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Chefs pool their talents to feed Oregons hungry

100 purveyors of food and drink will take part in fund-raiser

Want to help the state's legions of hungry citizens? Eat too much.

Portlanders will have the chance to indulge an appetite for both good food and a better Oregon at Taste of the Nation Portland.

Sponsored by the Oregon Restaurant Association, the event draws together nearly 100 restaurants, wineries and microbreweries and is expected to raise more than $100,000 for local and regional relief organizations.

Guests are asked to wear something elegant Ñ yet expandable Ñ for a presentation that gives new meaning to the term 'fast food': Three restaurants and two wineries will be featured every nine minutes in a three-hour period. The rollout will take place throughout the four-story Portland Center for the Performing Arts.

Stacey Philipps, chairwoman of the event, says its proceeds have never been so necessary.

'Oregon has the atrocious honor of being first in the nation for hunger,' she says. 'And sadly, the number of people who are hungry continues to grow.'

Amelia Hard is founder of the fund-raiser, formerly known as Chefs' Night Out. She estimates that one in seven Oregonians don't get enough to eat.

Ironically, Hard says the steady increase in housing costs that accompanied the late '90s economic boom has contributed to the growing hunger problem.

'Not everyone benefited from that boom, which also led to a dramatic increase in rents,' she says.

Claire Archibald, Cafe Azul co-owner and a Taste of the Nation Portland contributor, says that, as a restaurateur, participating in the event only made sense.

'It's what we do: We feed people,' she says.

Michael Cronan, participant and owner of Caffe Mingo, agrees that restaurateurs have a special ability to give back.

'Anybody can write a check,' Cronan says. 'But the chance to create an evening that's enjoyable for Portlanders, and that helps take a part of hunger out of the way, is a way I like to donate.'

Other participating purveyors of the region's finest food include Genoa, Higgins and Wildwood, while encore performances will be made by the People's Choice award winners from last year's event, Caffe Mingo, Typhoon and Pho Van.

Adelsheim Vineyards, Domaine Drouhin Oregon and Rex Hill Vineyards are several of the 47 regional vineyards that will share the fruits of their labor, while MacTarnahan's Brewing Co. and BridgePort Brewing Co. are two of the four microbreweries that will tap their latest creations.

As if this weren't reason enough to attend, the percentage of proceeds to be donated offers a fitting excuse to eat, drink, and be merry: Organizers promise that 100 percent of the evening's profits will go toward fighting hunger in Oregon.