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After Hours: Taste of the Nation Comes to Brooklyn / Meet Cuke Skywalker / Mail Order Wine

By Kathy Biehl, Published on May 16, 2005
Kathy Biehl is the food writer for Diversion magazine and the former longtime dining critic for the Houston Business Journal. She has reviewed restaurants as well for the Houston Press, Time Out New York, My Table and the TONY Guide Eating & Drinking 2000. Her food writing has received awards from the Association of Food Journalists and the Houston Press Club. She is also the author of the LLRX.com Research RoundUp and Web Critic columns, co-author of The Lawyer's Guide to Internet Research, and an attorney admitted to practice in Texas and New Jersey.


This June, Brooklyn joins the line-up of cities hosting Taste of the Nation anti-hunger benefits. The June 16 food and wine tasting, at the Tobacco Warehouse in Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, spotlights restaurants, artists, fashion designers and authors from the borough. General admission is $75, a VIP reception ticket is $125, and a table of 10 costs $2500.

A project of Share Our Strength and presented by American Express and Jenn-Air, the 17-year-old Taste of the Nation program umbrellas more than 60 locally organized food events in US and Canada. Some are multi-course seated dinners, some sprawling buffets, some even bustling festivals with artists and performers. Regardless of format, each is a collaboration of chefs, restaurants, volunteers and corporate sponsors, whose donations make it possible for 100% of the ticket proceeds to go to anti-hunger efforts.

Though Taste of the Nation swung into high gear in April and May, its calendar is bustling through November. The month of June alone has 10 events, from a seated dinner in Tampa (featuring NYC and San Francisco restaurateur Richard Sandoval as guest chef) to tastings from 50 restaurants at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH. The other cities on the June calendar, in order of appearance, are Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Ithaca, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Charlottesville (VA) and Port Clinton (OH). The rest of the year brings events in Orlando, Denver, Miami, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Dallas, Port Charlotte (FL) and San Francisco.

For details about a specific city or to purchase tickets, visit Taste of the Nation or call 1-877-26TASTE.

Meet Cuke Skywalker

What with the release of “Revenge of the Sith,” hitching a ride on the “Star Wars” franchise is all the rage. Some of what’s climbed aboard in the grocery store realm is surprising. A Darth Vader drinking straw, for instance. (Why would anyone want to consume liquid that has to pass through the embodiment of evil?) And actual food. Not processed, prepared foods in Star Wars character shapes, either, but would you believe....produce?

It’s not for sale, but the cast of a short film from the Organic Trade Association called “Store Wars,” starring live-action organic food puppets that move with the help of strings, sticks, wires and trick camera angles. The 2005 short parodies the first Star Wars story line: Cuke Skywalker receives guidance from Obi Wan Cannoli (a food previously unknown to me to be available in organic form, but the claim is that this one is), enlists Ham Solo and Chewbroccoli in a cantina with horn-playing apples, and battles Dark Tader to rescue Princess Lettuce, whose signature hairstyle takes its form from donuts. Tofu D2 and C3 Peanuts also make appearances, and wise, backwards-talking Yogurt chimes in with virtues of organic food.

The puppets have a certain charm (I should disclose that not only do I have a longstanding fascination with puppets, but my first ever published article covered a stop-action film of a war between pieces of fruit) and some of the special effects are outright impressive, particularly Princess Lettuce’s holographic distress signal. Watch the film at StoreWars.org. “May the Farm Be With You,” indeed.

Mail Order Wine

Wine enthusiasts have significantly more variety (or should I say, varietals?) at their disposal, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court. On May 16, the Court struck down laws in Michigan and New York that prevent wineries from shipping directly to out-of-state consumers. The rationale was economic discrimination, because the laws did not prohibit in-state direct sales.

The decision increases consumer access to the wares of wineries that have too small an output for the usual channels of national distribution. The ruling invalidates laws in 24 states, including New York, which is home to a motherlode of exquisite small-scale wineries on the North Fork of Long Island.

The cases were Granholm v. Heald, Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association v. Heald and Swedenburg v. Kelly. The slip opinion in Granholm v. Heald, in PDF, as well as the legal documents archive associated with the case.


Copyright 2005 Kathy Biehl. All Rights Reserved.