On Friday (March 24th) Juliana and I had the opportunity to attend the Garces Foundation Benefit : Think Local, Give Local. It was a night filled with tastings from Philadelphia’s finest chefs and a food themed silent auction of which proceeds go to the local immigrant community. It was one of the most incredible foodie events in town, showcasing morsels of scallops with truffles and rabbit liver crostini alongside a local live band where you could dance the night away.
Just to provide a little background, the Garces Foundation was founded in 2012 to support Philadelphia’s beautiful and diverse immigrant community by providing access to medicinal, educational, and nutritional programming; they also have three programs of their own that help improve health, language, cultural skills, and nutrition. In the summer time, The Garces Foundation takes children to the Garces family farm in order to encourage children to eat well and to provide them with a good foundation for a healthy relationship with food. Deeply passionate about helping Philadelphia’s immigrant community, the chef and bright entrepreneur, Jose Garces, should pose as an inspiration to all of us, no matter what field or career you’re going into.
The evening started off at 7pm. People were dressed in beautiful cocktail dresses and suits as we stepped into the Loews Philadelphia Hotel in the heart of Center City. We were greeted by chefs from the Hungry Pigeon offering home cured charcuterie on crusty bread before we even stepped into the main room. The Hungry Pigeon is a great local restaurant that believes in a “no waste” philosophy, motivating them to buy whole animals and using every single part. Next to them, there was a table featuring Shiawase Kudamono’s dried Asian pears and homemade pear liquor. These dried pears were sweet, chewy, and fruity—nature’s healthy and delicious caramel candy. Growing up in Japan myself, where fresh, crispy Asian pears (aka nashi) were a household staple in the fall, I couldn’t help but keep going back for more. These sweet dried morsel, along with cubed bread, radish, Brussel sprouts, and many other options, were skewered and dipped into the gooey, velvety cheese fondue displayed on the table next to them.
Passing by Tito’s Homemade vodka lounge, where they offered cocktails such as Atlantic Blue, mixed with thyme, blueberry, lemon, and Nocino walnut, we walked into the ballroom filled with the sound of jazz music flowing from the trumpets and vocals of the live musicians. The clattering of spoons and dishes filled the room as the chefs from the best restaurants in Philly carefully assembled and plated small bites that embodied the essence of their restaurant. Amada, one of Garces’ restaurants, served us scallop sashimi drizzled with a tangy sauce, sprinkled with crunchy hazelnuts, and topped with a fresh grating of black truffles and a crispy fried truffle chip. The balance of textures and flavors paired so well with the sweet, fresh scallop creating a perfect bite bursting with umami; it was definitely one of my favorite dishes of the night.
Another great dish was from Vernick, recently named Philadelphia’s highest rated restaurant. This place is a must-go for new comers to the city. At this event, they decided to offer little tarts made with buttery, melt-in-your-mouth short crust pastry filled with a creamy and savory avocado mousse topped with a piece of shrimp.
From a zingy ceviche taco from Distrito, to Hamachi with a fresh yuzu dressing from Sampan, to vegan Philly Cheesteaks from Wiz Kid, to buttery, succulent smoked beef brisket with date and bone marrow mole from Ela, to creamy vegan mango champagne gelato from CapoGiro Think Local, Give Local made sure to hit all corners of the globe and palate. There was not a single thing that tasted simply mediocre—everything was deserving of five stars and transcended beyond just food: these local chefs offered morsels of experience that exploded in the mouth and gave you a memory you would never forget.
An up and coming foodie city, Philadelphia can provide you with the best meals you’ll ever have. It truly is important to support the community you live in and to foster the flourishing talent and culture that exists here. Think local, give local. With an array of incredibly talented local chefs and restaurants, we would have absolutely no problem with doing just that.
Written by Jennifer Higa
Photos by Juliana Sandford