Difonzo (pictured below), the Chef de Cuisine of Cantinetta Piero at Hotel Luca in Yountville. Rich morsels of duck confit were wrapped in tender sheets of pasta, their flavors brightened by the sour cherries. Absolutely divine.

Duck Confit with Sour Cherries, Cantinetta Piero

As we ambled around, there were more delicious bites left and right. The hardest part was pacing ourselves.

Creations from Chef Tyler Stone (left) and House of Fish (right)

Who can say no to a large hunk of shiny ham?

Irresistable bites from Bardessono Restaurant & Bar.

Salmon Tartare, Carpe Diem Wine Bar

There were definitely some memorable standouts. We were warmly welcomed by the energetic family behind the newly opened Carpe Diem Wine Bar with their stunning offering of Chef Scott Kendall’s Salmon Tartare (pictured above), prepared with diced cucumber and jicama, grapefruit, and served on crunchy, homemade wonton crisps. The salmon could not be any more fresh; caught just that morning, the ceviche style preparation was flawless, and let me tell you, it was life altering for my salmon-wary husband. It was unlike any salmon he had ever tasted before, and I credit the freshness of the ingredients, as well as the love and passion behind Carpe Diem. This month-old wine bar is a newcomer to Napa’s ever growing restaurant scene, and I can not wait to visit them and explore their other offerings.

My other favorite taste of the night came from these two ladies:

La Strada Italian Cuisine

What a surprise! Brenda Martinez of La Strada Italian Cuisine was operating one of the most understated tables at the event. There were no vibrant displays of colorful food, or eye-catching print ads, and I nearly walked by their table had they not called out their offering of Chicken Marsala and Polenta. Almost secretly shrouded within their foil covered chafing dishes were the most succulent and flavorful bites of chicken marsala, which they served over pillows of some of the best polenta I have ever had. And this is how I know it was one of the best bites of the evening: my already stuffed husband, after sneaking a little bite of my generously portioned taste, proceeded to ask for his own steamy, creamy bowl. We both ate every last bit. I’m salivating, just thinking about it again.

Etoile's Compressed Watermelon, paired with Domaine Chandon Reserve Chardonnay Brut

One of the more innovative tastes were Etoile’s Compressed Watermelon, with Smoked Paprika Mascarpone, Watercress and Lime. The compression heightened the flavors of the watermelon, and combined with the smoked paprika mascarpone, it gave the taste buds a lot to think about! The bites were meant to be enjoyed with the Domaine Chandon Reserve Chardonnay Brut, which really enhanced the refreshing yet creaminess of the appetizer. The sparkling wine by Domaine Chandon had all the qualities I love in a bubbly: creaminess, coupled with flavors of lemon, pear, and crisp green apple. It was a joy!

St. Clement Bale Lane Sauvignon Blanc, lovely with Hana Japanese Restaurant's Spicy Tuna Hand Roll (Temaki)

I fell in love with a 2009 St. Clement Bale Lane Sauvignon Blanc. While St. Clement is well known for their Oroppas, Tiffany Buchanan, their Wine Club Coordinator, pointed out this lovely white wine. I was greeted by the aroma of intense guava and pineapple, and my first taste had me thirsting for more. This Sauvignon Blanc transported me to a quiet Hawaiian island, perfumed by tropical flowers. It was a vacation in a bottle.

Like most Sauvignon Blancs, this one pairs well with sushi, so how serendipitous for Hana Japanese Restaurant’s table to be located next door. Their Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls (pictured above) went exceedingly well with it!

Okay, it’s time to move on to something sweet. You can imagine how happy I was to see this cheerful table:

Let’s look a little closer…

Sift Cupcakes at Taste of the Nation Napa Valley

Pink Champagne Cupcakes and The Sky is Falling! Cupcakes, by Sift

The ladies of Sift: a cupcakery

Sift: a cupcakery should have won an award (if they were giving out awards) for best dressed table. Everything, from the cake pedestals, to the layered tablecloths, to the fresh flowers, and of course, the sinful bites of miniature cupcakes, was beautifully coordinated.

Their delicate Pink Champagne Cupcakes were dusted with a fine edible glitter, and I was pleased to find that the moist raspberry cake had a lovely spongy texture, and was frosted with a not-too-overwhelmingly sweet champagne frosting. I almost didn’t feel guilty eating it!

Now, what do you need if you’re having a Sift Cupcake?

Well, a cup of coffee, of course!

Equator Coffees

Equator Coffees was nearly life-altering. If you don’t believe me, suffice it to say that this family of avid coffee drinkers (two cups of coffee a day are a must, at least one with breakfast, and one in the afternoon) has decided, after tasting Equator Coffees, that we will cancel our subscription to a very well-known coffee roaster (I won’t name who, but I trust that you’ve heard of them) and begin purchasing from the San Rafael-based Equator Coffees. Their artisanal coffees are served at prominent restaurants and bakeries such as French Laundry, Bouchon, Citizen Cake, Jardinière, and La Boulange. Those accolades aside, both their hot Ethiopia Amaro Gayo and their iced Mocha Java were beautiful blends of bold earthiness and smokey roasts that I love in a good coffee.

Coranzonsito, by Manny Hinojosa and Bacardi

All good things must come to an end, but before I do, one final beverage. Celebrity mixologist, Manny Hinojosa, was behind the Bacardi table, and he whipped up a glass of this Coranzonsito. This fantastic cocktail of Bacardi 8, El Corazon, and grapefruit juice was refreshing and festive, and it fit well with the exhilarating atmosphere of the event. I have included the recipe below.

As I sipped my Coranzonsito, the live auction for the benefit was underway, and you could sense the contentment and merriment of the crowd. Taste of the Nation Napa Valley was the ultimate in wine country charm –  gorgeous surroundings, passion for fresh food and wine, and the desire to contribute to a higher cause made for a most memorable evening.


By Manny Hinojosa

Makes 1 drink

  • 1 1/2 oz Bacardi 8
  • 1 oz Beverage Artistry El Corazon
  • 1/4 oz Falernum
  • 1 oz Ruby grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • Egg white
  • Fresh basil

In a mixing glass, combine Bacardi 8, El Corazon, Falernum, fresh ruby red grapefruit juice, egg white and fresh basil. Shake and serve over the rocks. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf. Cheers!


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  1. Kathy Diaz (found baking)

    So many fun events up north!!! How lucky that you got to go. The salmon tartare and the duck confit… MMMMMM!!! And then the cupcakes… MMMMMMM!!!! You captured all the moments so beautifully. I love the Coranzonsito shot you took!

  2. Clay Dunn

    Thanks so much for your beautiful post! I’m glad you got to attend the event. Taste of the Nation appreciates being featured on your blog!

    • Liren

      The honor was all mine – I can’t tell you how much I truly enjoyed Taste of the Nation – it was such a pleasure to attend and write about it!

  3. Cheryl

    Really enjoyed this Liren, you did a beautiful job as always! The photos are amazing and yes, it is such a lovely place!

    • Liren

      Cheryl, thank you :) You would have loved it – it was beautifully done. I thought of you the entire time!

  4. Jun Belen

    Wonderful photos, Liren. Thanks for sharing. Everything looked so delicious… especially those pink champagne cupcakes!!

    • Liren

      Thank, Jun! The lighting was just perfect at that time of day, under those trees, so it was a joy to photograph!

  5. Becky

    I felt like I was at the event looking and the photos and tasting the food! A fantastic job ! I want some of those pink champagne cupcakes, too.

    • Liren

      Seems like the pink champagne cupcakes is a favorite! They were very, very good! I’m so pleased you enjoyed the photos – it was a lot of fun to photograph.

  6. Gitte

    Great job covering this event and lots of beautiful pictures. The watermelon looked very delicious.

    • Liren

      Thank you, Gitte! There was so much to share, I’m glad you liked it!

  7. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    WOW – I feel like I was there with your wonderful photography and story. Sounds like a terrific event for a great cause. The food looks so tasty. I am especially drawn to those pink champagne cupcakes. Were they as tasty as they look??

    • Liren

      Hi Lisa! The cupcakes were definitely tasty. I expected a sugar overload, but they were delicately sweet – just right! I’m so glad you liked the post :)

  8. Brian @ A Thought For Food

    Every one of these pictures is fantastic. I have to say, the tuna hand roll looks particularly wonderful. It’s one of the many reasons why I can’t stop eating fish. Don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t eat a beautiful dish like that.

    • Liren

      That tuna roll was really a good. A nice combination of crisp seaweed, warm, fresh rice, and cool spicy tuna. Yum.

  9. Natalie

    Great to meet you at the event! I love the way you captured it. Cheers!

    • Liren

      Hi Natalie – thank you so much for dropping by! It was such a pleasure meeting you – thank you for pouring that lovely Syrah!

    • Liren

      Jenn, it was a beautiful evening – the weather could not have been more perfect! A worthy cause, indeed.

  10. Trish

    Great coverage. Beautiful photos. Looks like a great experience to a great cause. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Jean

    What fun indeed! Thanks for sharing the wine, the food, the people behind this important event. You covered the event beautifully, Liren.

    • Liren

      Thank you, Jean! It was definitely a joy to meet the people behind Taste!

  12. Monet

    What an amazing event…and you did such a wonderful job covering it for us. I felt like I was there. And I must say that those cupcakes looked divine!

    • Liren

      Monet, aren’t the cupcakes darling? I’m so glad you liked the post – I really hoped to share the whole taste and feel of the event!

  13. The Cilantropist

    You did an awesome job of covering this event, and everything looks fantastic! Some of that food looks really unique, and I was really taken with that Compressed Watermelon… what did it taste like and do you know how they “compressed” it?? Beautiful photos as usual. :) I just forwarded this on to a friend who is in Napa right now so he can check out some of these awesome wineries!

    • Liren

      Thank you Amanda! The Compressed Watermelon was definitely different – my understanding, based on the chef’s description, is that the watermelon is compressed with a cryovac, like sous vide. When you first see it, you actually think it is raw tuna, and the texture is similar to that. But the taste is of strong watermelon!

  14. FrenchPressMemos

    Beautiful virtual tour you give us with your pictures and descriptions. Colorado had this event just a few weeks ago and it was great but it doesn’t look like it came close to this. Thanks for sharing!

    • Liren

      Thank you, Andra! I get the sense that each Taste of the Nation is really unique and reflects each city differently. I’m sure the one in Colorado was also wonderful!

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