Taste of the South 2017: Swag, Meat & Beyond!

By Mike Braaten taken inside of VIP

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending Washington D.C’s own Taste of the South at the Hilton.  In its’ 35th year this black tie affair has amassed over 2,500 foodies ready to wolf down on ribs, grits, gumbo and all kinds of delicious goodness the South could only bring.

Each state was represented ornately with hot food, decor, and swag for all.  For example the Virginia table had Dixie Bones bbq and fried catfish; Louisana had king cake and gumbo; Mississippi had cheese straws; North Carolina had sweet potato fries; and the rest of the states were rich with Jack Daniel’s riblets, collard greens, pulled pork bbq, pralines, and jambalaya.

taste of the south louisiana pic
By Mauricio Ore 

Not only did we all get our fill of food, there were stacks of swag bags for all attendees to fill up on. I can only speak for myself that I filled two of my bags with peanut m&m’s (a personal favorite of mine), but the rest of the crowd filled up on: Dr. pepper,  Coke products, South Carolina peanuts, mini cotton bales, hot sauce, bbq sauce, buttons, pins, astronaut food, Amazon chewing gum, notepads, stuffed talking ducks, and beyond.

taste of the south swag
By Mike Braaten

In a way, Taste of the South was akin to the Summer Fancy Food Show in that all attendees were encouraged to take goodies home and to pile their plates high with delicious food. Unlike the Summer Fancy Food Show, there’s a boisterous dance floor inviting all to sway, do the Charleston, swing, and dance like there’s no tomorrow.

I also had the unique opportunity to hither into VIP, where I was tantalized by personalized appetizers such as shrimp ceviche (made with shrimp, pickled watermelon, jalepeno, lime); buttermilk fried chicken (corn spoon bread, pickled shallots, micro arugula); Shrimp & Grits (Tillamook Cheddar, shrimp, stone ground grits, tobasco butter); and Ocean Prime Mud (Peanut Butter Mousse, Oreo, Whip Cream).

I was also doubly impressed by the silent auction items. Everything from vacations, spa treatments, and hotel stays were up for grabs. Naturally, bar lines were long and swaths of d.c’s fashionable denizens were sipping on fine wines, good American beer, and aged bourbon.

The most important facet about Taste of the South was to pay respect to our veterans and those in active duty. Plus also highlight what makes the South impressive.

About Taste of the South

So Taste of the South was founded in 1982 by a group of transplanted southerners living in Washington, DC.  Longing for home and wanting to share the rich traditions they had come to love, the group decided to host a party where they could share with fellow DC residents their love for all things southern.  The following April the first Taste of the South gala featuring twelve states – Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.  Tickets sold for $15, and when it was over they donated the proceeds to a southern based charity. In 2004, the “Dixie Fund” was added to allow all participating states to donate monies to charities in their home states. To date, Taste of the South has donated over $6 million to charities across the south and in Washington, D.C. From the Pension Building to Historic Hangar #7 to DAR to the Washington, DC Armory and back to DAR, we’ve been able to come together for good causes and have fun while doing it.

No history of the Committee would be complete without recalling the great efforts which have been undertaken to fund worthwhile charitable initiatives throughout the South.  When the first party was held, it constituted a real roll of the dice.  Today, it is a committed and focused committee of 44 southerners who make it their annual duty to share a taste of the south with Washington, DC and give something back to states they will always call home.

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