Hollie Grimaldi Flores: The Hungry Games — May the odds be ever in your flavor
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Nevada City Rotary Club’s The Hungry Games WHERE: Miners Foundry, 325 Spring Street, Nevada City WHEN: Sunday, March 10, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. TICKETS: General admission $25 in advance, $30 at the door, which includes tastings from the chef competition and local wineries. Tickets can be obtained at Inner Sanctum, Book Seller, Harmony Books and from your Rotary friends.
The Nevada City Rotary Club brings a new fundraiser to town with The Hungry Games, set for Sunday at the Miners Foundry. Fundraising chairperson Michael Young and his committee developed what they hope to be a unique, annual fundraiser.
The Hungry Games will feature a “Top Chef”-type cooking competition, along with wine tasting, live music, vendors and a silent auction. All proceeds will help fund local Nevada City Rotary service projects.
ThE HAM STAND
The fundraiser will feature four area restaurants competing for Top Chef honors, including Nevada City specialty meat shop, The Ham Stand. Owner Jason Jillson — who has a master’s degree in culinary education — opened his Zion Street business last July where he cures his own meats.
“I’m a new business and I am so happy to be involved in the community,” Jillson said. “It is a great way to promote yourself and do your part. It is a chance to showcase yourself to a group who might not have had a chance to come through your door.”
Jillson will be serving a duo plate of barbecue brisket with smoked sweet potato and a North Carolina pork belly with barbecue beans in a biscuit.
Jillson says he wants people to understand he is not just a butcher and not just a sandwich maker.
“The dish I created is a cross between fine dining and barbecue,” he said. “I want people to know I can do barbecue items, but I can also do fine dining and catering is a big piece.”
Another relatively new business, Purveyors Pantry, is also taking part in the chef competition. John and Karen Foley opened their doors two years ago, selling sauces and condiments. Once their kitchen was ready, they began baking pastries and quiches among other fare, serving weekend brunch and daily lunch. They recently began offering dinners to go.
When the weather permits, they will serve meals on their 18-seat patio as well as in the pantry. John serves as head chef while Karen handles the front of house.
“We are very supportive of Rotary and the community and thought this would also be a good way to get our name out there,” John said. “I’ll probably be making a roll-up, with butternut squash, carrots, yams and blueberries. It’s very good.”
The Foleys hail from the east coast, bringing their entrepreneurial spirit. They have experience in the corporate world, in publishing, and in retail as well as the restaurant business, which eventually lead them to California.
“We are all about quality and freshness,” said Karen. “We try very hard to make it special and personal for the people who live here.”
Also competing in the Hungry Games is Bistro 221. Like the others involved, owner Melissa Bryant said it’s about giving back.
“Rotary gives back so this is an opportunity for us to help them get an event started,” Bryant said. “I just wanted to be a part and help.
“We make our bechamel, our own marinara,” said Bryant. “We shred our own cheese, make our own breadcrumbs, people just love it. Everything we do is fresh and homemade and made with love. When I say we shred our own cheese, I mean we are manually shredding a block of cheese. Nothing comes here in bags.”
Chef Bobby McKnight joined the Bistro 221 team last fall and will be preparing an eggplant lasagna for The Hungry Games.
The relatively new partnership of owner and chef is working well. McKnight said, “We have both been in the restaurant business for most of our lives. We communicate really well.”
“We bounce our ideas off each other,” Bryant agreed. “I come up with a food idea and Bobby does his magic. We love cooking here. We love serving the community.”
The pair said being connected to the community has helped keep the doors open even when winters like this one can be challenging. Bistro 221 is one of a very few restaurants in Nevada City that is open Mondays. In addition to the front dining area, they have a back room available for private events of up to 28 guests at and the entire restaurant can be rented for private events.
Celebrating their 27 years in Nevada County, Maria’s Restaurant will be offering their carnitas tacos with salsa for the competition. Operations Manager Gina Sidebottom said, “We feel they are always the best. They are so flavorful and the salsa that goes with it is just mouthwatering, savory, deliciousness.”
Sidebottom would like people to know that giving back is what Maria’s does.
“(Maria’s) loves to contribute to the community. Whenever we can, we do,” she said. “Our core values are connection, love, respect, and family. We are about community, and connection, and supporting each other. Many of our employees have been with us for over a decade. We are not just a business, we are here to make a difference in people’s lives with food.”
In addition to the cooking contestants, the fundraising committee was able to get a dozen restaurants to donate $100 gift certificates. The “winner-take-all” $1,200 prize will be raffled off at the event. Raffle tickets are $100 each and only 100 tickets will be sold.
Sgt. Funky Band will be playing live music for listening and dancing. There will be wine tasting and much more.
All money raised will support local projects which including Girls Who Code, youth leadership camps, academic scholarships, and both music and speech competitions.
“Our long-term goal is to make this sustainable,” said Rotary’s Michael Young. “We do a good job or a great job, fix any mistakes for next year and then do it again and again. We hope this will be the Nevada City Rotary event.”
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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