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Dining For a Good Cause 

Two tasty benefit dinners support local nonprofits working to end food insecurity and aid hospitality workers

click to enlarge Dine across cultures at Big Table's benefit. - TESS FARNSWORTH
  • Tess Farnsworth
  • Dine across cultures at Big Table's benefit.

Welcome to a new era of nonprofit fundraisers.

Though many local organizations still offer largely traditional events (formal galas, auctions, etc.), a growing number are choosing innovative ideas, often coupled with excellent food. Far from being a burden to attend, these events are a draw in their own right, and a memorable way to support a good cause.

And who better to lead this charge than two nonprofits dedicated to hunger, and caring for those in the restaurant and hospitality industry? This month, you'll have a chance to attend two very different events, both appealing to your taste buds.

On Friday, Sept. 22, join Spokane's Women & Children's Free Restaurant for its inaugural Dinner on the Bridge. The organization is hosting a "farm to fork" dinner on the new Howard Street bridge in Riverfront Park, cooked on site by its executive chef Melissa Wickenberg, along with a guest chef collaborator from Phoenix.

The idea originally came from Lisa Diffley, the nonprofit's executive director, who'd become familiar with similar "bridge dinners" in other communities, and was eager to be the first to bring one to Spokane.

At first, it seemed that this wouldn't be the year for the event's debut; initial conversations with Riverfront Park officials were not encouraging based on ongoing park construction, so Diffley and her team went on with preparations for another fall fundraiser. But when the answer unexpectedly changed, it took only slightly more than 24 hours for Diffley and Paige McKee, WCFR's development and communications director, to make the decision.

In the weeks leading up to the dinner, they're refining menus and plate design, and checking and double-checking sunset times to enhance this classy event.

"What we want to do is make a great event — show our support for regional farmers and food and the people that donate and can help us keep feeding people fresh, fresh food," says McKee.

Tickets are $125 per person and $250 per couple. The funds raised will go to support WCFR's mission to provide a safety net for local women and children, filling nutritional gaps in a dignified environment.

Take the weekend off, then head to the Davenport Grand for Big Table Eats Around the World on Monday, Sept. 25. This is the fourth year for this event concept — a travel-themed evening taking attendees to three different countries, culinarily, every year. This year, you'll get your passport stamped in Peru, Greece, and China (no, seriously; you get a passport with your picture on it, snapped on the spot).

Doors open at 5:30 pm, and you can eat your way through appetizers from each country while perusing the overwhelmingly food-themed silent auction. Then take your seat, with a local wine or beer in hand, for the main courses (one from each country). You'll sample such delights as ouzo-poached shrimp from Greece, cured pork belly from Peru, and an upscale take on Chinese "broccoli beef." Don't forget to save room for dessert!

You'll also hear a little about Big Table's mission and have the opportunity to participate in a live auction (this year, you can bid on a five-course tasting dinner for 10 at Zona Blanca, prepared by Chef Chad White, as well as a custom tequila dinner for 12 from Tortilla Union, and a wine dinner at Wandering Table for eight, plus four rooms at the Davenport Grand, to name three auction items).

Tickets are $55 per person and $600 for a table (each table purchased includes sponsorship of an industry guest who otherwise wouldn't have been able to attend the fundraiser). The money raised will go toward Big Table's mission of providing practical and relational care to those in the restaurant and hospitality industry — the largest working group in the nation, who are often without guaranteed hours, savings, sick leave and health insurance. ♦

Dinner on the Bridge • Fri, Sept. 22 from 6-9 pm • $125/person; $250/couple • Howard Street Bridge in Riverfront Park • 507 N. Howard • bridgedinner.org

Big Table Eats Around the World • Mon, Sept. 25 at 5:30 pm • $55/person; $600/table for 10 • Davenport Grand Hotel • 333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • big-table.com

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