PB&J-inspired dishes to support Food for ThoughtWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
It’s peanut-butter-jelly time for Food for Thought.
The nonprofit serving the region’s hungry is hosting the first Jam City, which for which local restaurants will use elements of the popular PB&J sandwich to create new dishes.
Jam City runs from 6-10:30 p.m. May 23 at The Blarney Event Center, 601 Monroe St. in Downtown. Food for Thought, which started in 2007, has a stationary food pantry at 3540 Seaman Road, Oregon, and also has mobile units that it takes the three counties it serves. The charity emphasizes serving food with thoughtfulness — meaning eye contact counts along with ensuring a full stomach.
The event coincides with Food for Thought’s sixth anniversary, said Sam Melden, the charity’s executive director. He said the nonprofit got the idea for Jam City from a volunteer who observed a similar event, using Tempeh Reubens, in the South.
“There wasn’t anything like it in the area. We’ve just been looking for our signature event and it worked out really well for us to put the peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the strong restaurant culture,” Melden said.
Participating restaurants include Balance Pan-Asian Grille, The Blarney Irish Pub, Burger Bar 419, Deet’s BBQ, Gradkowski’s, Grumpy’s, Mancy’s Steaks, Registry Bistro, Revolution Grille, Scene and Swig.
The chefs are excited for the event, Melden said.
“It’s a great idea … [Peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches are] what everyone grew up with,” said Tony House, co-owner of Burger Bar 419.
Burger Bar 419 will serve a play on the “Fat Elvis” sandwich. The dish will include a piece of brioche fried in bacon fat, topped with crispy pork belly, spicy berry ketchup, barbecue peanut sauce and caramelized banana.
Dustin Hostetler, co-owner of Grumpy’s, said his eatery will serve a peanut butter cookie with jelly frosting.
“When Sam approached us with the concept, it felt like a real no-brainer. Once we saw all of the other restaurants involved it was impossible to say no,” he said of the event.
Trevor Deeter, owner of Deet’s BBQ, declined to reveal his dish, but said, “We are dedicated to our community and try our best to get involved with any and all donations and benefits. Of course, it’s hard to be involved in everything but Jam City is an event that we had to do! We already get great pleasure out of feeding all of our customers, but realize that this event is providing real nourishment for those who really need it.”
Jam City will also feature local acoustic musicians: the Jason Hudson Trio, The Bricks, Andrew Ellis and People Being Human. In addition, the event will offer local beers and a special private-label Jam City wine from Adelaida. Melden said local ties are important to Food for Thought.
“This event is really local, which is a pretty cool aspect of it — local bands, local restaurants helping a local charity feed local people,” he said.
The local aspect appealed to Erika Rapp, chef/owner of Registry Bistro.
“It’s a great [idea for] a fundraiser and it’s for a really wonderful cause. It’s nice to see something that has local ties working to feed people in town,” she said.
Registry will serve a street-food style steamed bun stuffed with duck and a spicy peanut sauce along with an apricot-rose jam cookie.
Creating new items like the Jam City dish is fun, Rapp said.
“A lot of times, it’ll actually inspire a menu item,” she said.
Bill Kline, general manager of The Blarney Irish Pub, said the restaurant’s chef is using his “chemistry set” and experimenting with homemade dishes.
“He promises it will be like no other [dish] served at the event and by the looks of what I’ve seen going on in the kitchen, those other chefs better bring their A game,” Kline said.
There will be a tip jar so Jam City patrons can give money based on dishes they enjoy. The tips will go to Food for Thought at the end of the night. Melden said Jam City has a “really great” lineup of restaurants.
“The list filled up really quickly. Unfortunately, we did have to leave some people out, but I think next year, we’ll expand. We’ll have more restaurants, maybe 20,” he said.
Food for Thought also plans to expand the number of locations it serves. It recently received a $40,000 grant from ProMedica’s Advocacy Fund. The charity was able to add a second mobile unit, which includes a vehicle, trailer, food inventory and personnel, because of the grant. By the end of the year, Melden said he expects Food for Thought to serve more than 20 locations, up from 12.
Melden said he’s also looking forward to The Arts Commission’s Art Walks this summer. Food for Thought plans to have an area in the Warehouse District for its program Art for Thought, where professional and amateur artists alike can decorate lunch bags for the charity’s patrons.
“Everyone from kids the youngest age that can pick up a crayon to the most incredible artist in the city can take a bag and decorate it,” Melden said.
Jam City has several community partners. Columbia Gas of Ohio, Toledo Free Press, WNWO-TV and Moms on the Go, Wells Fargo Advisers, WSPD and Hollywood Casino Toledo have joined forces for the Free from Hunger 2013 initiative, which helps support events for Food for Thought, Feed Lucas County Children and Cherry Street Mission.
Tickets for Jam City are $30-$50 and are available at feedtoledo.org and at the door.
Tags: Andrew Ellis, Balance Pan-Asian Grille, Bill Kline, Burger Bar 419, Cherry Street Mission, Columbia Gas of Ohio, Deet’s BBQ, Dustin Hostetler, Erika Rapp, Feed Lucas County Children, Food for Thought, Free From Hunger 2013, Gradkowski’s, Grumpy’s, Hollywood Casino Toledo, Jam City, Jason Hudson Trio, Mancy’s Steaks, People Being Human, Registry Bistro, Revolution Grille, Sam Melden, Scene, Swig, The Blarney Irish Pub, The Bricks, Toledo Free Press, Tony House, Wells Fargo Advisers, WNWO-TV and Moms on the Go, WSPD