I can’t believe it is already late afternoon on Tuesday! Where on earth does the time go? It has been almost a week already since I attended Taste of Success DC. Thanks to a pair of gratis tickets, I was able to “sneak” my way in and attend the event the fabulous Justin C. noted for his prolific restaurant reviews via Yelp.

So what is Taste of Success you ask? This wonderful event was put on by Street Wise Partners, an organization that provides free training and development of life skills to motivated individuals who need help getting back on their feet and landing a great job. I applaud their efforts and am always up for providing folks with a second chance and a new lease on life.

I popped into the event, held at the stately Carnegie Institution in the heart of DC (and no, it was not THAT kind of institution…no cracks from the peanut gallery please).

Ahh, it was a true night of firsts, which I love. My first time visiting and exploring this building, followed up by a couple of food firsts, even better!

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I was really impressed by the look of this space, brimming with old-world craftsmanship and detailing. This building just looks majestic at night! It’s the kind of quality architecture you rarely see anymore, and one of the reasons I love DC so much. This city is filled with buildings that enveloped in the mystique of centuries of life. Justin and I grabbed a seat in an area that I imagined to be a parlor of some sort, lined with antique, oil painted portraits and sophisticated artwork.

I felt a tinge like a Rockefeller, aside from balancing about five, small, plastic, disposable, stacked plates on my lap at once, each teetering dangerously close to disaster each time I moved a fork. I can’t help myself when it comes to tasting events. It’s like I can’t get enough!

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When I arrived, Justin had already been there for a bit and had diligently scanned the room, taken some lovely photos pre-crowd (which you are seeing throughout this post) and had zeroed in on the eats. He had a tactical plan for navigating the room. My kinda wingman! I managed to make my way to most of the stations, hence the gluttonous stacking of plates.

Sadly, I can’t recall ever eating a Reuben before, and if I had, it must have been a loooong time ago, cause I clearly didn’t remember the experience. So, needless to say, I swung by and nabbed a tasty little Reuben slider from Capitol Lounge DC. I am not usually a fan of sauerkraut, which is probably what held me back from this variety of sammy in the first place, but I have to say it was quite tasty and I gobbled each piece of tender meat right up.

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Next I shimmied my way over to the adjacent tasting station to pounce on the H Street Country Club’s variety of meat and veggie tacos. I am never one to pass up some Mexican food, and this hit the spot. The kind gentleman serving up the dishes also did me a solid and hooked me up with a meat veggie combo. Thanks buddy! Simple and satisfying bar fare.

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For my next pit stop, I sashayed over to visit the Casa Nonna and Room 11 tasting tables, which turned out to be my favorite of the night. Now, I have to admit that I have had some lukewarm experiences with Casa Nonna in the past. I always wanted to like it more, and I can fairly say after this experience, they have won me back over.

The owner of the restaurant was there participating, which I found to be a nice touch, and their dish was being cooked and served to basically to order, so it was fresh and and at the peak of flavor for each guest. All I can say is YUM!!  I snagged the very last of the batch that was on the table, and had it not been the last, I think I may have just pulled up a chair, grabbed a fork and gone to town on the entire basin.

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The dish, called Four Cheese Schiaffettoni, served up in a tender short rib ragu, was of the Italian pasta variety…and shockingly I had never heard of it. I thought that to be an impossible feat! As a born and bred Long Island girl, I thought you automatically popped out of the womb well versed in all foods Italian (we take our eating seriously). I mean, we had plates growing up that listed what I thought to be every possible pasta in existence, drilling them into our brains as we consumed our dinner each night. Doesn’t get more dedicated that that! (Thanks Mom)

So, needless to say, I recommend that you try this concoction on your next trip to Casa Nonna and sorry for doubting you folks.

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Once I had sufficiently gorged myself at a break-neck pace on my pasta, I did a quick heel pivot to land on Room 11’s table. Man did these guys whip up a tasty cocktail. They were fast as lightening mixing together fresh Caipiroska Cocktails, muddling each one by hand before your very eyes. It was such a light and refreshing combination of fresh-mashed lime juice, potato vodka and brown sugar. They were also deceivingly strong, but I like that quality in a drink, after all. This made me want to visit Room 11 and sip cocktails on their veranda. You will be seeing me there soon.

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Finally, at this point I waddled over to the last two tables for the evening before departing into the veil of night on the mean streets of NW, DC. Admittedly, this is likely because they were serving up the dishes I feared the most. I am usually a pretty adventurous eater, but I have never been one for a pate. There is just something to me about the look and consistency that turns me off. It always has the appearance of a can of Fancy Feast plopped onto a plate to me. But, this being my night of firsts, I dove in head first, and I am sure glad I did! Mikey was right…try it and you just might like it!

This particular pate, served up by Cafe Saint Ex, was a perfect blend of savory and sweet. I just plain loved this combination. It had a delightfully insinuating taste of garlic (my favorite staple), and was a lot firmer than most pate’s I have encountered, which I really enjoyed. It was served up on freshly baked bread and a dollop of tasty date jam that rounded out the flavors perfectly. Kudos to the guys for providing me with my first positive pate experience.

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Last but not least, I slid over to Kellari Taverna’s tasting table to round out my night with none other than grilled octopus! A most definite first for me. I have had fried calamari on many an occasion, but this was completely different in every way. It had a much firmer consistency to me and without all of the breading and oil getting in the way, you could really taste the octopus. It had a wonderful smokey flavor taken on by the preparation of the dish. All-in-all a very unexpected, but pleasant surprise.

So thanks to one and all for a lovely evening on the town for a very lovely cause. And, for all of you fellow Twitter junkies, you can follow my friend Justin here @justinbc. I highly recommend following him on his culinary journeys throughout our Nation’s capital!

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