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Filling and Fulfilling 

Sumptuous soiree raises funds for hunger relief

If you are ready to do your part to help fight hunger in the Pikes Peak region, the first thing you need is a large appetite and a forgiving waistband. I highly recommend elastic if at all possible.

Second, you need to clear your calendar now for the evening of Sunday, May 20. On that day, you'll want to make sure your car is gassed up and you have directions to the Sheraton Colorado Springs taped firmly to your dashboard. Synchronize your watches and make sure you're there by 5:30 p.m., because that's when the extravaganza begins.

I'm speaking, of course, about 2001: A Feast for Fulfillment, the 13th annual Taste of the Nation event in Colorado Springs. How does it work? You buy a ticket, and in return you get to graze all evening on sumptuous gourmet appetizers, entrees and desserts from the finest restaurants, caterers, brewers, beverage distributors and gourmet shops in the Springs.

Don't think you're going to get a paper cup full of tepid beer and a soggy sandwich. Some of the best establishments in town pull out all the stops, donating their time and finest efforts. They include Anne & Mann's Ice Cream, The Blue Star, The Cliff House, Cunningham Meats, Food Designers, Jake and Telly's, La Petite Maison, Marigold Caf and Bakery, Par Avion Gourmet World, Phantom Canyon, Primitivo Wine Bar, Stagecoach Steak and Ale House, Zugspitze and many, many more.

That's why the elastic waistband is so important. As you drift from one serving station to the next, the sizzle and the enticing aromas will intoxicate you, pulling you forward from one fabulous flavor to the next. You will be helpless to resist. You will be in gustatory heaven. You will be in pain if your waistband is unyielding.

Imagine strolling along through the Sheraton ballroom, nibbling a freshly made crab cake where the merest wisp of breading holds together lumps of sweet meat. Summon up the crisp, crinkling sound of shattering a phyllo pastry shell into delicate, delicious shards. You pause for a glass of wine and the enticing smell of garlic and lamb wafts your way, beckoning you past ethereal-looking pastries topped with dollops of whipped cream and fresh raspberries. Did someone just walk by with a plate of fresh pasta topped with mussels and shrimp? You grab the arm of a stranger and demand to know where she got that chocolate thing on her plate that looks like geometric decadence. Her mouth is full, so she waves her fork toward the far wall, and you're off on the hunt.

If you need a break from indulging, take a few minutes to visit one of the other diversions. There will be a live auction, including a now-legendary progressive dinner party up for grabs. There will also be a silent auction, with a wide variety of goods, services and culinary delights. There's also the Wheel of Good Taste, where you pay for a chance to spin the wheel, and everyone wins a tasty prize.

Tickets are $60 per person. Initially, that may sound steep, but consider the price of dining (including drinks and desserts) in any nice restaurant in town, and this winds up being a bargain. Consider also that you aren't limited to the single appetizer, entree or dessert that you would normally order in a restaurant, and that you are actually encouraged to sample several. But even more tempting is the fact that all ticket sales go toward hunger relief, which means one night of indulgence for you can help keep a lot of children from going to bed hungry. Of the money raised, 70 percent stays right here with Care & Share, the food bank for Southern Colorado, an additional 10 percent goes to other Colorado agencies, and the remaining 20 percent goes to national hunger programs.

It's great food. It's an even greater cause. So wipe that drool off your chin and get out your checkbook. Tickets are available at the Old City Caf (visit them at 2802 W. Colorado Ave. or call them at 575-9195). You can also mail your name, address, zip code, phone number and check ($60 per person) to: Taste of the Nation, 219 Cheyenne Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80909. But don't wait until the last minute. Last year some 600 tickets were sold, and many of those people will be returning with looser clothing this year.

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