Photo: Ronald Flores
Photo: Ronald Flores

Chef George Pagonis Brings Taste of the Nation to Nats Park

Spring has officially arrived in DC, and it seems like everyone is celebrating with a trip to the ballpark. Swap baseball for food and get your grub on at DC’s Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry, a fun-filled food event at Nationals Park on April 19. All proceeds from the event benefit No Kid Hungry’s efforts to end child hunger in America, and local beneficiaries include Capital Area Food Bank, DC Hunger Solutions, and Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care, Inc. The event will be led by Chef George Pagonis (Kapnos, Kapnos Taverna, Kapnos Kouzina). He has been a part of this event for over five years now, and is as excited as ever to be involved in a bigger role for this cause. Pagonis gave On Tap a glimpse at what he’s been preparing for since November 2016.

On Tap: What are you looking forward to most at this year’s event?
George Pagonis: I’m excited to support Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry’s worthy mission and build awareness for the cause. It’s an honor to have a bigger role in the event after many years of participation.

OT: Can we get a sneak peek of some of the event’s gourmet bites?
GP: There is an unbelievable lineup of top chefs from DC, Maryland and Virginia providing bites for this event. Osteria Morini is serving tortellini en brodo; BLT Prime by David Burke is serving maple black pepper candied bacon; Dirty Habit is serving American wagyu beef tartare; and Alta Strada is serving panna cotta with basil compressed strawberry and candied pistachio. [Mixologist] Gina Chersevani is serving casa noble slushy margaritas from her Suburbia airstream alongside Chef Alexis Samayoa from Espita, serving pork jowl tacos. And I will be serving melitzanosalata, a traditional Greek spread of smoked eggplant, roasted peppers, walnuts and feta on a lavash chip.

OT: What is the inspiration behind the dishes you’re curating for this event?
GP: Melitzanosalata is a popular spread used in Greek cooking, and is one of our best-selling dishes at our Kapnos locations. I was raised in a Greek home, and pulled from my heritage in developing the menus at our restaurants.

OT: How were the different vendors chosen for this event?
GP: Share Our Strength focuses on inviting chef-driven restaurants and vendors who are passionate about the cause of ending childhood hunger in America. The event tends to see a lot of repeat restaurants from year to year because the chefs really enjoy coming out to support such a worthy cause.

OT: Any vendors you’re particularly excited about?
GP: I’m incredibly excited for some of the ballpark vendors, such as Blue Smoke, Shake Shack and On Rye, who are coming out on a non-game day to show support. I’m also excited to have some great Baltimore spots, such as Charm City Cakes and Wit & Wisdom, and happy to see some great newcomers like Jerome Grant from Sweet Home Café, Tico DC and Alta Strada from the Michael Schlow Restaurant Group.

OT: What’s new to the event now that it’s hosted at Nats Park?
GP: The new venue is going to refresh the event, and give it an amazing new vibe. There is more space for bigger activations, such as Gina Chersevani’s Suburbia airstream, the Glenlivet’s [onsite bar] and Stella serving drinks out of their airstream. Also, Citi is presenting live music from Judah & the Lion. The event has really grown from being just about the food to providing a whole experience for the guests with music, food and drinks. Plus, it’s very cool to be at the ballpark on a non-game day; everyone will feel like a VIP.

DC’s Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry will be held Wednesday, April 19 from 6-9:30 p.m. VIP/VIP plus entry will be at 6 p.m., and general admission entry at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $100 for general admission. Click here to purchase tickets.

Nationals Park: 1500 S Capitol St. SE, DC; 202-675-6287; www.mlb.com/nationals

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Kayla Marsh

Kayla grew up in Falls Church and graduated from JMU in May 2016 with a major in media arts and design. She was an editor for two student-produced publications in addition to studying Spanish, Italian and American Sign Language. She has Harrisonburg's incredible food scene to thank for her beer and food obsessions. You can find her singing in traffic, eating tacos or live tweeting The Bachelor.